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The ability of states to carry out actions or policies within a territory independently from external actors or internal rivals.


Is often defined as the struggle in any group for power that will give one or more persons the ability to make decisions for the larger group.

Comparative politics

Within political science, comparative politics is a sub-field that compares this struggle across countries.

Comparative method

A way to make comparisons across cases and draw conclusions.


Organizations or patterns of activity that are self-perpetuating and values for their own sake.


The organization that maintains a monopoly of violence over a territory.


The fundamental rules and norms of politics.


The leadership or elite in charge of running the state.


Entire political entity and its citizens.


Value whereby something or someone is recognized and accepted as right and proper.

Traditional Legitimacy

This legitimacy is built on the idea that certain aspects of politics are to be accepted because they have been accepted over a long period of time.

Charismatic Legitimacy

Rather than relying on the weight of history and the continuity of certain roles or values, charismatic legitimacy is based on the power of ideas, or what is sometimes called "the gift of grace".

Rational-legal Legitimacy

Is based not on history or rituals (as in the case of traditional legitimacy) or on the force of ideas (as in charismatic legitimacy), but rather on a system of laws and procedures that are highly institutionalized.


Helps represent local interests as well as check the growth of central power (which is viewed as a threat to democracy).

Unitary States

Invest most political power at the national level, with limited local authority.

Strong States

Those that are able to fulfill basic tasks: defending their territory, making and enforcing rules, collecting taxes, and managing the economy, to name some of the more important responsibilities.

Weak States

Cannot execute tasks very well. Rules are haphazardly applied, if at all; tax evasion and other forms of public noncompliance are widespread; armed rivals to the state, such as rebel movements or organized crime, may control large chunks of territory or of the economy.

Failed States

At an extreme, the very structures of the state may become so weak that they collapse, resulting in a complete loss of power; anarchy and violence erupt as order breaks down. This situation has been seen a number of times in the last decade.


The ability of the state to wield power in order to carry out the basic tasks of providing security and reconciling freedom and equality.


The ability of the state to wield its power independently of the public.

Political Attitudes

Radicals: Believe in dramatic, often revolutionary change of the existing political, social, or economic order.
Liberals: Favor evolutionary transformation.
Conservatives: question whether any significant or profound change in existing institutions is necessary.
Reactionaries: seek to restore political, social, and economic institutions that once existed.

Political Ideology

Liberalism: Places a high priority on individual political and economic freedom.
Communism: Differs greatly from liberalism in its view of freedom and equality.
Social democracy: Shares some early influences with communism but over time has been influenced by liberal values to form its own quite distinct ideology.
Fascism: Like communism, is antiliberal in its focus and hostile to the idea of individual freedom. However, although it favors a collective approach to human organization, fascism rejects the notion of equality.
Anarchism: Share with communists the belief that private property leads to inequality, but they are opposed to the idea that the state can solve this problem.
Fundamentalism: Can be viewed as an ideology that seeks to unite religion with the state, or rather, to make faith the sovereign authority.


Is a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism.


A combined religious and political ruler.

Political Culture

Refers specifically to the basic norms for political activity in a society.

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