Politics is one way to advance a given position or policy through the use of, or by putting pressure on, the state. Democracy is a political system in which people within a given state vote to choose their leaders and, in some cases, to approve legislation. This is in contrast to dictatorships, which are usually totalitarian governments operating without the consent of the governed. The question of who rules the United States is a source of continuing debate. In analyzing politics, structural-functionalists emphasize pluralism, while conflict theorists focus on power elite theory. Global politics is dominated by geopolitics, the nation-state and threats to it, war, and terrorism. In the last 200 years, the capitalist U.S. economy has transitioned from the Industrial Revolution to industrialization to deindustrialization. In addition to general shifts in the U.S. economy, there have been dramatic changes in the nation’s labor force. Consumption is generally considered to be the hallmark of postmodern society. Consumerism is an obsession with consumption. Capitalism has become increasingly global in that transnational, not national, economic practices predominate.

Discussion Questions.

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1. According to the pluralist model of power, what protects people from the abuse of power by any one group? In what ways does this work in the United States?

2. According to C. Wright Mills, what groups constitute the power elite? Have these groups changed over time? Explain.

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