How might interest groups use their money to influence policy outcomes in Congress? What effect does the timing and targeting of money have on their effectiveness? How exactly might we go about measuring such influence, in both contributions and results?
It is an open secret that private interest groups wield enormous influence over the Congress. Indeed, political lobbying and the Public Relations efforts that it entails is a multi-billion dollar industry. This state of affairs suggests that far from the principles enshrined in the Constitution, the Congress has now become a market place. Each law or amendment has a bunch of monetary transactions behind it. While a conventional market place sells commodities and services, the Congress sells legislative favors. It is a pitiable condition, but nevertheless true.
Numerous empirical studies have been conducted on understanding the nature of influence of interest groups. As far as studies on interest groups’ . . . Read More
The Civil War is a cornerstone event in American history. Beyond its obvious political relevance, the culmination of the war influenced American society, economy and culture. This essay will argue that the rapid industrialization following the war gave rise to two major features of national identity: American capitalism and American culture.
One could identify 3 major aspects of industrialization during and after the era of Reconstruction. In terms of geography, the North-South divide that politically and culturally separated the country had ceased to exist. This is not to say, however, that there were no misgivings between the two groups of citizens under auspices of the united nation. The era also saw more frequent waves of immigration and settlement on the mid-west and eastern states of the union. This reconfigured the population distribution, which erstwhile was concentrated on New England and its environs.
The exhaustion of the war, ironically, created an . . . Read More
What is the Issue?
Oftentimes, decisions within the US Congress are not made in a straightforward, transparent manner. Although elected Congressmen and Congresswomen are representatives of their respective constituencies, multiple external factors influence their decisions. Corporate lobbies are a major external factor intruding on the democratic foundation of the Congress. Likewise, political ideology, as in staunch conservatism or liberalism can play a key role in the decision making process. As the text by Denhardt et. al. suggests, applying Organizational Behavior theories to the working of Congress can help get to the root of the issues. One can then proceed in designing strategies for countering the issues.
Strategies to ‘fix’ the issues
Denhardt et al is show how ‘the power of vision’ is the precursor for the smooth functioning of organizations – be it private, public or non-profit. (p.26) The US Congress will thus have to . . . Read More
The House of Joshua: Meditations on Family and Place is a testament to the power of geographic location. Although purportedly an autobiographic work, it is equally a sociological treatise on the themes of ‘rootedness’ and ‘displacement’. Author Mindy Fullilove links these concepts to the process of identity formation. She contends that, on par with culture and language, the place in which an individual grows up, leaves a mark on their identity. The readings perused for this essay also cover the topic of ethnic roots and geographic displacement. The examples we glean in the readings underscore Mindy Fullilove’s thesis of the centrality of place to human identity.
In In Retreat, Fullilove talks about how her parents resorted to living in exclusive ghettos in New Jersey. It was a time when minority communities were suffering under social censures issued by General McCarthy. The inter-communal atmosphere during the 1950s America was far from . . . Read More
The two documents in question are well regarded for their political and historical comment. Both talk about Athenian democracy and its pros and cons. While Pericles Funeral Oration is an elogé to martyrdom and democracy, the Old Oligarch (Pseudo-Xenophon) takes a rather pessimistic view of democracy.
In the Funeral Oration, Pericles pays rich tribute to warriors, who commit the supreme sacrifice for maintaining the sovereignty of the Athenian state. In the wake of the Peloponnesian War, scores of Athenian soldiers were pressed into duty who they readily endured the hardships of warfare. Though acknowledging their bravery and sense of duty, Pericles notes that one individual’s words cannot sufficiently capture the magnitude of their feat. Pericles goes on to mention how the very foundation of the Athenian kingdom was based on valour and patriotism. He cites the example of martyrs from previous generations to identify this tradition.
Pericles assures the audience that . . . Read More
Almost every theoretical type of propaganda was employed by Saddam Hussein. Some of the prominent types are agitation, white, black and vertical propaganda. As the example of mass funeral of dead babies illustrates, Saddam intended to appeal to the emotions of the audience, circumventing deliberation on fact and logic. It served to agitate the minds of sympathizers and rally them behind his cause.
Vertical propaganda is identified with government missives given to international press, which were full of exaggeration and fabrication of facts and events. For example, Saddam perpetrated misinformation about how American missiles targeted hospitals and civilian areas. This was dictated to journalists in a top-down fashion. After the media carried these dubious official stories without cross-checking facts, it was disseminated horizontally among Iraqi citizens as well as abroad.
There are also instances of misattribution of sources (black) as well as intended ambiguity with . . . Read More
Pan-European revolutions of 1830 manifested in different forms in different regions. In Netherlands and France they took a romantic hue, whereas in Poland and Switzerland the impact on the political establishment was less pronounced. In the United Kingdom of Netherlands and in France, the impact of the revolution was to establish constitutional monarchies (also called commonly as ‘popular monarchies’). This meant that the older aristocratic order was dismantled and republicanism was given a new thrust. For example, prior to the revolution, the king held dominion over his country through the mandate of God. His reference as the King of France testified this fact. But after the revolution, his title was changed to King of the French, indicating how his authority is derived from the collective will of the citizens. Likewise, in Belgium, King Leopold I took to the throne under the reconfigured political arrangement. At the same time in Congress Poland the revolt against the . . . Read More
The four-part documentary series The Century of the Self captures the rise of one of the definitive industries of the 20th century, namely, Public Relations (PR). The term Public Relations is somewhat of a euphemism, for far from maintaining healthy relations with consumers the industry actually acts against their interests. It is true that the role of PR is to keep the public contended, but the problem lies in the means it adopts to achieve this end. Instead of addressing genuine public grievances through transparent sharing of information, PR firms specialize in manufacturing misinformation and spinning dubious facts.
The Century of the Self exposes how thorough and scientific the PR industry has become. In its early days the industry concerned itself with selling products by highlighting its features. However, quite soon, as the Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) of competing products decreased, the only way of distinguishing products was through their perceptions. This . . . Read More
It is imperative that any political regime first gains its legitimacy before enforcing its authority on people. At the outset, it is important to differentiate legitimacy from legality. Legality is a technical concept, which may or may not always satisfy criteria for legitimacy. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is ascertained through an ethical evaluation of an action, phenomenon or an institution. In public affairs, many laws get contested on claims of their illegitimacy. Inversely, many laws are enacted on the basis of legitimate necessities for their existence. The role of democracy, in this context, is to legitimate what is legal and vice versa. Whether it is a representative democracy or direct democracy, the role of democratic processes is to bring a moral bearing to the legislatures. More broadly, democracy is the force of virtue through which a state can exercise its authority. The rest of this essay will elaborate various facets to the interrelation between legitimacy and . . . Read More
Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?
Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.
What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)
Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More