List of concepts, updated weekly.
Credit goes to Tom Harris.
Politics – This is the struggle for power and leadership that gives an individual or group the ability to make authoritative decisions for the public as a whole. It is the process of resolving conflicts in which rival views and competing interests are reconciled because “We are not all alike”. It provides a focus for understanding the production, distribution and use of resources and finally, it is all about making decisions and excising who gets what.
State – This is a key arena for politics and has three key features; It has a geographic territory with internationally recognized boundaries. It needs an identifiable population that lives within the boundaries and finally, it needs a recognized government.
Sovereignty – This is the supreme power or authority of a state to govern itself or another state. This, along with a monopoly on legitimate violence (a stated by Max Weber), is needed in order for a state to exist.
Monopoly of legitimate violence – This is a theory stated by Max Weber and I where a state as an institution claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in maintaining order in their territorial area. This theory states that the state alone has the right to use or authorize physical force.
Collective goods – These are the items and resources that benefit everyone in a society, and that people cannot be excluded from. In order for a state to be a state, the government must be able to provide these collective goods along with institutions to help society function effectively.
Unitary vs. federal states – A Unitary State has almost all power focused at the national level with very little regional authority. This type of state can be seen in France and the UK where the central government makes policies and regional counties/ provinces have very little power to implement their own policies. This contrasts with the Federal State where significant power is given to the regional authorities so that they have more power and independence from the central government to implement their own laws. This is clearly seen in the USA where State government have significant power and independence from the central government in Washington.
Strong vs. weak states – Whether a state is strong or weak is defined by multiple factors. Size by geographic spread/ population is a good indicator of the strength of a state; Usually larger states have more weight in global politics. The Stronger the economy, the stronger the state, e.g. Japan is a small country with a very strong economy. Military might will impact the strength of a country, a exemplified by the USA. Robustness of state institutions will affect how efficiently decisions can be implemented and the more robust the institution, the stronger the state and vice versa. Finally, if a government or rule is legitimate, this will make a state stronger as a lack of legitimacy will make a country unstable and weak. This can be shown by the lack of legitimacy in the Eastern European Communist states during the Cold War.
Traditional vs. charismatic vs. rational-legal authority – This classification by Weber determines how authority can be accepted in a state. Traditional authority is derived from “traditional customs and values” and is based around a traditional respect for the monarch, for example, Willlem, Alexander Van Orange, the King of the Netherlands. Charismatic authority is derived from “personality traits of an individual” and relies on the ruler being popular with the population. Napoleon Bonaparte is a good example of this. Finally, rational-legal authority, which is the most common is modern-day societies, and is derived from “the status of an office as part of a system of constitutional rules”. This is commonly through the leader or government being elected by the population, such as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who got his position through a democratic election process.
Legitimacy – This is the right to rule of a ruler or government, through either the traditional, charismatic or rational-legal authority. This consent to rule on behalf of the people is crucial in making a state stable, which will, therefore, make the state stronger. Legitimacy is particularly evident in democratic countries where the government has been democratically elected by the populace, e.g. the UK, Netherlands, etc. which are often more stable than countries ruled by Dictators, such as many in Africa.