Figure 17.1. In 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi collection himself on fire to protest the humiliation of having actually the products from his street vending stall confiscated, sparking the Tunisian revolution of 2011. Exactly how did this act of desperation become a key political act? (Photo bring away January 22, 2011, courtesy of chris Belsten/Flickr)

Learning Objectives

17.1. Power and Authority

Define and also differentiate between government, power, and also authorityIdentify and also describe the three species of authority

17.2. Democratic will Formation

Explain the significance of the difference between direct democracy and representative democracyDescribe the dynamic of politics demand and political it is provided in identify the autonomous “will the the people”

17.3. The De-Centring of the State: Terrorism, War, Empire, and Political Exceptionalism

Identify and also describe factors of political exemption that affect modern-day political life

17.4. Theoretical Perspectives top top Government and also Power

Understand how functionalists, an essential sociologists, and symbolic interactionists see government and politics

Introduction come Government and also Politics

In among Max Weber’s last public lectures—“Politics together a Vocation” (1919)—he asked, what is the definition of political action in the context of a whole method of life? (More accurately, he supplied the ax Lebensführung: what is the definition of political activity in the context of a totality conduct of life, a layout we will go back to in the next section). The asked, what is political around political activity and what is the ar of “the political” in the recurring conduct of society life?

Until newly we can have been satisfied with solution that examined how various politics institutions and also processes role in society: the state, the government, the polite service, the courts, the autonomous process, etc. However, in current years, among many other instances we could cite, we have actually seen how the occasions of the Arab spring in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt (2010–2011) put seemingly stable political institutions and also processes into question. With the collective action of plain citizens, the long-lasting authoritarian energy of Ben Ali, Gadhafi, and Mubarak were brought to an end through what some called “revolution.” Not only did the politics institutions every one of a suddenly not role as they had for decades, they were additionally shown no to be in ~ the center of political action at all. What perform we learn about the ar of politics in social life from this examples?

Revolutions are frequently presented together monumental, foundational political events that occur only rarely and also historically: the American revolution (1776), the French revolution (1789), the Russian transformation (1917), the Chinese change (1949), the Cuban transformation (1959), the Iranian change (1979), etc. But the occasions in phibìc Africa remind us that revolutionary political activity is always a possibility, not simply a rarely political occurrence. Samuel Huntington defines revolution as:

a rapid, fundamental, and also violent domestic change in the dominant values and also myths the a society, in its political institutions, society structure, leadership, and also government task and policies. Revolutions are for this reason to be distinguished from insurrections, rebellions, revolts, coups, and also wars of independence (Huntington 1968, p. 264).

You are watching: What is the name for a sudden and dramatic change in political power?

What is at stake in revolution is also, therefore, the larger question that Max Weber to be asking around political action. In a sense, the concern of the role of politics in a whole method of life asks just how a whole method of life comes into existence in the very first place.

How carry out revolutions occur? In Tunisia, the street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself top top fire after his develop cart was confiscated. The injustice of this event listed an emblem for the widespread problems of poverty, oppression, and humiliation skilled by a bulk of the population. In this case, the revolutionary activity might be stated to have actually originated in the means that Bouazizi’s act sparked a radicalization in people’s sense of citizenship and also power: their interior feelings of separation, personal, instance dignity, rights, and also freedom and their capacity to plot on them. It to be a minute in which, after living through years of deplorable conditions, civilization suddenly felt their own power and their own capacity come act. Sociology is interested in researching the problems of such examples of citizenship and also power.

17.1. Power and Authority

Figure 17.2. The Parliament buildings in Ottawa represent the authority of the Canadian state. (Courtesy that West Annex News/Flickr)

The nature the political control—what we will specify as power and also authority—is an important part of society.

Sociologists have actually a distinctive strategy to researching governmental power and also authority that differs native the perspective of political scientists. Because that the many part, politics scientists focus on studying just how power is dispersed in different types of politics systems. They would observe, because that example, the the Canadian political mechanism is a constitutional monarchy split into three distinctive branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), and might explore how public opinion affects politics parties, elections, and the political process in general. Sociologists, however, often tend to be much more interested in government more generally; that is, the various means and strategies supplied to straight or conduct the behaviour and also actions of others (or that oneself). Together Michel Foucault defined it, federal government is the “conduct the conduct,” the way some look for to action upon the command of others to change or channel the conduct in a details direction (Foucault 1982, pp. 220-221).

Government suggests that there space relations of power in between rulers and ruled, however the paper definition of dominance is not limited to the state. Government in this sense is in operation whether the power connection is in between states and citizens, organizations and clients, parents and children, doctors and also patients, employers and employees, masters and dogs, or also oneself and also oneself. (Think the the cultivate regimes, researching routines, or diets world put themselves through as they seek to adjust or direct their resides in a details way). The role of the state and also its influence on culture (and vice versa) is just one aspect of government relationships.

On the other side of government power and also authority are the various develops of resistance to being ruled. Foucault (1982) says that there is no this latitude for resistance or independent activity on the component of the one over whom power is exercised, there is no connection of power or government. Over there is just a connection of violence or force. One main question sociological analysis asks therefore is: Why do human being obey, especially in cases when it is no in your objective understand to perform so? “Why do males fight for their servitude as stubbornly together though that were their salvation?” together Gilles Deleuze as soon as put that (Deleuze and also Guattari 1977, p. 29). This entails a an ext detailed research of what we median by power.

What Is Power?

Figure 17.3. Prince william is in the line of sequence to become head the state in Canada and good Britain, however he will have limited involvement in the day-to-day work of government. (Photo courtesy the HerryLawford/flickr)

For centuries, philosophers, politicians, and social scientists have actually explored and commented ~ above the nature the power. Pittacus (c. 640–568 BCE) opined, “The measure up of a male is what he does with power,” and Lord Acton perhaps more famously asserted, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute strength corrupts absolutely” (1887). Indeed, the principle of power can have decidedly negative connotations, and also the term itself is challenging to define. There room at least two interpretations of power, which we will refer to listed below as power (1) and also power (2).

As we provided above, power relationships to express in basic to a sort of strategy relationship in between rulers and also the ruled: a collection of practices through which states seek to administer the life of their citizens, managers seek to control the labour of their workers, parents look for to guide and also raise their children, dog owners look for to train your dogs, medical professionals seek to regulate the health and wellness of your patients, chess players look for to regulate the moves of your opponents, people seek to keep their own lives in order, etc. Numerous of this sites the the exercise of power fall external our normal expertise of power because they carry out not it seems ~ “political”—they perform not address basic questions or disagreements around a “whole way of life”—and since the relationships in between power and also resistance in them can be an extremely fluid. Over there is a give and also take between the make the efforts of the rulers to direct the plot of the ruled and the attempts of the ruled to resist those directions. In many cases, the is daunting to see relationships as power relationships in ~ all unless they become fixed or authoritarian. This is since our conventional knowledge of power is that one human being or one group of people has strength over another. In various other words, as soon as we think around somebody, some group, or part institution having power end us, we are thinking about a relationship of domination.

Figure 17.4. Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” (1919). (Photo courtesy that Wikimedia Commons)

Max Weber characterized power (1) as “the chance of a male or that a variety of men to establish their own will in a communal action even versus the resistance of rather who space participating in the action” (Weber 1919a, p. 180). The is the varying levels of capability one needs to exercise one’s will over others. As soon as these “chances” end up being structured as develops of domination, the give and take in between power and also resistance is resolved into an ext or much less permanent ordered arrangements. They end up being institutionalized. As such, strength affects an ext than personal relationships; the shapes larger dynamics choose social groups, professional organizations, and governments. Similarly, a government’s strength is not necessarily minimal to control of its own citizens. A leading nation, for instance, will often use that is clout to affect or support other federal governments or to seize control of other country states. Initiatives by the Canadian government to wield power in other nations have had joining v other nations to type the Allied forces during human being Wars I and also II, entering Afghanistan in 2001 v the NATO mission to topple the Taliban regime, and imposing sanctions on the government of Iran in the wishes of constraining its advancement of atom weapons.

Endeavours to get power and influence perform not necessarily result in domination, violence, exploitation, or abuse. Leader such as Martin Luther King Jr. And Mahatma Gandhi, for example, commanded powerful movements that impacted positive change without military force. Both men organized nonviolent protests come combat corruption and injustice and also succeeded in inspiring significant reform. Lock relied top top a selection of nonviolent protest strategies such as rallies, sit-ins, marches, petitions, and also boycotts.

It is thus important to retain the difference between domination and power. Politics and power room not “things” that space the exclusive issue of “the state” or the property of an individual, ruling class, or group. At a an ext basic level, power (2) is a capacity or ability that each of us needs to create and act. As a result, power and politics must likewise be construed as the collective capacities we need to create and also build brand-new forms of neighborhood or “commons” (Negri 2004). Power in this feeling is the strength we think of once we speak of an ability to carry out or develop something—a potential. That is the method in i beg your pardon we jointly give form to the areas that we live in, even if it is we know this at a very local level or a an international level. Power establishes the things that we have the right to do and the things that us cannot do.

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The Greek theorist Aristotle’s original notion of politics is the idea the a freedom civilization grant themselves to preeminence themselves (Aristotle 1908). Therefore, power is not in principle domination. The is the give and take we endure in everyday life together we come with each other to construct a better community—a “good life” together Aristotle put it. As soon as we ask why people obey also when the is not in their ideal interests, we room asking around the problems in which strength is exercised as domination. Therefore the critical task the sociology is come ask how we might totally free ourselves indigenous the border of dominance to engage much more actively and freely in the creation of community.

Figure 17.5. Young people and also students were among the many ardent supporters of democratic reform in the current Arab Spring. Society media additionally played an important role in rallying grassroots support. (Photo courtesy that cjb22/flickr)