AP Intro Lecture

Politics are out of favor?
Popular media knows it – more time devoted to sports, fashion and the weather
Cable is different as it seeks to appeal to a smaller demographic
i.e. Wonks and whack jobs !
- general disgust
- constant struggle for partisan advantage
- feelings that the little guy does not matter, no voice
- domination of rich and powerful interest groups
- slowness of change and action because of deliberation and red tape
but if you don’t care - others who do – will influence the decisions
and actions that will govern your life
Interestingly, our nation was founded on the notion of participating
ours is an adversarial culture
You are expected to work, compete, and participate in the demanding, protecting, and
increasing of your rights.
This is the notion that put “revolutionary” into the American Revolution
rejection of 18th century PATERNALISM
And the embracing of
- capitalism
- individual freedom
- representative government
Flaws in the System?
What if my “pursuit of happiness” hampers your pursuit of happiness? Who wins?
What of the weak?
The poor, old, young, unborn who must struggle to be “competitive”?
Especially since we are all suppose to have rights
It is the discipline of study interested in the Who, Why, What and How of politics
Aristotle called political science “the master science” for all things happen in a political context.
“Man is a political animal”
So what is POLITICS?
It is the use of POWER
Therefore the term POLITICAL means: having to do with the use and application of POWER
And like all sciences, political science must be 1. a detached observation
2. an objective analysis of data/evidence
3. able to propose hypotheses and theories
Elements of political science include:
Human Geography
But in a nutshell, political science is the study of the use of POWER
the ability of one to get another to do one’s will
Whose got it, how does he use it, and why?
= political science
the formal ability/structure of the use power
the mass feeling that the use of it (application of Power and
Authority) is righteous, and therefore ought to be obeyed.
- boss of your our turf
- having the final say, the last word
- control of your own political destiny
it is what a nation-state holds most dear
a military is used to protect it,
a nation controls its borders with passports and visas
political rituals assert and model it
legitimacy & sovereignty are connected. Decline in one usually affects the other
USA in a nutshell:
The United States Constitution – “authorizes” the national government to use its power
to govern the nation.
Chief among these duties: to maintain and protect national “sovereignty”
… “We the People”
… “legitimizes” that authority and use of power.
On the Founding Fathers’ Bookshelf
the first “political scientist” wrote the POLITICS
both descriptive and normative in his understanding of political power
for example:
“democracy works best , when there is a middle class”
“philosopher king” would make the perfect leader
- THE PRINCE - realist approach: work with the world as it is, not as we wish
it to be.
Machiavelli focuses on power an how its application might do good:
National unity for Renaissance Italy
“The end justifies the means”: an oft criticize and
misinterpreted take on this book
Other great Realists: Otto von Bismarck of 19th Century Germany
Henry Kissinger of later 20th Century USA
“Realpolitik”: use of all means and sources to achieve ends
Dramatic change in US-China policy in 1972: but it was really
about US-USSR policy!
Contractualists (Philosophes)
Political Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries
These authors were concerned with how and why the individual joins and
immerses himself into the group; and the resulting dynamic = GOVERNMENT
Perhaps civilization can be defined in three parts:
1. the individual/family
2. the group: community, sect, tribe
3. government – formal organization
of the group
There exists for these thinkers, the notion that the individual – group- government
are joined “contractually”. Each of these three parts owe obligations and,
expect to receive benefits because of their association. This can be called
a “social contract”.
Thomas Hobbes (early 17th c. Britain) LEVIATHAN
state of nature is terrible. Therefore rational self interest promotes the
idea that the individual/family joins with others for their mutual preservation.
He called this civil society. Any form of government is adequate regardless,
provided it guarantees protection. Security more important than individual rights.
John Locke (later 17th c. Britain)
Two Treatises of Government…
The state of nature not as bad… man is born with inalienable rights: life,
liberty, property … the problem is no security for your property. Therefore:
individuals come together to form a society/government to secure …
“life, liberty and property.”
Government’s function is to mediate between contending interests;
because without such protections no rights are secure.
Government’s authority is legitimized because of the consent of the governed.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (18th c. France) The Social Contract
It is nature that is noble, it is society that corrupts.
“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains!”
The perfect man is the “noble savage”.
When man entered into society he diminished himself (the beauty and dignity of the nature
of a free Man) by subjecting himself to the conventions of society.
Authority, legitimacy does not lie in the ruler but in the general will of the community itself,
that is the collection of “noble” individuals.
The “General Will” - the group’s (tribe/nation) desire/judgment must supersede the
interest of the individual.
But how does one discern the “General Will”?
Who decides the proper organization of society? What is the standard for society?
That is the rub!
The Founding Fathers reject Rousseau as too extreme.
Perhaps the sound of marching jack boots made them uneasy.
“Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer”
Totalitarianism of the Nazis and Stalinists has its roots in the idea of the “General Will”
Montesquieu (later 18th c France) The Spirit of Laws
“Life, liberty and property” are Man’s inalienable rights.
Society (government’s) function must be to safeguard these rights, but the catch is the fact
that government is also a threat to those same rights.
One needs government to be strong enough to safeguard, but not so strong as to be a
threat to one’s inalienable rights.
Montesquieu proposal: limited government:
checks and balances
separate sovereign branches of government
The daring and beauty of the Founding Fathers and the government they established
is best called the
American Proposition
Like a philosophical proposition: a statement of truth
But also like a mathematical proposition: something to be worked out,
To be proven, perhaps never to be perfected, but reached for - none the less
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal …
Abe Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
So this course is both a study of a compilation of facts and terms but it is also
an observation of a process.
This course is about our government and about Us.