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Political Processes

Political Processes

  • Power
  • Authority and Legitimacy
  • Pressure groups
  • Political Socialization
  • Political Modernization
  • Caste and Politics
  • Points to Remember
  • Books and Authors


Power implies the ability of an individual or a group to influence or change the behavior of other individuals or groups. Weber defines power as the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action. Power is an aspect of social relationships. An individual or a group does not hold power in isolation. They hold it in relation to others. To say that power is relational is also to imply it is behavioral. For if power consists in an inter-relationship between two actors. Then that inter relationship can only be understood in terms of one actor's manifest behavior as affecting the manifest behavior of others. Further power is also situational. To know power one has necessarily to relate it to a specific situation or a specific role and an actor's power in one particular situation or role may vary from that in another.

Weber's concept of power implies that those who hold power do so at the expense of others. It suggests that there is a fixed amount of power and therefore if some hold power others do not. This view is sometimes known as constant-sum concept of power.Talcott Parsons rejects this view and sees power as something possessed by society as a whole. According to him power is a generalized facility or resource in the society. In particular it is a capacity to mobilize the resources of the society for the attainment of goals for which a general public commitment has been made. In this sense the amount of power in society is measured by the degree to which collective goals are realized. Thus greater the efficiency of a social system for achieving the goals defined by its members more the power that exists in society. This view is sometimes known as variable -sum concept of power, since power in society is not seen as fixed or constant. Instead it is variable in the sense that it can increase or decrease. Alvin Gouldner has defined Power as among other things the ability to enforce one's moral claims. The powerful can thus conventionalize their moral defaults. According to David Lockwood power must not only refer to the capacity to realize one's ends in a conflict situation against the will of others, it must also include the capacity to prevent opposition arising in the first place.

Authority and Legitimacy

The concept of authority in general terms implies the right to command. It is not to be identified with persuasion or influence. The expressions like the parental authority, authority of tradition, authoritative opinion, political authority, legal authority or the constitutional authority are familiar expressions and they clearly convey that authority is exercised more characteristically within a net work of clearly defined roles. It is exercised according to the established and well recognized pattern. Political authority specifies the governing authority and defines the manner the power is to be exercised. It determines the nature of relations between the government and the governed. The doctrine of legitimacy implies that the authority should be used according to well recognized and accepted pattern.

The natural sequence of happenings following the usage or custom or the established procedure invests the authority with legitimacy. Command and obedience relationship is based on the assumed legitimacy in the exercise of authority. Force and coercion are not legitimate but these are used either to establish legitimacy or by the legitimate authority for legitimate purpose. The legitimate authority if it fails in its objective may be challenged and a revolutionary authority may come into being. In case the newly established authority may fail there may be the counter-revolution. The authority that may come into existence finally has to establish its legitimacy. It is therefore the foundation of all governmental power. The government can itself function only with the understanding that it has the power to function. At a given time the authority that has come into existence may not have the legitimacy but it shall have to secure such legitimacy as the society would recognize and as could secure to it the international recognition.

Pressure groups

Groups play a direct role in political life. People organize social movements, interest groups and pressure groups in order to influence the government. Ethnic and racial groups, religious and linguistic minority groups have also acted collectively to influence governmental decisions. Thus a pressure group refers to an interest group which tries to safe-guard and promotes the interests of its members. It is not a political group seeking to capture political power though it may have a political character of its own.

A pressure group can be understood as an association of persons with a common economic interest who try to influence governmental decisions. These pressure groups also known as interest groups pursue their political goals through lobbying- the process by which individuals and groups communicate with public officials in order to influence decisions of government. They also distribute persuasive literature and launch public campaigns to build grass -root support for their political objectives. According to Functionalists such groups play a constructive role in decision-making. They prepare the ground for the orderly political participation. Conflict theorists on the other hand argue that although a few organizations work on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged most of the pressure groups represent the vested interests of the business leaders, the lobbies of multinational companies, rich professionals and political leaders. They further assert that these powerful lobbies discourage political participation by the individual citizens. The pressure groups have greater say in democracy than in the totalitarian setup.Inspite of their limitations and defects they have become an essential part of the modern democratic process.

Political Socialization

Political socialization can be defined as a process of socializing in a political system through information on political symbols, institutions and procedures and internalizing the value system and ideology supporting the system. It is also a process of acquisition of political culture. This process works at individual as well as at community level through cultural transmission. It is one of the most important functions of the political system. It is also part of the general socialization which starts at the later life.

The two important components are 1.Inculcation of general values and norms regarding political behavior and political matters and 2. The induction of an individual or some people into a particular party and learning its ideology and action programmes.The role played by mass-media is equally important in educating the masses and clearing their views for making informed decisions regarding political affairs. It plays a very crucial role during elections.

Political Modernization

It is the transformation of political culture in response to changes in social and physical environment. According to Huntington political modernization is a multifaceted process involving change in all areas of human thought and activity. Benjamin Schwartz views political modernization as the systematic, sustained and powerful application of human energies to control man's social and physical environment. Claude Welch describes political modernization as the process based on the rational utilization of resources and aimed at the establishment of modern society.

The process of modernization of the polity leads to the emergence of some crucial problems and challenges faced by the political system. It is rooted in the changing sources of legitimation of authority.

Caste and Politics

The relationship between caste and politics in Indian society has been subject of intensive study for many years. Many sociologists including Andre Beteille, Rajni Kothari, and Anil Bhatt have highlighted various aspects. According to M.N Srinivas the role played by caste in politics is in close approximation to that of the pressure group. The modernizing forces will however reduce the influence of caste over the politics. However Andre Beteille holds that while westernization is taking individual away from caste identity the role of caste in politics is taking the people towards the caste identity and thereby strengthening it.Rajni Kothari studied the nature of relationship between caste and politics.

He has also examined the type of changes that have taken place in the political system as a result of the involvement of caste organization. Caste has three important indigenous elements -secular which refers to relevance of caste in politics in terms of the relations within and between castes. Integrative which refers to castes being relevant to politics through differentiation and integration and ideological which is heightened by its value structure. The analysis of Dominant Caste and political process by Anil Bhatt reveals the crucial role played by castes in politics and awareness of the lower castes of their political gains. He found that the higher caste groups had lower political interest and low castes higher political interests. Political awareness was high among the higher castes and was low among the lower castes. Lower castes by organizing themselves in pursuit of collective interest were able to emerge successfully. The involvement of these castes organization in politics has changed their position in hierarchical pattern of Hindu society. Caste solidarity and political power helped them to achieve higher social, economic and political success. This was highlighted by the studies conducted by Rudolf and Rudolf. The same was highlighted by Andre Beteille's study of Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu.Caste has become one of the most formidable element of group formation within political parties in India. The patronage and pecuniary resources available to the political leaders enable them to create a coalition of factions on caste basis, whose leaders are bound to political elites in power in a complex network of personal obligational ties. Each of these leaders had a group of followers tied to him in accordance with the same set of caste principles. The personnel of these castes factions may vary but whatever may be their social composition they demand and to a higher degree receive from their members full support. Political parties mobilize caste support in various ways. According to Andre Beteille two kinds of changes seem to be taking place in relation between caste and politics - power shifts from one dominant caste to another and the focus of power shifts from one caste itself to another on caste basis. He maintains that loyalties of castes are exploited in voting. New alliances cutting across castes are also formed. Rudolph is of the opinion that caste association has given caste a new vitality and democracy has enabled caste to play an important political role in India. Caste federations are formed not of one caste but many. His further observation pointed out that caste enters the political process by making appeals to caste loyalties in a general way. Also by activating networks of inter-personal relation both during elections and at other times for mobilizing support along caste lines and by articulating caste interests in an organized manner.Beteille has also pointed that the political process has a dual effect on the caste system. To the extent that caste and sub-caste loyalties are consistently exploited, the traditional structure is strengthened and to the extent that it leads to new alliance cutting across caste, it loosens the traditional structure. Political parties utilize the support of caste for their functioning and seek their support in winning elections. Grass-root political arenas as well as political parties have always remained and continue to remain dominated by elites of castes which compete with each other to form caste coalitions of supporters strong enough to maximize control over local resources and enhance opportunities to become players in political system.

Points to Remember

  • Mills explains the elite rule in institutional terms.
  • According to Levi Strauss consent is the basis of leadership.
  • Mosca believed that the members of the elite should have superior qualities than the masses.
  • The Marxian view regards the subject class regarding the ruling class to be legitimate as an indication of false class consciousness.
  • Weber gave the constant sum concept of power.
  • Pareto believed the European democracies to exemplify the rule of the fox.
  • Developing nations are commonly governed by tutelany democracies.
  • Societies without head are termed as acephalous.

  • The kwakitul Indians take part in Potlatch which is a war of propery.
  • Malinowski believed that reciprocity,systematic incidence ,publicity and ambition will be found to be the main factors in the binding machinery of primitive laws.
  • Pareto believed that all elites gradually gain power.
  • Anarchism represents an extreme form of individualism.
  • A propounder of the matriarchal theory was Henry Maine.
  • Engels expected society to banish the state machine to the museum of antiquities.
  • According to Maclver the state alone can maintain law and order.
  • The essentials of communism are found in communist manifesto.
  • Proudhon is the author of 'What is property'.
  • Nation is a territorial community.
  • Every one ruling himself so as not to be a hindrance to others would denote the affairs in an ideal state.
  • Sovereignty differentiates state from nation.
  • Drey holds that there is no such thing as absolute independence even the state as a whole is not almighty.
  • The legal sovereign is constituted by the president.
  • According to Kohn the most important outward factor in the formation of nationalities is the state.
  • MacIver regards identifying the social with political as the grossest of all confusions.
  • Ethics is the inner morality of a person.
  • Nation emphasizes the consciousness of unity among people.
  • According to Malinowski self- interest determines the adherence to custom.
  • Rossean believed that man gives in common all his powers to the general will.
  • Laski suggests that the concept of sovereignty should be abandoned altogether.
  • Lowie emphasizes the role of territory in the development of political institutions.
  • Henry Maine has emphasized kinship as being the basis of primitive political system.
  • According to Plato 'the best state is that which is nearest in virtue to the individual.
  • The ancient and modern bureaucracies did not differ in principle of hierarchy.
  • Legitimacy is the binding thread between power and authority.
  • Weber viewed corporate group in relation to authority and termed it as verband.
  • Destutt de Tracy first used the word ideology.
  • Weber, Merton and Michels used the term bureaucracy.
  • Manheim wrote the book ideology and utopia.
  • Competition is interaction without social contact.
  • Pareto gave the theory of circulation of elite.
  • A system of government in which the real power is vested in the hands of an elected head of state is known as presidential form of government.
  • A set of principles for the guidance of the courts in cases in which the accused has pleaded that he/she was insane at the time of the act is known as ceteries paribus.

Books and Authors

  • Politics and social change - F.G Bailey
  • Democratic polity and social change in India - Rajni Kothari
  • State and society in India - A R Desai
  • State and society in India : Studies in Nation building - T.K Oomen
  • The ruling class - Mosca
  • The new man of power - C.W Mills
  • Civil government and toleration - John Locke

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