25 terms

Chapter 1: American Political Culture

STUDY
PLAY
government
Institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled. The "institutions of power" that make law and compel individuals to comply.
politics
Conflict over the leadership, structure, and policies of government. The "process" of deciding who controls the institutions of power and what policies they will enact. "Who gets what, when, how."
Has trust in government increase or decreased over the last 50 years?
Decreased significantly. After the Vietnam War and Watergate the American people lost a lot of their trust in government institutions and elected officials.
political efficacy
The belief that ordinary citizens can affect what government does and that government actually listens to the people's concerns. Someone with political efficacy believes that their voice truly matters.
civic duty
The belief that a citizen should participate in politics from a sense of duty. An individual might be somewhat apathetic or cynical about whether their voice and/or vote truly matters, but they will participate nonetheless because they believe in democratic self-government.
citizenship
Informed and active membership in a political community. Citizenship is not simply a legal status, it is an activity where the individual pursues knowledge and dialogue.
digital citizenship
The activity of participating in politics online through the internet and social media. It is important to guarantee that all citizens have the skills and means to participate in digital citizenship.
autocracy
A form of government in which a single individual - a king, queen, or dictator - rules.
oligarchy
A form of government in which a small group - wealthy landowners, military officers, or religious elites - controls most of the governing decisions.
democracy
A form of government that permits citizens to play a significant role in the governmental process, usually through elections.
constitutional government
Also referred to as liberal government. A system in which formal and effective limits are placed on the powers of the government. Has a strong constitution and the government follows the rule of law. (Ex: United States, France).
authoritarian government
A system in which the government recognizes no formal limits but may nevertheless be restrained by the power of other social institutions. Has a weak constitution and the government routinely disregards the rule of law. (Ex: Turkey, Russia).
totalitarian government
A system in which the government recognizes no formal limits on its power, controls or eliminates social institutions that challenge it, and promotes propaganda to shape the citizens' worldview. (Ex: North Korea).
power
Influence over a government's leadership, institutions, or policies.
representative democracy
A system of government in which the people select representatives, who play a significant role in governmental decision making. The United States is a representative democracy, also referred to as a "constitutional republic."
direct democracy
A system of government in which the people vote directly on laws and policies, or are themselves the elected officials who make government decisions. In the United States, there are examples of direct democracy at the state level with "ballot referendums" that allow citizens to directly make policy and/or amend their state constitution.
pluralism
This word has a lot of different meanings, even within political science. As a theory of government, pluralism refers to a political environment wherein many different interest groups express themselves, compete for power, and make compromises in order to govern. James Madison promoted pluralism in "Federalist #10" as a means to prevent "tyranny of the majority" where on group/faction has significant power over all others.
political culture
Broadly shared values, beliefs, and attitudes about how the government should function. American political culture emphasizes liberty and equality, but these are "contested" concepts that mean different things to different people.
liberty
Freedom from government control or interference. Freedom to pursue self-actualization and personal happiness.
limited government
A central principle of constitutional government. A government whose powers are explicitly defined and limited by a constitution.
laissez-faire capitalism
An economic system in which the means of production (machinery, factories, etc.) are privately owned and operated for profit with minimal or no government interference. 19th century-style laissez-faire was abandoned in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Today, political debates are about how much the government should regulate the economy, not whether it should.
equality of opportunity
A widely shared American belief that all people should have the freedom to use whatever talents and wealth they have to reach their fullest potential. One of the most contentious and on-going political debates is about how to guarantee equality opportunity. Does it sometimes require a limitation of individual freedom, an expansion of government power, or increasing regulation of the economy? Within American political culture, liberty and equality are often at odds with one another.
political equality
The right to participate in politics equally, based on the principle of "one person, one vote." The concept of political equality has changed over time as the right to vote has been extended to more and more people. Achieving political equality, like equal opportunity generally, has required an expansion of government power.
popular sovereignty
A central principle of democracy in which political authority rests ultimately in the hands of the people. In other words, power originates and is derived from the people. The people (collectively) are the sovereign rather than a king or a particular group. Popular sovereignty implies the concept of "consent of the governed" in which government institutions and elected officials are only have the power that the people have consented to give them.
majority rule, minority rights
A central principle of democracy in which the government follows the preferences of the majority of voters but protects the interests of the minority. This principle is connected the pluralism and James Madison's argument in "Federalist 10" and "Federalist 51" that the majority should not be able to do whatever it wants without compromising in some way with the minority.
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