Chapter 1— Politics: Setting the Stage





This chapter introduces the concept of “politics,” defining it as the use of power to make collective decisions. The chapter starts with a discussion of politics in a general sense, followed by a discussion of politics in a more narrow sense in relation to the state.  The chapter then introduces the concept of “power” and explores its definitional and empirical complexity.  The chapter also introduces one of the main themes running through the text—the need to look at political action as both public choice and as the use of power.  The chapter ends with an overview of political science as a field, touching on the debate over how scientific political science should be and the importance of theory in the analysis of politics.




I.                  What do political scientists study?


II.                 Politics: what is it?

           A. Politics as “the making of common decisions for a group of people through the use of power”


III.               Politics as the making of common decisions


IV.              Politics as an exercise of power


V.                 Authority


VI.              Implicit and manifest power

1.      An example of the difficulty of analyzing power


VII.            Politics and power

A.     All politics based on some sort of power

B.     Sources of power are highly varied


VIII.         Power and choice

A.     Alternative viewpoints about making common policies

1.      public choice

2.      power

B.     Both partly accurate


IX.              Politics of the state

A.     the “state” defined


X.                 Political science

A.     Interpretive/qualitative

B.     Behavioralist/quantitative

C.     Theory

1.   empirical

2.      normative



1)      politics

2)      political science

3)      coercion

4)      persuasion

5)      construction of incentives

6)      power

7)      authority

8)      implicit power

9)      manifest power

10)  “third face of power”

11)  “public choice” view of politics

12)  “power” view of politics

13)  the state

14)  interpretive or qualitative political science

15)  behavioralist or quantitative political science

16)  theory

17)  empirical theory

18)  normative theory



Multiple-choice questions:


1)      In the textbook, politics is defined as:


a)      the making of collective decisions through the use of power

b)      elections

c)      actions and decisions related to political institutions

d)      the activities of Congress and the President



2)      Power may be exercised as:


a)      coercion

b)      persuasion

c)      construction of incentives

d)      all of the above



3)      Manifest power is:


a)      based on an observable action by A that leads B to do what A wants

b)      power that is hard to detect

c)      the only type of power exercised in authoritarian regimes

d)      a type of power exclusive to political institutions





4)      Political science focuses on the state because:


a)      the state is a recent form of political organization

b)      the state is so important in human lives

c)      so many important policies are state policies rather than federal ones

d)      there are so many different states



5)      The two basic ways of looking at the making of collective policies are:


a)        implicit and explicit choices

b)       public choice and domination through power

c)        historical versus scientific

d)       political versus non-political



6)      Which of the following is an example of implicit power?


a)      obeying a police officer who tells you to move away from the scene of a crime

b)      students taking a test on the day a professor assigns it

c)      a Senator not introducing a bill that she knows would have no chance of passing

d)       all of the above



7)      In the example in the textbook concerning the difficulty of analyzing power, which of the following was not one of the explanations presented by the scholars who sought to determine who had power in Atlanta and New Haven?:


a)      power rested with a small group of insiders

b)      power rested with different groups on different issues

c)      power rested with whomever controlled access to the agenda

d)      power rested with the national party organization



8)      The “third face of power” refers to:


a)      the power acquired in recent decades by non-state actors

b)      power exercised by influencing what people want

c)      power exercised by blocking certain issues from reaching the public agenda

d)      the power exercised by “insiders” who control governmental institutions



9)      One thing that can certainly be said about politics is:


a)      it is based on some form of power and that its sources may be highly varied

b)      it always involves the use of power in the form of physical coercion

c)      it always involves the obvious use of power

d)      it always involves government institutions




10)  Elections in communist countries like the USSR:


a)      were simple fraud

b)      contained a surprising element of broad participation in search for common solutions

c)      show that it is rare, if not impossible, for political choice to consist solely of the use of power

d)      b and c



11)  The special meaning of the word “state” in political science is:


a)      a nation

b)      what is commonly referred to as a country

c)      a subnational unit in a country

d)      a way or form of being



12)  In recent decades, the responsibility of the state has grown to include:


a)      maintaining stability in the economy

b)      keeping the currency stable

c)      guaranteeing employment

d)      all of the above



13)  Political scientists who tend to deal with historical or philosophical aspects of politics and who seek detailed non-numerical information on a few cases are called:


a)      interpretivists

b)      behavioralists

c)      normativists

d)      realists 



14)  Theories that describe how things work in the world we observe are called:


a)      qualitative theories

b)      realist theories

c)      empirical theories

d)      statistical theories



15)  Political scientists who look for regularities across an entire series of events and who attempt to explain and predict them are:


a)      interpretivists

b)      normativists

c)      behavioralists

d)      constructivists




16)  Normative theories involve:


a)      making judgments about the world—what should X be or do

b)      trying to uncover the norms governing politics in a country

c)      applying general principles to specific policy questions

d)      a and c



17)  Political scientists are distinguished from others who deal with politics (such as historians) through their:


a)      relatively strong reliance on theory

b)      focus on events from the last 50 years

c)      focus on institutions as opposed to the actions of political actors

d)      all of the above



18)  The subfield of political science that deals with the history of ideas about politics and critical discussion of political values is:


a)      political theory

b)      American political behavior

c)      comparative politics

d)      international politics



19)  Power, as defined by Shively, is:


a)      occupying an elected office

b)      the ability to control the policy-making process

c)      the ability of one person to cause another to do what the first wishes

d)      coercion



20)  The two major and interconnected themes of the Shively text are:


a)      life and death

b)      taxes and spending

c)      power and choice

d)      death and taxes