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Theories of Politics: American Political Situation

Which theory best explains who has political power in American politics:pluralism, power elite (Four Networks) or a combination of both?

In other words, can people influence decision by voting in elections and participating in interest groups (Pluralism), or do you have to be a member of the power elite (a leader in one of the Four Networks) to have a real impact on political decisions? What role are public opinion, interest groups and the corporate/government elite playing in the current political struggle over health care reform? Who do you think will win and why?

Use examples and facts to support your arguments. Make sure you include specific references. Address the following questions in your analysis:

What role does the media play in our democracy? For example, has online media (blogs, social networking, websites, etc) help us become better informed and or involved in the issues that impact us, like health care? Or is it a tool of power elite? What forms of technology or media do you/could you use to become more informed or involved politically?

If more people voted, would the government be more responsive to their needs? How can we increase voter turnout among younger voters, people of color, and lower income voters? Can technology be used to mobilize people to participate and vote, especially young voters? Did the Presidential election in 2008 or the health care debate increase your own political awareness or participation? Why or why not? hide problem

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The solution below is written in the form of an essay for you to use as a guide and at the same time a source of information and ideas. The solution looks at and discusses all the points that you raised in your posting. I have tried my best to make it as comprehensive and concise as possible to make the narrative easier to digest and understand. Please take note of the resources and references so you can use it to expand your own discussion. I am quite sure that you have access to good materials either in print or via the web to make the discussion more intertextual. I hope this solution will be of help to you. A word version is attached for easy printing. Thank you so much for using Brainmass. Good luck with your studies.

OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Power in Politics

Political power is known as 'Imperium' in Latin. Imperium recalls to mind the images of Caesars, Roman Generals and the power play in the Roman Senate. The word 'Empire' is derived from the word Imperium and truly, if you really think about it, an Empire - its vastness, glory and control stems from the political power and will of the figures behind it - emperors, their armies and their court. Now that the days of Empires and monarchs are long gone, we tend to think that 'Empires' have gone too. But Imperium, the will and power behind Empires - political power - is still very much alive. Empires today exist under different social terms with a limitation to the power held by the figures that control it - they now exist as independent nation-states ran by the most influential and most powerful politicians and groups. Back in the days of the Empire, politics - the art of influential decision making is usually aligned with public governance and the manner by which the people the populate its ranks from the least to the most important seats negotiate to make important decisions that affect the state and the people. Those who populate the government ranks are either elected (as with politicians) or appointed/hired (as with bureaucrats) depending on the type of office held. Legislative and administrative positions in relation to governance are usually elected (as with local and state legislators and the offices of the Congress and the Senate - both State and Federal) while ministerial positions are via appointment according to capacity and experience (as in Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, etc.). The rest are by direct hiring according to skill, capacity, fit and availability. Even then any government office from the smallest corridors to the most August Halls, politics happens - the act of negotiation to affect a decision. Politics is a natural social action within society. Therefore politics is not limited to government offices and hierarchy - there is politics in every group, in every organization from churches to schools to corporate and industrial offices. As long as a decision must be made and as long as people can be affected or can affect it - the mechanism of politics happens as in society, each and every one of us is a social agent and a stakeholder to the state of things and to the eventual outcome and effect of every decision - hence we get our voices heard to push for results we find to be most beneficial, fair and favourable according to our personal judgements and interests.

Explaining Pluralism and Elitism

But, who has the most power to affect? Power is different from influence but both are elements to persuasive politicking. Political Scientist I.C. Macmillan (1978) separates power from influence thus:

"Power is the capacity to restructure actual situations," while "Influence is the capacity to control and modify the perceptions of others."

In American politics, whoever has the most power and influence can affect politics. There are two theories that political scientists use to explain who has political power in America - pluralism and elitism. Pluralism is a social scientific theory that is not limited to politics - generally it just refers to a diversity of viewpoints and opinions, the opposite of singular opinions & approaches. As a political theory, pluralism denotes that political power in society is not only held by the power elite or by the electorate - power is distributed through a number of social groupings whether informal or formal in nature. For example, political power is held by special interest groups, lobbying groups, trade unions and a mass of consumers following similar patterns of consumption or interest. In the immediate American political landscape think of this example -

A local election is held. Campaigners for a particular candidate are looking to influence voters by ensuring that all voters and groups are reached. So they reach out to churches (semi-formal) and the religious organizations the churches are related to (semi-formal). They reach out to groups of like-minded women (informal) who have great influence in the way things are run locally and to groups of like minded men via their ...

Solution Summary

The solution below is written in the form of an essay to use as a guide and at the same time a source of information and ideas on the topic of the design, structure and nature of American political power exploring popular theories (pluralism, elitism, etc.). The solution looks at and discusses all the points that raised in the original posting including the role of media in the politics of American democracy (see problem description). It is comprehensive and concise making the narrative easier to digest and understand. References are provided to for expansion. A word version is attached for easy printing.