(This is an archived page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book. Current versions are at book contents).
A government or political party can be thought of as trying to steer a political course in some desired direction from the current situation (), for example to improve public services. It is very rare to advocate moving completely towards any of the dystopian extremes of ideology and approaches to change; it is more usual to seek a compromise in direction for the way ahead.
The selection of a policy direction can be pictured as moving a joystick to an appropriate position between the ideologies and styles. To pursue the metaphor further, there is a level of feedback from the controls: sensitivity to crosswinds and resistance to tight turns, as parties and governments change direction in response to circumstances – including public opinion – during their terms of office. Proposed policies have to take account of people’s tendency to resist change. A current government tries to demonstrate that it is responding effectively, but an opposition might argue for a different course and challenge the government’s performance.
The political power structure as a whole determines if and how the population can influence politicians. The rest of this chapter analyses political power structures, ending with a summary of the ways in which the population can ensure that it is well served by its politicians: the processes for appointing them ( ), the freedom to influence them ( ) and meaningful political negotiation ( ). It is this total picture which determines whether people can have a hand on the ‘joystick’.