Theories of Power

  • Created by: Hologram
  • Created on: 22-03-19 11:37
what ae the 4 main theories of power?
plurlaism, elitism, feminism and marxism
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what is pluralism?
based upon the principles of representative liberal democracy. whereby ultamite power rests with the people
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what do pluralists believe?
believe that in a liberal democracies such as the UK or USA, power is widely dispersed and there is wide access to the political system with open competition for power
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what is an example in history where voters sent a clear message to deliver a specific policy?
in 1945 Labour won by a landslide on the basis of their election promise to implement the Beveridge report in full
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what is an example of a gov being removed?
Labour in 2010
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what is an example of a gov considering the opinions of various interest groups in society before taking a decision?
when the British gov decided to build the high speed HS2 rail line, it had to take into account the opinions of transport groups, the treasury, businesses in Nortern England and local residents
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is it very common for gov departments to carry out consultation with interest groups with an expeetise in a particular area?
yes- eg Friends of the earth may be consulted in environmental policy
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what is an example of consultation with the gov having a direct effect on legislation?
in 2016 Stephen Farry, NI's minister for Employment and Learning discarded a section from his Employment Bill that dealt with zero hours contracts after a dialogue with local businesses
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what do elite pluralists recognise?
that there are many different groups competing to secure their interests but that some will always be more influential than other
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what did pluralist thinker John Locke propose?
that man was born free and should benefit from common human rights like life, liberty and property and challenged the idea that people had to support the monarch
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what did John Locke believe made a legitimate gov?
only legitimate when the gov had the support of the people. If people withdrew their consent he believed it was right for the people to decide this issue through revolution
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who was John Jacques Rosseau?
a key enlightment thinker who produced some sensational ideas for his age- "men are born free yet everywhere are in chains"
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what did John Jacques Rosseau argue?
argued that there should be 'legitimate political authority' where the people give their consent to be governed- this is a social contract
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what made John Jacques Rosseau different to John Locke in terms of his belief?
he still recommended aristocracy and monarchy and was firmly against the emancipation of women
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who is Thomas Jefferson?
one of the FFs of the USA, a signee of the American declaration of independence and an American President
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what did Thomas Jefferson believe?
believed in certain unalienable rights which were guaranteed to all citizens and that man was born into a national state that was ultimately free and unshackled and was an advocate for limited gov
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who do pluralists argue has the power?
that it is not solely held by an advantaged elite, ruling class or patriarchy- instead they believe power is widely dispersed among different competing groups in society (religious, political, economic etc)
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do pluralists believe that power is open and available to anyone?
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what is the main Marxist criticism of pluralism?
would attack the notion that the state in liberal democracies tends to act in the interests of all members of society. Since the state supports the capitalist system it will ultimately benefit the wealthy within society
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what is the main feminist criticism of pluralism?
would refer to the fact that they make up approximately half of the population yet men still dominate the main positions of power in terms of politics and the economy
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what are some of the flaws within pluralists democracies?
first past the post system in the UK creates exaggerated minorities, American system is dominated by two political parties with broadly similar policies etc
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how can pluralism be institutionalised?
through 'social partnership' - whereby the gov and interest groups officially negotiate broad policy strategies. Such systems are used in Scandinavia and the ROI
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what is elite theory?
stresses that power is concentrated among small groups in society
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what do supporters of elite theory believe?
believe that elite rule is inevitable and that whilst the characteristics may vary, every society will have an elite
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how do elites rule society?
will not rule in the interests of all sections of society and will try to create the illusion of popular control through the electoral system, however the true picture is that such systems are oligarchies
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what is the 'circulation of elites'?
that one elite will eventually replace the other no matter what the system, eg the post war regimes of Eastern Europe simply paved the way for mew elites that formed the Communist parties
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what did the elite theorist Poreto believe?
that elites were formed because of outstanding characteristics displayed by individuals such as physical force, bravery and cunning
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what are some examples of the different types of elites in society?
social and educational, dynastic, religious, the military industrial complex, organisational, racial
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how are social and educational elites categorised?
by an upper-middle class background, Oxbridge education, spoke in Received Pronunciation and were generally members of the church of England
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what are some other examples of countries with educational elites?
Ivy League colleges in Americ and the 'Rugby Schools' in Dublin both serve as recruiting grounds for the political elite
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what are dynastic elites?
this is when members of the elite have a connection to a famous political lineage such as Bush's in the USA or the Nehru-Gandhi family that dominated Indian politics since the formation of the state
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what are religious elites?
rulers have always sought to harness the power of religion in order to confirm their credentials among their subjects
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what are some examples of religious elites?
the Ayatollahs in Iran
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what is the military industrial complex?
a term used to describe the overlapping membership and interests between the political establishment, business and the military
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what are some examples of countries with military industrial complexes?
clearly seen in the US, but can also be seen to be developing in Israel and the former apartheid regime of South Africa
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how do the 3 groups of the military industrial complex benefit from a perpetual state of conflict?
politicians have their authority increased and are questioned less if their nation is under threat. the military will be in a highly influential position and will see defence spending greatly increase, increased defence spending stimulates economy
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and military action benefits American business which reflects well on politicians
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can political parties be seen as organisational elites?
yes- as they are composed of mobilised activists who seek to obtain power to put their ideas into practice
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what is the problem with political parties if they can be considered organisational elites?
they can be seen as, not as a reflection of the wishes of the people, but rather offer the people a set of organised political groupings from which to chose from
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what is another example of an organisational elite?
trade unions- prior to legislation in 2016, trade unions in Britain could claim to represent the wishes of all their members despite many policies and ballots for strike action were voted for on low turnout of members
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where have racial elites existed?
apartheid South Africa and in the former colonies particularly in Africa- even when these states gained independence elites remained (eg civil rights movement US)
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who is Robert Michels?
an elite theorist who stressed that democracy is inconceivable without organisation and in a large complex society individuals need to join together to press their interests, particularly true of the working class
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why did Michels believe that organisation sounds the death knell of democracy?
because all organisations have bureaucracies
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what were the problems that Michels had with bureaucracies?
they are dependent on the orders and direction of their superiors, they slavishly follow official procedures and regulations and promotion depends on their judgement of those in higher authority
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what theory did Michels develop?
the 'Iron Law of Oligarchy' which describes the process of how representative democracy develops into an "oligarchical structure" that "suffocates the basic democratic principle"
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what are some of the criticisms of Michels?
the "iron law of oligarchy" is a misnomer because it is a hypothesis that hasn't been proven, he has selectively chosen evidence to accord with his own views and his theories are too generalised given the fact that he is analysing Germany in the 50s
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what theory did Mills develop?
the "Mills Power Elite Theory"
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what did Mills believe?
believed that there was "unprecedented power and unaccountability" between the military, big corporations and federal gov in the US
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what is an example of a person in US politics wo at some point was involved in the military, a big corporation and the federal gov?
Alexander Haig was an army general in the US, later held influential positions in business and was later appointed secretary of state by Reagan
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what is a pluralist criticism of elite theory?
it ignores the social mobility that has taken place in many societies- eg none of Thatcher, Brown or Major came from an upper class background and Obama's father was a Kenyan immigrant
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what is a Marxist criticism of elitism?
question the inevitability of the emergence of elites as they feel that the capitalist system can be challenged and changed
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what is a feminist criticism of elitism?
the notion of elites masks the real division of power in society which is based on gender. Where elites do exist but they tend to be male dominated
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what is an additional criticism of elitism?
provide evidence of social mobility but little evidence as to who actually has the power
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who are the two main theorists behind Marxism?
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
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what do marxists argue?
that wealth and resources are the basis of political power as ownership of this wealth is concentrated in the same narrow circles. This ruling class not only rules over the working class but exploits them to maintain their position
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do marxists believe capitalist societies act in the interest of the ruling class?
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why can't capitalist societies help facilitating the rich according to marxists?
since the state in capitalist societies operates within a capitalist framework it cannot help but act in the interest of the ruling class- capitalism must be abolished to prevent this
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what else helps sustain the capitalist system?
police and the courts have always favoured the protection of property. Education, media and organised religion all help sustain the capitalist system
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why was Marx critical of organised religion?
believed that it was the 'opiate of the masses' and tried to subdue the poor by forcing to be contempt or risk punishment in the next life
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what is Gramsci's theory of hegemony?
where the ruling class uses all methods at his disposal to impose its values on the ruled- eg many in the US buy into the idea of the American dream, yet the possibility of fulfilling it is extremely remote
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what are some examples of gov policies favouring the rich?
large companies such as Vodafone given 'sweetheart' deals on taxes and after the economic meltdown off 2008 many govs sch as US and ROI govs bailed out the banking system
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what is an example of economics playing a major part in international relations?
Britain may complain about the behaviour of some authoritarian regimes but still lends its support to Saudi Arabia despite its appalling human rights record- this is because of the amount of trade in the arms industry that Britain has with Saudi
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what are some examples of MNCs operating on a different set of rules from the ordinary citizen?
companies such as Google and Apple operate complex tax flows in order to avoid paying the full rate of tax, 3rd world countries are desperate for investment so allow MNCs to bend rules
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what is an example of a 3rd world country allowing an MNC to bend the rules?
Union Carbide was the US chemical company linked to the Bhopal disaster in India and is thought to have received lenient treatment from the Indian courts
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how do marxists believe equality can be achieved?
marxists equate wealth to power, then it follows that a more equitable distribution of wealth will leas to a fairer distribution of power- this involves eradicating the capitalist system
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what is a pluralist criticism of marxism?
marxists are ignoring the beneficial advantages that the poor have achieved through the capitalist system- the West enjoys the highest standards of living, capitalism has lifted countries like South Korea out of poverty and there is social mobility
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what are some other pluralist criticisms of marxism?
people have had the opportunities to choose Marxist parties at elections but have generally refused to do so, abolishing a capitalist system is completely unrealistic- this was tired in communist eastern europe and which met with economic failure
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what would be a more realistic approach to marxism?
managed capitalism- whereby govs work within the system whilst trying to alienate and mitigate its negative impacts- worked well in China
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what are some elitist criticisms of marxism?
marxists are being naive if they think that they can engineer a system of equality- elite theorists believe that an elite grouping will inevitably emerge regardless of the economic system that is in place and wealth isnt the sole base of power
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`what is a feminist criticism of marxism?
whilst there is some validity in the notion of economic exploitation; too little attention is paid to the exploitation of women
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who was Ralph Milliband?
a marxist theorist who produced his own version of marxism called the 'New Left'
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what did Milliband believe?
that many members of the bourgeoisie occupy elite positions and that the third face of power, the ruling class, used legitimation to indoctrinate the population to get them to accept the status quo
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who is Poulantzas?
a marxist theorist who adopts a 'structuralist approach' which emphaises the importance of social structure and minimises the importance of individuals actions
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what did Poulantzas believe?
that the state is vital for maintaining capitalism and serves the interest of the ruling class and that the capitalist state best serves interests of capitalist class when the ruling class isnt the politically governing class
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why did Poulantzas believe that relative autonomy of the State is important?
the bourgeoisie is too internally divided to represent its common interests, power may be weakened by internal wrangling and promotes myth that the state represents the masses
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what is feminism?
the belief that power in society is based on gender divisions. Thus all societies are essentially patriarchies (ruled by men)
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what do many people consider the starting point of feminism?
The Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), written by English writer Mary Wollstonecraft as the starting point for feminism
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why were women trapped in an existence of economic dependence?
as they were essentially their husband's legal property, practice of the father 'giving away' the daughter, lack of education and expectation of childbearing made work untenable
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what was the first wave of feminism focused on?
focused on the exclusion of women from the right to vote- these feminists became known as the suffragettes
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what was the second wave of feminism focused on?
concentrated on the social modelling that women were expected to conform to- became known as the 'women's liberation movement'
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what did second wave feminists argue?
that social stereotypes, gender roles and attitudes to female behaviour conspired to keep women subservient to men and promoted an acceptance that women are inferior- reinforced by the media, education, religion and society
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what are some of the other categories of feminists?
liberal feminists (concentrates on the unequal position of women within society), socialist feminists (diagnoses capitalism as being the true root of the patriarchy) and radical feminists (sees males as perpetuating patriachy using the family unit)
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what is the focus of third wave feminism?
expressed a frustration with how feminism had become overly focused on the status of white, middle-class women in western societies instead of focusing on less privileged women around the world
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what is a marxist criticism of feminism?
women should focus more on capitalism- they see the family unit part of the capitalist hegemony and by eliminating it all of humanity will benefit and women will see their position improve
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what is an elitist criticism of feminism?
elitists would recognise this inequality of representation but would see it as part of life circumstances that generate elites in the first place- a different set of characteristics, not gender allow for an 'elite grouping'
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what is a pluralist criticism of feminism?
pluralists look at the progress made by women in social, legal and political terms- eg women are PMs of many powerful countries such as NZ, Britain and Germany and Canada's cabinet is deliberately gender balanced
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who was Mary Wollstonecraft?
an early feminist thinker who argued that women were not provided with the same education as men, what education they were given was solely to please men
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what did Mary Wollstonecraft argue?
that to break the cycle of women having to rely on sexual allure to please men and to get by- women had to be well educated which would prevent women being subjugated by men
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what is one of Mary Wollstonecraft's famous quotes?
"Let women share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man"
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who is Rebecca Walker?
a third wave feminist who coined the phrase 'third wave fewminism'
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what did Rebecca Walker believe?
that the second wave was too focused on white, middle class women in the West and that it didnt focus on other ethnic minorities women in the West or elsewhere
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what do pluralists argue?
that power isn't confined to certain wealthy, well-connected or military elites but is in fact available to anyone in society
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what are some other factors other than wealth that pluralists argue allows a person to gain power?
charisma, organisational management and prestige
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what is an example of 'the establishment' being reformed in modern day society?
the number of hereditary peers in the HoL being reduced to 92
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what do classic pluralists believe?
power is with the people, west is best, power is legitimate not coerced, nature of power, sectional interests, state should act as a honest broker and competition between 2 or more political parties is essential
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why do pluralists believe political parties in democratic societies are representative?
parties can't represent sectional interests- must have the support of a wide range on interests, accountability, party manifestos have to reflect the needs and wants of the public and new parties emerge to represent if the need arises
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why do pluralists see pgs as essential to democracy?
mobilise concerns- eg the homeless, raise issues over gov policies, allows for the voice of gov opposition, increase grass roots political participation and can lead to specific policy changes
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what is an example of someone using other resources such as charisma, prestige, public support etc to gain power?
Martin Luther King- wasn't wealthy and yet had the power to change america
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what is an example of a goc official having overlapping membership of differing groups allowing for greater understanding and reducing the danger of conflict?
e Labour MP may have competing allegiances to Greenpeace, trade unions, their constituents etc
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what are some of the ways in which elite pluralists disagree with classic pluralists?
they see 'elites' as the leaders of groups and therefore the main participants in decision making, some groups have more power than others (eg NRA) and recognise that pgs themselves are elitist in structure
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what is some evidence that supports the pluralist idea that as modern liberal democracy has evolved, the power originally residing in the aristocracy has percolated to the people?
one person one vote and open and free elections, the emergence of mass membership political parties, emergence of widely supported pgs, legislation- eg HoL has been reduced in power
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what is an elitist criticism of pluralism?
some interest groups have more influence over gov decisions than others- eg NAACP wqas founded in 1910 but didnt have an important breakthrough for 40 years until they could even beat racial prejudice in the US
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what is another elitist criticism of pluralism?
self-serving elites- wetsern democracies also have hugely powerful business interests- military industrial complex and best democracy money can buy as in the US elections $18 were spent per citizen
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what is a marxist criticism of pluralism?
concessions such as unemployment benefit are concessions only given to give the illusion of progress and hide the real system of control- capitalism and the the elite uses mass media to redirect public interest away from political issues
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what does the term 'circulation of elites' mean?
that in all societies there will always be a dominant single class or group
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why does the elite minority stand out from the crowd?
they possess natural human attributes above and beyond the mediocrity of the Hoi Poloi and are naturally more educated, talented and skilled
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what are the two groups of elites devised by Poreta?
lions and foxes
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what are lions?
people who were at ease with using military force to gain power (coercion)- eg Pol Pot and Stalin
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what are foxes?
politicians in democracies who could use their cunning to get what they wanted- eg Bush and Blair
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what are some of the reasons why elitists believe that leaders are able to maintain power?
they can appoint officials who are sympathetic with their views, use the skills of the political game to their advantage (eg controlling meetings), have the power to control communication to the masses
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how is the cohesiveness of the power elite strengthened?
similar social background, educational background, similar high prestige places socially and similar values
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what is an example of elite self-recruitment in Britain?
in 1987 68% of Tory MPs were of a public school background
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why do elitists believe that CEOs of large companies are often as powerful as the Secretary of Commerce?
because decisions made in the boardrooms of some large corporations affect the economics of the country- inflation, economic growth, unemployment etc
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what are some examples of powerful UK family dynasties?
Sainsbury and Rothchilds
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what are some of the pluralist criticisms of elitism?
education has now been opened to a vast range of people from different backgrounds, traditional areas of elitist control such as the HoL have steadily been reformed, many politicians have come from modest backgrounds not elite positions eg Thatcher
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what is the bourgeoisie?
the ruling class or elite who are economically and therefore politically dominant
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what do marxists believe will happen when capitalism implodes?
the elite bourgeoisie will wither away to be replaced by the proletariat
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what is the marxist moto coined by Karl Marx?
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs
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what is some evidence that the bourgeoisie occupy elite positions?
USA (1899-1949) 60% of cabinet members were businessmen and UK (1886-1950) 33% of cabinet members were businessmen
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what are some of the pluralist criticisms of capitalism?
ignore benefits of capitalist states, dramatic moves towards democracy in former marxist countries from the eastern bloc in 1990s, huge corporations are owned by millions of shareholders and different govs have very different ideological ventures?
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what is an example of twos govs having very different ideological ventures?
Atlee's labour gov in the 1950s developed socialist policies such as the National Health Service Act 1946 however Thatcher in the 1980s boosted privatisation eg industries, railways, airways etc
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what are some elitist criticisms of marxism?
wealth isnt the only factor of power as there are other routes otherwise billionaires such as Bill Gates would make all the decisions, ruling class isnt just a feature of capitalism and marxism leads to communism creating another elite
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what are some examples of men holding positions of power?
32% of HoC, 26% of HoL and 2 out of 12 Supreme court judges are women
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what progress did women make during first wave feminism?
Matrimonial Cause Act in 1923 gave women the the same grounds to divorce as men, in 1928 women achieved the right to vote regardless of property qualification and women gained the right to sit in parl
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who is De Beavoir?
a highly influencial female French author and philosopher who is best known for her treatise _the Second Sex'- a detailed analysis of women's oppression and an influential text of contemporary feminism
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what does the term 'patriachy' mean?
refers to the belief held by feminists that men hold the key aspects of political, social and economic power and women are largely excluded from it
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what are some of the issues thrid wave feminists address?
pay gap, sexual harrasment and the fight against forced marriage and FGM
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what are the 5 approaches of feminism?
liberal, radical, marxist, black and post modern
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what are some of the pluralist criticisms of feminism?
women have already achieved equality - eg many PMs of powerful countries are women such as Jacinda Arden of NZ and Merkel of Germany, and there are many countries with over 40% representation of women in their parliament such as Sweden and Rwanda
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what is another pluralist criticism of feminism?
feminism regards all men as exploiters and oppressors- but this cannot be the case eg Canadian PM Trudeau made his cabinet gender balanced
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what are some marxist criticisms of feminism?
the capitalist system makes sure women are kept in their place as family is part of the capitalist hegemony- the ideological control of the proletariat by the ruling class and use movements like universal suffrage to appease women and mask inequality
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what are some elitist criticisms of feminism?
it is life circumstances that generate elites- if women are underrepresented then this is reflective of their overall position within society and it is a different set of characteristics other than gender that allow for women to have access to power
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what is pluralism?


based upon the principles of representative liberal democracy. whereby ultamite power rests with the people

Card 3


what do pluralists believe?


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Card 4


what is an example in history where voters sent a clear message to deliver a specific policy?


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Card 5


what is an example of a gov being removed?


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