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This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3 0 License. Basic Political Concepts,Paul deLespinasse,Copyrigh t 2008 by Paul deLespinasse. Edited by Ma risa Drexel, For any questions about this text please email drexel uga edu. The Global Text Project is funded by the Jacobs Founda tion Zurich Switzerland. This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3 0 License. Basic Political Concepts 2 A Global Tex t,Table of Contents. Towards a Systematic Conceptualization of Politics 4. 1 Concepts of Decision Making and Action 6,2 Concepts of Human Association 14. 3 Developing Conceptual Acuity 26, This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3 0 License.
Towards a Systematic,Conceptualization of Politics. Political science is the systema tic study of governments of the meth ods by which governments s eek to control. people and of th e techniques through which people try to infl uence government It is a science that attempts to. connect th e micro level of individual lives and actions with the macro level of coll ective circums tances an d. consequences, Like th e other social sciences political science focuses on all three basic types of social power th e pen th e. purse and the sword Unlike the other social sciences it gives special attention to the power of th e sword wielded. coll ectively in the form of war and threats of war wielded against individuals ideally in th e more civilized form. Every body of knowledge has a t least a few basic words that students had better understan d in the fullest. possible sense For the ph ysicist force must equal mass times accel eration Accountants must understand tha t. assets are equal to liabilities plus owners equity capital and must be able to classify pa rticular transactions into. the proper categories Music th eoris ts must know the difference between a second inversion and a secondary. dominant Political science is no exception to this general need for funda mental concepts. Unfortunately political scientists and law yers the two main professions concerned with analyzing government. have not identified a small set of simple core concepts whose permuta tions and combinations get to th e essence. of the matter Instead both professions are blessed or cursed with a grea t multiplicity of terms and concepts all. of roughly equal importance whose mutual relations and meanings are extremel y compl ex. As a result of its lack of funda men tal conceptual clarity political science increasingly suffers from an inferiority. complex Chemistry an d physics have produced a continuous and accelerating s trea m of spectacular. accomplish ments which are reflected for better or for worse in the everyday material en vironment computers. synthetic fabrics lasers microwa ve ovens TV atomic bombs pesticides A similar takeoff in biological science. appears to be shaping up But where do w e see any signs that political science is having an impact on the world. It is true that in the political sphere too many new techniques and ins titutions have appea red but our. professional inferiority complex is neverthel ess bas ed on an embarrassing fact Major innovations in 20th century. government ha ve not originated in political science The pattern is quite unlike that in the natural sciences where. breakthroughs in fundamental analysis e g Eins tein s E mc squared are placed on a pra ctical basis by the. engineers e g the Manhattan Project In public life by contras t the breakth roughs are ma de by the engineers. active politicians elected officials administra tors revolutionaries and later often much la ter political scientists. get around to noticing them describing them and criticizing th em. Basic Political Concepts 4 A Global Tex t, Th e goal of Basic Political Concepts is to provide exactl y wha t the title sugg ests a small set of carefully defined. an d interrelated words that can be used to describe and analyze a wide range of political phenomena and issues. Chapter 1 focuses on concepts useful in analyzing individual decisions and actions which surel y are th e basic s tuff. of politics Chapter 2 introduces concepts related to associations th e relationships between individuals that are. created by their actions Chapter 3 Developing Con ceptual Acuity illustrates some ways in which we can. systematically increase our ability to think sys tematically about politics It is an invita tion for th e student to think. creatively to join in th e continual rethinking of political issues that is a prerequisite of progress. This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3 0 License. 1 Concepts of Decision,Making and Action,The elements of ad hoc rational action. Let us consider the possibilities implicit in the following expression. Imagine that th ere is a larg e ca pital C surrounding th e letter A in this expression To simplify transmitting this. book via th e World Wide Web it is not explicitly stated here. Th e elements of th e ex pression are shown in Table 1. Ta ble 1 Key for elements in expression,A an action.
C the circums tances of the action,Y side effects produced by th e action. causation or expected causation, In plain English the expression says Action A taken within circumstances C in pursuit of goal X also ca uses. side effects Y, For example wh en US President Gerald Ford took th e action of pardoning US President Richard Nixon during. the pos t Watergate witch hunt to try to get public atten tion back on serious issues a side effect of his action was to. decrease his own chances for winning in 1976 There are of cours e other possible in terpretations of Mr Ford s. reasons for th e pa rdon, As the C in our expression indicates all actions take place within specific circums tances But initially we can. ignore circumstances since the situation at any one point in time is a given and th erefore cannot be manipulated A. simplified version of our expression is therefore, lea ving the circumstances within which action A is taken implicit.
Clearly there are exactly three el ements which can be manipulated the action A th e goal X and the side effects. Y Pos tulate an actor whose goal X can be attained via action A but who strongly dislikes the side effects of taking. action A What are her options,Basic Political Concepts 6 A Global Tex t. Th e first possibility is to seek a different action A1 which will also produce goal X but with different side effects. Perhaps th e new side effects are less unsatisfactory to the actor The cost benefit ratio Y1 X of action A1 ma y be. acceptable wh ere that of the original proposal A was not. For exa mple US President Andrew Jackson discovered that John McLean his inherited Postmaster General. did not approve of the spoils system Yet the US Post Office was a principal loca tion of pa tronage jobs in those days. One solution would be to fire McLean but the political side effects would have been considerable So Jackson. instead appointed McLean to th e Supreme Court, Th e secon d possibility is to modify goal X to X1 The somewha t different goal ma y be achievable by actions which. would not deliver the original goal an d at an accepta ble price. A2 X 1 Y 2, Compromise of course is a pervasive political phen omenon in its own right and exa mples are not hard to find. Take Emperor Pedro II of Brazil sa y who wan ted to g et rid of sla very but coul d not figure out how to do so without. committing political suicide since slave holders were a social bulwark of the monarch y Instead of forth rightly. abolishing slavery he therefore took steps to destroy it bit by bit buying up and freeing some sla ves banning future. importation and making children born to slaves free a t birth But in 1889 Pedro II went to Europe for medical. treatment His daughter Princess Isabel a militant abolitionist took advan tage of her reg ency to seek the. unmodified goal freedom now Sure enough the monarchy was immediately overthrown. Another apparen t possibility is to take th e original action A without unaccepta ble side effects Y and also take. some oth er action A3 one of the results of which is to cancel out th e disliked parts of side effects Y. A A3 X Y 3, For example buy a desired Cadillac even though it wipes out your bank account but then put your spouse to. work to build it back up But th e combination of actions A and A3 can be regarded as two compon ents of a single. compound action Rather than a third possibility therefore this is just another exampl e of the first e g fin d an. action which produces the sa me goal but different side effects. Still another possibl e manipulation allowed by expression A X Y is not just to modify the goal X but to. aban don it completely In a way this too is just a va riation on a previously noted possibility the ultimate possible. modification of the goal X 0, This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3 0 License.
Th e third basic option is to stick to the original project A X Y If no alterna tive actions A1 can be found. which will produce goal X with more accepta ble side effects and if goal X cannot be usefully modified it does not. necessarily follow tha t goal X mus t be abandoned If the actor prefers X Y to not X not Y then she can hold. her nose make her bargain with the devil and take action A Reg ret tha t s uch a price as Y mus t be paid to achieve. X does not necessarily impl y unwillingness to do so if necessary As King H enry IV put it Pa ris is worth a mass. One final possible manipulation of th e basic expression requires explicit consideration of the circumstances C. within which action A takes place remember to visualize th e implicit capital C around th e letter A here. Achievement of goal X always lies in the future compared to th e time of action A though it need not be very fa r. into tha t future Although action must always take place within present circumstances one possible goal tha t one. can pursue via present actions is to secure improvemen ts in future circumstances C 1 is a possible X. Circums tances are important for two reasons First they ma ke some conceiva ble actions possible and oth ers. impossible Second they affect the s pecific consequences which those actions which are possibl e will produce. Action in th e pres ent aimed at improving the future circumstances within which one will be acting is th erefore an. investment in the profoundest and most general sense of the term. Perhaps US President Taft was investing when he promoted an aging conserva tive south ern Democra t Edward. Douglass White to be Chief Justice in 1910 rather than appointing a younger person with views clos er to his own. Taft ultimately wanted th e job for himself and this appointment created the possibility of an early future vacancy. If this was Taft s game his inves tment paid off brillian tly. Present actions can also change the future circumstances within which other people act making some actions. possible and others impossible for them Indeed as we will see in Cha pter 2 of this book a concept of social. ca usation which is fully compa tible with free will lies precisely in this such ca usa tion consists of causing. possibilities and impossibilities for others within which th ey can freely choose rath er than causing their actions. Rational action in specific contexts, Our basic ex pression for the elements of action and decision is not merely manipulatable It can also serve as a. model or pattern for a series of transforma tions each pertaining to a different major type of action In the con text. of the transformations the original expression also acquires a special meaning which is dis tinguishable from its. role as a gen eral model, Th e six variations of the ex pression again taking the circumstances of action as implicit a re shown in Table 2. Ta ble 2 Six variations of th e ex pression,A X Y An a d hoc or retail decision. R X Y Th e act of making a rule or a wholesale decision. O X Y Th e act of organizing or a super wholesale decision. Basic Political Concepts 8 A Global Tex t,S X Y Th e act of s peaking. D X Y Th e act of defining a word,T X Y Th e act of translating.
Each of th ese six variations can be manipulated in exactly the sa me ways as the basic ex pressions but we need. not go into this here, Since th e examples given above in discussing the basic expression were all drawn from the realm of ad hoc or. retail decision making no s pecific discussion of A X Y as one of the six varia tions of the gen eral model is. needed here,The act of creating a rule principled decisions. Variation tw o R X Y refers to a wholesale decision the act of making a rule Rule making is wholesale in. the sense that on e is not merely deciding how to act in a pa rticular case but rather in a whole set of possible cases. The distinction between th e logic of A X Y and R X Y is analogous to that made by some philosophers. between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. When th ere is a rule R that has th us been arrived at by evalua ting th e benefits and side effects that observing it. is expected to produce action A in a specific case is not determined by considering goals and side effects as it is in. the case of a d hoc action Ins tead the specific action is deduced from or at least limited by the rule Note that the. broken arrow in th e following expressions stan ds for logical implication rath er than th e causation indica ted by the. solid arrow, R A Under circumstances C rul e R implies or requires us to take action A. The goal of Basic Political Concepts is to provide exactly what the title suggests a small set of carefully defined and interrelated words that can be used to describe and analyze a wide range of political phenomena and issues Chapter 1 focuses on concepts useful in analyzing individual decisions and actions which surely are the basic stuff of politics Chapter 2 introduces concepts

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