Chapter One
The Foundations
of American
What is politics?
• Chapter One
• David Easton – “the authoritative allocation of
• Harold Lasswell – “who gets what, when and
• most definitions refer to the struggle over the
distribution of benefits
What is Government?
• a permanent structure of decision makers
• who make society’s rules about conflict
• and who make rules about the allocation of
resources and who possess the power to enforce
those rule
Why Do We Need Government?
• to provide structure for conflict resolution
• to provide public services
• to establish and implement public policies
Who Governs?
• totalitarian regime – rule by a small group or an individual dictator.
• oligarchy—rule by a few elites, who make decisions to benefit their
own group
• aristocracy – rule by the best suited, through virtue, talent or
education (now means rule by the upper class)
• anarchy – having no government or laws
• democracy – political power is vested in the people
Principles of American Democracy
• universal suffrage
• majority rule
• limited government
• popular sovereignty
Do we have a democracy?
• elite theory – the idea that society is ruled by a small group who
exercise power in their self-interest
• pluralism – a theory that views politics as conflict among interest
groups, where decisions are made through bargaining and
• hyperpluralism – when interest groups are so powerful that they
dominate decision-making, making individual input impossible
What is Political Culture?
• the collection of a beliefs and attitudes toward
government and the political process held by a
community or nation
• individuals learn political culture through
political socialization
• political socialization occurs in many settings,
including the family and schools
The Fundamental Values of American political culture
• liberty –the greatest freedom of individuals that is consistent with the
freedom of other individuals in society
• equality – all people are of equal worth
• property – anything that can be subject to ownership
Political Ideology
• A set of beliefs about the goal of politics and
the most desirable political order.
• Ideologue: A person who believes strongly
about how government should operate.
• They can be placed on a continuum…
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