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American Political Culture: Seeking a More Perfect Union


How do you describe what it means to be an American? ... What is an autocracy? What must you have in order to have legitimate governmental authority? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Political Culture: Seeking a More Perfect Union

American Political CultureSeeking a More
Perfect Union
  • Chapter 1

  • What is American?
  • What does America represent?
  • Who is an American?
  • How do you describe what it means to be an
  • How is America different from other countries?

How do you know an American when you see them?
  • What do they look like?
  • What kind of accent do they have?
  • Do they all speak the same language?
  • According to your book, pg. 7, what makes
    Americans different from other nationalities?
  • If we are not linked by the same heritage, how
    are we linked?

Americas Core Ideals The Foundation of
American Politics
  • They are
  • Liberty
  • Equality
  • Self-government
  • Individualism
  • Diversity
  • Unity

What is an IDEAL?
  • Ideals are those things which we strive for, and
    continue to strive for, even though we come up
    short sometimes.

How do these Ideals Shape America and its people?
  • They help to define who or what is American.
    Instead of ancestry as a common bond, Americans
    have these ideals that bind us together as a
  • These ideals help make up Americas POLITICAL

Political Culture Core Principles of American
  • Why was it, and still is, important that
    Americans have common ideals?
  • America has a very strong political culture that
    helps it endure. Your book describes political
    culture as the characteristic and deep-seated
    beliefs of a particular people about government
    and politics.
  • So what is the difference between politics and a
    political culture?

  • Where did many of Americas ideas of government
    come from? Why?
  • Many of our ideals and similar to those of
    England, but some are different. Why? Give an
    example of how Americans wanted to be different
    from England?

Core Values Liberty, Equality,
  • Liberty freedom to act and think as one chooses
    but no infringement on freedom of others
  • Equality all individuals equal in worth, legal
    treatment, and political voice
  • Self-government people are ultimate source of
    governing authority

LIBERTY the principle that individuals should
be free to act and think as they choose, provided
they do not infringe unreasonably on the rights
and freedoms of others.
  • In America, the individual comes first, and the
    government second. The government serves the
    people. The people do not serve the government.
    At least that is the ideal.
  • Now, what does liberty mean in your own words?
  • How has Americas definition of liberty changed
    through the years? (pg. 9)

  • What did liberty mean at the time of the writing
    of the Constitutions (1787)? Pg. 9
  • What Amendment reflects this attitude?
  • What happened that changed this perception of
  • The Industrial Revolution changed how Americans
    perceived liberty in what way?
  • How did the American Government respond?

EQUALITY the notion that all individuals are
equal in their moral worth, in their treatment
under the law, and in their political voice.
  • What is equality? Does it mean that wealth
    should be divided equally? Or does it mean that
    everyone should have equal opportunities to
    obtain wealth?
  • The concept of equality is very hard to pinpoint.
    It means different things to different people.
  • Are people actually born equal with equal
    opportunities? Does the government help to put
    everyone on equal standing?

Self-government the principle that the people
are the ultimate source and proper beneficiary of
governing authority in practice, a government
based on majority rule.
  • Governments derive their powers form the consent
    of the governed.
  • Why did Americans believe so strongly in
    self-government? What in history shaped this
    ideal? (pg. 10)
  • In what way does America practice Self
    Government? (pg. 11)
  • The US has an unbroken history of free and open
    elections as the legitimate means of acquiring
    governmental power.

INDIVIDUALISM the idea that people should take
the initiative, be self-sufficient, and
accumulate the material advantages necessary for
their well-being.
  • Look on page 12. What do the percentages have to
    do with Americas view of welfare?
  • How has Americas strong belief in individualism
    played a defining role in Americas welfare
  • How do we compare with Europes welfare system?

  • Makes up a HUGE part of America Culture.
  • Why do you think individualism became so
    prevalent in American culture? Think about our
    forefathers and colonists. Pg. 11
  • People should help themselves.
  • How does Americas strong preference for
    individualism shape Americans definition of

Emphasis on Individualism More Emphasis on
Equal Opportunity
  • Look at the chart on pg. 14
  • Why does America have so many Universitys and
  • Every state has at least how many colleges within
    its boundaries? Pg. 14
  • Why do northeaster and western costal states have
    a higher percentage of adults with college

And Last but not least Unity
and Diversity
  • Unity The principle that Americans are one
    people and form an indivisible union.
  • Diversity The principle that individual groups
    and differences should be respected and are a
    source of national strength
  • Do these two principles ever collide?

Power of Ideals
  • Influences reasonable and desirable behaviors
  • Individualism?less support of social welfare.
  • Source of personal successpersonal effort
  • High ideals?political and social change

Limits of Ideals
  • America has ideals that it strives for but does
    not reach.
  • High ideals do not come with a guarantee that a
    people will live up to them.
  • What are some examples where America has failed
    to live up to its ideals? (pg. 15)
  • Why is conflict between Americas ideals
    inevitable? Give an example. (pg. 17)
  • Ideals are a source of human aspiration and,
    ultimately, of political and social change.

Is America really a Melting Pot?
  • First, what does that mean?
  • Second, how is it like a melting pot.and, how is
    it not?
  • Describe what is meant if we say America is a
    salad bowl?
  • Why is it that America often falls short of its
    ideals? Pg. 17

Limits of Ideals How America falls short.
  • Do immigration laws discriminate?
  • How did September 11th change America in relation
    to its ideals?
  • Pros and cons of affirmative action
  • Are all people really treated equally? Different
    races, sexes, and people of differing wealth?
    Pg. 15

Political Conflict
  • The process through which a society makes its
    governing decisions.
  • A struggle for power and advantage
  • A struggle over who gets what, when, and how.
  • A process through which a society settles its

Political Conflict
  • There are 2 major sources of political conflict
  • Scarcity Never enough of something to go
  • Differences in value people see issues
    differently and therefore have different ways to
    solve the same problem. (pg. 18)
  • Why do these two things cause so much conflict?

Social Contract
  • What does it mean? Pg. 19
  • What great philosopher should we associate the
    theory of Social Contract with? Pg. 19
  • Hobbes thinks life in its natural state is what?
    Pg. 20
  • Locke believed that all individuals have certain
    NATURAL rights. What does that mean? Pg. 20
  • How did this help spark the American Revolution?
    And how is this idea present in our Constitution?

The Rules of American Politics
  • Democracy
  • Constitutionalism
  • Capitalism
  • These rules are used to help establish a
    political process that is intended to promote
    self-government, defend individual rights, and
    protect property.

DEMOCRACY A form of government in which the
people govern, either directly or through elected
  • We want ordinary people to have a voice in
  • How can people govern directly? Indirectly?
  • What is an oligarchy? Pg. 21
  • What is an autocracy?
  • What must you have in order to have legitimate
    governmental authority?

CONSTITUTIONALISM The idea that there are
definable limits on the rightful power of a
government over its citizens.
  • Democracy taken to the extreme would allow the
    majority to oppress the minority legitimately!
  • That is why we had to have a Constitution to
    protect the rights of ALL people, regardless if
    they are in the minority or majority.
  • Constitutionalism is a set of rules that
    restricts the lawful uses of power.
  • What is an example of a constitutional limit on
    the government? Pg. 22.

CAPITALISM An economic system based on the idea
that government should interfere with economic
transactions as little as possible. Free
enterprise and self-reliance are the collective
and individual principles that underpin
  • What is the difference between socialism and
    communism? Pg. 23
  • Capitalism responds to wealth. IEMONEY TALKS
  • Politics responds to those with money.
  • Economics is a private realm in America.
    Government is involved only on the fringe.
  • Why are most Americans so against the idea of
    Capitalism? What Ideal does this conflict with?
  • What is good about capitalism? What is bad? Pg.

Who has the power in America?
  • What is political power? (pg. 25)
  • What is public policy?
  • How is America different from a Totalitarian
    government? From a Authoritarian government?
  • Why in America would it be almost impossible for
    one person or entity to have complete control?
    (pg. 26)

Who or What has political authority in America?
  • Individuals politicians, heads of
    organizations, military leaders
  • Organizations NRA, MADD, etc.
  • What is authority????
  • The recognized right of an individual or
    institution to exercise power.
  • Why does the government need coercive power? (pg.
    26) Why does giving government coercive power
    alarm some people?

Theories of Power Who DOES have power in
  • There are several theories that are used to help
    describe who has power in America. All of them
    hold some truth, but none of them gives a truly
    accurate answer.
  • The theories are
  • Majoritarianism Government by the people
  • Pluralism Government by Groups
  • Elitism Government by a Few
  • Bureaucratic Government by Administrators

Majoritarianism Government by the People
  • The Majority of people in America determine
    public policy.
  • When does the majority rule? Example? Pg. 28
  • When does the majority not rule? Pg. 28

Pluralism Government by Groups
  • Diverse Groups hold the power in America
  • For Example Farmers will yield power over the
    agricultural policy in America because they are
    most directly effected, and therefore most
    concerned with what the policies are.
  • Pluralists see society as primarily a collection
    of separate interests.
  • What do critics of Pluralism argue? (pg. 30)

Elitism Government by a Few
  • Believes that well positioned, highly influential
    individuals hold all the power.
  • Examples corporate executives, top military
    officers, and centrally placed public officials.
  • What is an example of Elitism at work? (pg. 30)

Bureaucratic Rule Government by Administrators
  • Experienced administrators in particular fields
    wield all the governmental power.
  • Basically, the government is divided into
    separate interests. Those interests are dealt
    with on a day to day basis by governmental
    organizations. (For example, on the local level,
    DEFACS) The organization will look to its leaders
    (the administrators) to make decisions that
    effect the way their organization operates.
    Therefore, the administrators decisions in effect
    will directly impact American public policy.
  • Why is this scary?? (pg. 31)

Concept of a Political System
  • Political Systemparts of American government
  • Parts are separate
  • Parts connect with each other
  • Parts affect and interact with each other
  • Dynamic system, changing as needed

The American Political System
Figure 1-5
American Political System
  • Five overriding tendencies
  • Enduring cultural ideals
  • Fragmentation of governance based on checks and
  • Competition between diverse groups
  • Emphasis on individual rights and
  • Economic political decision making
    separate?economic issues out of political control

How Americans Compare
All of what we have discussed helps to make our
Political System.
  • Everything that we have discussed will be touched
    on and further explained as we continue on with
    the course. Tonight we laid the foundation for
    everything you will learn in Political Science
    101. From here on out everything we learn will
    have a connection to what we learned today.