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American Political System


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The right to use power.
Appointed officials who operate government agencies and large corporations
bureaucratic theory
A theory that bureaucrats make the key governing decisions. According to this theory the influence of government bureaucracies has become so great that elected officials are almost powerless to affect policy.
A word used to describe at least three different political systems that each embody the principle of popular rule, if only in the interests of the people. See democratic centralism, direct democracy, representative democracy.
democratic centralism
A form of democracy in which the true interests of the masses were discovered through discussion within the Communist party, and then decisions were made under central leadership to serve those interests.
direct (participatory) democracy
A form of democracy in which most, or all, of the citizenry participate directly by either holding office or making policy.
An identifiable group of persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valued resource
elitist theory
A theory that a few top leaders make the key decisions without reference to popular desires.
What makes a law or constitution a source of rightful power.
Marxist theory
The ideology espoused by Karl Marx which holds that government is a reflection of economic forces, primarily ownership of the means of production. The economic structure of a society shapes its politics and determines political outcomes.
pluralist theory
A theory that holds that political resources are divided among different kinds of elites, giving relevant interest the chance to influence the outcome of decisions. Policies are made by conflict and bargaining among organizations that represent affected groups.
political power
Power used to determine who will hold government office and how the government will behave.
The ability of one person to cause another person to act in accordance with the first person's intentions.
power elite
A political theory espoused by C. Wright Mills which holds that an elite of corporate leaders, top military officers, and key political leaders make most political decisions.
representative democracy
A political system in which political power is conferred on those selected by voters in competitive elections.
Weber, Max
German historian and sociologist who criticized the theories of Karl Marx, arguing that all institutions have fallen under the control of large bureaucracies whose expertise is essential to the management of contemporary affairs.

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