6.1.4 Classification of Political Power

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/614.htm)

The preceding three sections have defined the term ‘political power’ and the roles of politicians – who are appointed to lead in several aspects of a country’s governance.  The remaining segments of this chapter examine how they exercise their powers and how they interact with the population they serve – assessing each facet in terms of its effect on the population:

(6.2)    Political Ideologies and Approaches to Change.  The labels ‘individualist’, ‘collectivist’, ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ describe ways of thinking.  They affect a politician’s decision-making.  In a democratic society, they form election platforms.  They are reviewed here in terms of benefit to the public.

(6.3)    Political Systems, Performance and Legitimacy.  The different ways of organising a government, and the performance of the politicians within it, affect its legitimacy in the eyes of the population.

(6.4)    The Pressures on Politicians from the population, from businesses, from interest groups and from the media – by different methods of communication and by exercising economic power – are applied to gain influence.  Pressures are necessary if governments are to be responsive, but they tilt the balance of power on behalf of specific groups.

(6.5)    Representation and Consultation.  Politicians are chosen as representatives of the population, and consultation can enable them to find out what people want; this can provide a better perspective than merely responding to the pressures described in the previous segment.

(6.6)    Political Subsidiarity covers the range from personal participation in politics through to global organisations such as the United Nations.  It raises issues about the balance of power between the different levels of governance: localisation versus centralisation.

(6.7)    The Major Issues Requiring Political Negotiation – the most contentious issues in politics – relate to the scope of a government’s activities, how it spends taxpayers’ money, how it manages the economy, its management of change and diversity, and how it manages relationships with other countries.  These often link back to the preceding segments of this chapter and to previous chapters.

(6.8)    The ways of Ensuring that Politicians Serve the People involve challenging them and holding them to account, so that they serve the population well.

At this point in the chapter, readers who are just seeking an overview may wish to move to the next chapter (7).  Alternatively, they may wish to go directly to a particular segment by following one of the above links, or continue to read sequentially.

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