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Unit 4 Assessment: Power & Politics

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Unit 4 Assessment: Power & Politics 1.) Using material from item A and elsewhere briefly examine some of the sociological arguments put forward by pluralist authors to challenge Marxist views on the role of the state expressed in item A. (12 Marks) The Pluralists believe that the state is democratic and, unlike Marxists, that it is fair objective and neutral. There is 'one man one vote', everyone has their vote and they can therefore choose their government and have influence over the decisions made in society. If they don not like how a particular government is running the country then they have the right to vote them out at the next election. Marxists, however, argue that the state is not fair, it is biased towards the ruling capitalist class. Instrumentalist Marxists believe that the state is controlled by the capitalist class. Whereas Structuralist Marxists say the state is most influenced by the capitalist class. Either way the state will act, through laws and legislature, in the interests of capitalism and exploit the masses of the working class. Marxists consider all three of Lukes' dimensions of power: the first (who has the power over decision making), second (the power to stop decisions being made), the third (the power to manipulate and shape preferences). The Pluralists will only accept the first dimension of power. The state makes the decisions, but the masses have influence over how the decisions are made through voting and interest groups. Robert Dahl carried out a study in a small town in the USA called New Haven. ...read more.


military leaders, and 'foxes' who relied on cunning and intelligence to gain power, e.g. politicians. His view has been criticised for being to simplistic and lacking distinction between different political systems. And some elites have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, e.g. the ruling Brahmin caste in India. These criticism lead to the Critical Elitist approach, they accept that the rule of the elite is inevitable but not favourable because it is undemocratic, unfair and manipulative. One critical Elitist Charles Wright Mills said that There is a disproportionate portion of power is held by a few individuals who occupy command posts in key institution: the power elite. It is made up of the key people in three major institutions: the economy (business), government (politics) and the military (army). They are well coordinated and connected because they have similar backgrounds and educations. They have the same interests and they form a single power elite that does not involve the masses in decision making and, consequentially, the masses can, make a little difference in the political processes. Wright Mills and other Critical Elitists have been criticised by Pluralists, such as Dahl, for ignoring the many other elites around the world such as interest groups and trade unions. They say that power is spread around and not concentrated into the hands of the few. Marxists reject the power elite, they believe that the owners of the means of the production have the real power in capitalist societies not the people in the top position in the institutions. Feminists and Marxists say that they fail to identify real bias of power in society. ...read more.


and in the cabinet. The UK did not have a female Prime Minister until 1979 and none since. The US has never had a female President, Vice President or even a candidate for presidency. Women are also underrepresented in other positions of power such as top civil servants, top judges and leadership of the powerful pressure groups. The hours that are required to work in these institutions do not suit women with family considerations. Government budget allocation of resources to female issues, such as childcare, is lower than male issues. Policies on childcare are regarded by the government as low priority, mainly because they are areas of female concern. There are many perspectives concerning the distribution of power in modern Britain, each with their own theories to who has the power, why they do and whether this is a good thing. The actual distribution of power is almost impossible to discover because everyone has different opinions and theories. The majority (Elite Pluralists, Elitists and Marxists) believe that the people who run the state or key institutions have the most power, this is because they have the most influence over what happens in our society. They can make the most difference to how we live our lives. But the masses to have some power in a democracy because they can in theory choose who governs a country and how they govern it through voting and interest groups. How much power is hard to find because much of the parties have the same manifestos, once they get in to power they often don't have much choice over what they can make because they wish to preserve and protect their power. ...read more.

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