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AP Government and Politics Chapter 1 vocabulary list.


The formal vehicle through which policies are made and affairs of state are conducted.

Social Contract

An agreement between the people and their government signifying their consent to be governed.

Force Theory

1 person or group that ruled an area and forced all to submit to that person or group's rule. Once rules were established, the basic elements of state were present.

Evolutionary Theory

Head of primitive family was the government. Then, clans emerged with the same leadership. When they were no longer nomadic, they were able to form a government, which formed the state.

Divine Right Theory

Idea that God gave those of royal birth a "divine right" to rule. Opposition to this was treasonous and a sin. Philosophers of the 17th century questioned this: Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau.

Social Contract Theory

Population gives up as much power as was needed to a government to promote well being for all. Because all people are free and equal by natural right. This in itself creates a sovereign state.

Direct Democracy

A system of government in which members of the polity meet to discuss all policy decisions and then agree to abide by majority rule.

Indirect Democracy

A system of government that gives citizens the opportunity to vote for representatives who work on their behalf.

Representative Democracy

More commonly called republics.


A government rooted in the consent of the governed; a representative or indirect democracy.


A form of government in which power is vested in hereditary kings and queens who govern in the interests of all.


A form of government in which power resides in a leader who rules according to self-interest and without regard for individual rights and liberties.


A country governed by a dictator who assumes sole power; totalitarian.


A form of government in which the right to participate is conditioned on the possession of wealth, social status, military position, or achievement.


A system of government that gives power to the people, whether directly or through elected representatives.


A system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

Political Culture

Commonly shared attitudes, beliefs, and core values about how government should operate.

Personal Liberty

A key characteristic of U.S. democracy. Initially meaning freedom FROM governmental interference, today it includes demands for freedom to engage in a variety of practices without governmental interference or discrimination.

Political Equality

The principal that all citizens are the same in the eyes of the law.

Popular Consent

The principal that governments must draw their powers from the consent of the governed.

Majority Rule

The central premise of direct democracy in which only policies that collectively garner the support of a majority of voters will be made into law.

Popular Sovereignty

The notion that the ultimate authority in society rests with the people.

Natural Law

A doctrine that society should be governed by certain ethical principals that are part of nature and, as such, can be understood by reason.

Political Ideology

The coherent set of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government held by groups and individuals.


One who believes that a government is best that governs least and that big government should not infringe on individual, personal, and economic rights.

Social Conservative

One who believes that traditional moral teachings should be supported and furthered by the government.


One who favors governmental involvement in the economy and in the provision of social services and who takes an activist role in protecting the rights of women, the elderly, minorities, and the environment.


A person who takes a relatively centrist or middle-of-the-road view on most political views.


One who believes in limited government and no government interference in personal liberties.


The study of who gets what, when, and how-or how policy decisions are made.

Mayflower Compact

Document written by the Pilgrims while at sea enumerating the scope of their government and its expectations of citizens.


The introductory part of a statute or deed, stating its purpose, aims, and justification.

American Dream

An American ideal of a happy, successful life, which often includes wealth, a house, a better life for one's children, and for some, the ability to grow up to be president.

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