UNIT 1-PEOPLE AND POWER (Intro to Politics)

Unit 1A- Introduction to Politics 

  • Created by: emkm
  • Created on: 04-02-21 20:07

Key Aims for this topic

  1. Tackle the basic terminology for the successful study of Politics, including the meaning and contextual use of the following terms:
    - power, authority & types thereof
    - three branches of government & meaning of “the state”
    - roles and functions of government
    - legitimacy
    - political participation
    - political parties 

  2. Obtain a good understanding, factual knowledge and appreciation of the broad outlines of British political history over the past 40+ years

  3. Name, give examples for and reproduce the features of the UK’s Westminster model of democracy; and to be able to understand and evaluate criticisms and challenges of that model 

  4. Name, understand and recognize the different functions and roles of the three branches of government; and how these have changed over the past 20 years

  5. Define, know about and evaluate changes to the UK political system over the past 20 years with particular focus on devolution and the party system

  6. Name, understand and recognize facts about the voting behaviour in the UK, what factors influence it; and what changes have occurred over the past 20 years

  7. Analyse the challenges to the WM model of Politics. 

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Key Definitions for this topic:

Exercise of legitimate authority- To have the power to enforce laws lawfully

Institutions of the Goverment- These are the services that are run by the Goverment in a state

Remit of the State- The authority and control that the goverment has within the boundary of the state

Goverment- The group of people who have the power over a state to make laws and have 'governance' because it is their role to control the country

Domestic Sovereignty- When the state holds coercive power as a result of their authority that can force citizens to do something (ie. the police have authority and can force somebody to be escorted to the police station).

De Jure- This is what the law states (although it doesnt always happen in practise). For example, the Sothern States abolshed slavery in 1865 as black peple were gievn voting rights but they still suffered under unfair laws until many years later.

De Facto- The reality

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Government by Consent

John Locke questioned if the existence of government was justified and if we really needed one at all.  He established three factors that the goverment should provide help for:

  • Life and the protection of it 
  • Liberty and ensuring the rights of citizens 
  • Property 

Locke claimed that with no government, people would live in dystopian chaos. By consenting to a goverment, it is as if we are signing a social contract. They take our liberties in order to protect us against the harm of other people in society. Locke claimed that through the existence of government, we would be living in a lawful society. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-pDcYF64rs - Consent of the governed

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What are the different types of power?

Power is influence over something. Politically, this could be the ability to change laws because your influence has been elevated above others and can be used as an instrument to achieve aims and objectives and to implement certain policies.

There are different levels of power that can be used against certain groups to make them do something:

Coercive Power= This is power by force and can be physically exterted or by threats. Most states don't go to this extreme as it is normally reserved against people who threaten national security or for citizens who refuse to follow common law

Political Power= This is power that is exerted by political parties and their institutions. This kind of power can only be gained by persuading the people to give you this power in the first place (so this power is earnt by consent).

The strongest form of political power is granted by Parliament which then grants smaller amounts of power to smaller goverment institutions like local councils

Influence= This is power that certain groups have such as trade unions, newspapers/media and public opinion. This has power because it has the power to influence other peoples opinions and this can collectively influence the Government to change policies.

In the 1970s, Steven Lukes categorised different forms of political power:

  • The first being power that is openly excersised (such as that done in Parliament)
  • Secretive power which involves negotiations within politics or the involvement of outside parties
  • Manipulative power (which should have no place within a democracy)
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What are the different types of legitimacy

Legitimacy reguards the question on whether the government has the right to rule over the people.Power+legitimacy= authority

Tradition= This kind of legitimacy is legitimate because its ruling has been traditonal and has had power for a long time. This idea for authority is often claimed by monarchies who believe they have legitimacy because it has always been the case.

Force= This kind of power isnt accepted in demoratic countries as it considers that a ruling power is legitimate reguardless of how it came into power.

Consent= This is considered legitimate because authority has been given consent from by the people. This is democratic legitimacy as it is implied that the power has been consented to by a widespread peaceful participation in an election or some other fair voting system that represents the majority of the peoples wish to be governed by this power. When authority is legitimate because it has been consented to by the people, the power is often accountable to them as well.

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What are the different types of authority?

Having authority is the right to excercise power.  Authority is the right to give orders and enforce laws which should be respected by the common people. Power+legitimacy= authority

These are the three types of authority as defined by Max Weber:

Traditional Authority=This is authority that has been automatically granted because it is authority that has already been in practise for a long ime. It is assumed that there is consent from the people for the simple reason that it has been that way for many years

Charasmatic authority= This is based on the characteristics of the leader of the state. This is the ability to have some sort of personality trait (it can be good or bad charisma) such as being inspirational or persuasive that gains them power. For example, many of Trumps supporters like him because they see him as a charasmatic figure 

Legal-rational authority= This is any rational way of granting power such as through a formal and fair election that is democratic. The status of the leader as being elected and consented to by the people allows them to have authority and excersise power. The UK is an example of legal-rational authority. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOlhz08frLQ - The diffferent types of authority 

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What are the different types of Sovereignty

Sovereignty is ultimate power that cannot be over-ruled (ie. the Queen)

Legal Sovereignty=This is the ultimate source of all legal authority and the source of all laws and legal power

Political Sovereignty= Whoever has this kiind of sovereignty is whoever makes the ultimate political decisions. At election times, it is the poeple that are politically sovereign because they get to choose who comes into power.

Popular Sovereignty= This is another form of poltical sovereignty but instead it is when the people are making decisions for themselves. For example, the UK voting to leave the EU was an example of popular sovereignty because it was done through a referundum. 

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What are the 3 branches of Government?

Executive=This branch is the goverment. They have the role of developing new laws and ,when these have been passed by the executive, they then have the role of executing and implementing the newly passed law. 

Legislature= The legislature is bi-cameral because there are two seperate branches who have the responsability of passing laws. These are the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  

Judiciary= This is the legal system which is independent from Parliament. They have the role of interpreting the law in order to sort disputes between different inviduals or organisations. 

Authority has been seperated into these three different branches to avoid the concentration of power into single hands 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmGCwiQvhH0 - What is the difference between Parliament and Goverment? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMXJOKhf_AA - Good video on the structure of UK political system in a v breif way

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What are the key features of the Westminster Model

The Westminster model explains the way of British politics: it focuses on the constitution and major institutions of the political system and a strong, centralised government

(see page 4 on 'into to politics' google doc for challenges to the Westminster Model)

Key features:

  • Flexible constitution (which means the judiciary has a key role in interpreting laws)
  • Concentration of authority into the centre- once there is a majority in parliament, the governing party can practically do what they want (so some people refer to it as a ‘single party dictatorship’)
  • The executive and legislative are fused togther but the exceutive have higher powers
  • The judiciary is to remain apolicitical/nuetral. This makes it different from other countries (such as America or Germany) because their countries have a constitutional court that can tell the government that something isn't working or that it is undemocratic. 
  • Single party government is normal because of the two party system. Coalition government is rare and not typical
  • Centralized, unitary government that is based in Westminister. There are devolved institutions like local councils and the Scottish and Welsh Assmebly (as examples) but power is mostly retained within the centre 

http://slideplayer.com/slide/1573117/  Put this link into browser for further information on WM

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What is majoritarian and consensual democracy?

In a majoritarian democracy, power is concentrated to the centre of government and there are few limitation to its power. Typically, there is constitutional flexibility and a 2 party system so descions and legislature get made quickly. The Westminster model is a prime example of majoritarian democracy. 

In a consensual democracy (such as Switzerland), there is a slower rate of policy making because the legislative and executive have a balance of power. The constitution has much more power and can only be amended through a special procedure (the constitutional court can also strike down legislation)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wPf-NkE_WQ - Fairly detailed youtube video on the differences between majoritarian and consensual democracy

(page 7 on 'into to politics' google doc compares the different aspects of political systems to either majoritarian or consensual democracy)

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UK power and devolution

Devolution is the transfer of policy making powers from a central government to sub-national institutions (although central government will still hold ultimate powers)

Subsidiarity- the view that power should be located at the most suitable level whether it be regional, national or international

The UK is traditionally viewed as a unitary state but is unusual because it was a multinational state so there were differences between how parts of the state were governed. For example, in 1922 and 1972, power was devolved to Northern Ireland but not to Scotland or Wales. Today, though, the UK is a quasi -federal state (this is when the government of a unitary state devolves its powers towards other subnational governments so it has the features of a unitary state and a federal state).

Having a quasi- federal state could be argued to be better than having a unitary state because different areas are represented rather than by one central government that makes decisions based on an average of the country. In the UK, London is very different from Scotland so there should be decisions made just for these areas- what helps for London may not be useful or effective for Scotland. (look at the bottom of page 8 on 'intro to politics' google doc)

In the UK, the Scottish Parliament is more powerful than other devolved institutions. However, the power which has been devolved is handed over as a gradual process rather than a huge event. The Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland all now have primary legislative powers as Westminister no longer makes laws in these areas. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH4jnDvnqLs - Video on how the UK represents a Quasi-Federal State

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUMYNkroKdo - Devolution (Scottish Independence ref)

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What is the EU?

Info about the EU:

The EU can be traced back to WWII which dominated events within the 20th century: many people believed that some kind of European integration would prevent nationalism which was a factor in starting the war. Due to the devestation that the war caused, many of the countries economies were damaged and to build something up between multiple European states would build up their individual countries and create trade across all of them.

The EU today works as a single market with free movement of people, goods and services from one country to another and it has a standardised system of laws. Most of the EU countries now share a common currency (the Euro). Many of the countries have also signed up to the Schengen Agreement which means that they no longer have boarder controls or passport checks between different member states 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G1cds52Ko0 - What is th EU?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRwZyDTdCAc - Detailed video on EU from WWII to today (essential knowledge)

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Affect of the Media on UK Politics

The three broad perspectives relating to the political influence of media:

Influence- Newspapers have direct influence over the voting behavior of their readers- those who read newspapers like the Guardian and the Mirror may have more tendencies to vote Labour because these newspapers are left-leaning.

Reinforcement- Media can reinforce views that are already hold by their readers: readers like to read information that reflects their own political opinions 

Shaping the agenda- While media may not have direct influence on voting, their coverage discusses political topics and can have subtle influence over the opinions of buyers. In the runup to the Brexit referendum, the Express had headlines relating to the EU and immigration and lowered the prices of their newspaper to make it accessible to readers. 

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Opportunities for citizens to become engaged in po

Opportunities for greater political participation: 

Elections beyond Westminster- Through devolution, there is more accountability and participation by decentralizing the power to make decisions and creating new institutions. New positions in more local government such as mayors are directly elected. Through the Recall of MPS Act in 2015, constituencies can recall their MP if they have been imprisoned or suspended from the House of Commons. 

Increased use of referendums- This has introduced direct democracy into the UK political system- the amount of participation varies though (for the Scottish Independence vote, turnouts were high but this is much lower on local elections like electing a mayor)

E-petitions For petitions on the official government website, 100,000 signatures will trigger the issue to get debated in Parliament.

Party Membership- Labour has over 500,000 members and there is an increasing amount of people joining smaller parties 

Pressure groups- Campaigns for social justice and climate change have become increasingly more popular in recent years. Pressure groups provide information to educate the electorate and groups in themselves create a pluralist democracy as 1000s of different interests that varying pressure groups represent are compete for the government and publics attention. 

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Concerns about British democracy

Check page 12 on google docs for intro 

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