patterson9_sg_ch01 - Chapter One American Political Culture...

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Chapter One American Political Culture: Seeking a More Perfect Union Chapter Outline . Political Culture: The Core Principles of American Government . America’s Core Values A. Liberty, Equality, and Self-Government B. The Power and Limits of Americans’ Ideals III. Politics: The Resolution of Conflict A. The Social Contract B. The Rules of American Politics 1. Democracy 2. Constitutionalism 3. Capitalism IV. Political Power and Authority: The Control of Policy A. Theories of Power 1. Majoritarianism: Government by the People 2. Pluralism: Government by Groups 3. Elitism: Government by a Few 4. Bureaucratic Rule: Government by Administrators B. Who Governs? V. The Concept of a Political System and this Book’s Organization Chapter Summary The United States is a nation that was formed on a set of ideals that include liberty, equality, and self-government. These ideals were rooted in the country’s European heritage, and early America’s vast open lands and abundant natural resources influenced their growth. They became America’s common bond and today are the basis of American political culture. Although they are mythic, inexact, and conflicting, these ideals have had a powerful effect on what generation after generation of Americans has tried to achieve politically for themselves and others. Politics in the United States plays out through rules of the game that include democracy, constitutionalism, and capitalism. Democracy is rule by the people, which, in practice, refers to a representative system of government in which people rule through their elected officials. Constitutionalism refers to the rules that limit the rightful power of government over citizens. Capitalism is an economic system based on a free-market principle that allows the government only a limited role in determining how economic costs and benefits will be allocated. Politics is the process by which it is determined whose values will prevail in society. The basis of politics is conflict over scarce resources and competing values. Those who have power win out in this conflict and are able to control governing authority and policy choices. The related question as to who governs America can be connected to the theories of majoritarianism, pluralism, elitism, or bureaucratic rule. Contemporary American government is placed in historical perspective in this chapter. Core principles that have shaped American politics since the country’s earliest years are examined SG – 1 | 1
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briefly and concepts such as power, pluralism, and constitutionalism that are central to the study of government and politics are also assessed. In addition, the concept of a political system is explained along with the five encompassing tendencies of American politics—enduring cultural ideals, fragmentation of governing authority, competing interests, stress on individual rights, and a sharp separation of political and economic spheres. The main points of this chapter are as follows: The American political culture centers on a set of core ideals (liberty, equality, self-
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This note was uploaded on 07/13/2009 for the course POLITICAL PSCI 231- taught by Professor Knight during the Spring '09 term at Chadron State College.

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patterson9_sg_ch01 - Chapter One American Political Culture...

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