POL 3910:  HONORS SEMINAR:
LANDMARKS IN POLITICAL SCIENCE

THE ELITIST-PLURALIST DEBATE

Fall 2003

Section 1: MW 4:00-5:50, SBE 5

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Professor Stephen Chilton

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COURSE DESCRIPTION & OBJECTIVES

This course is for students who want to enter the Political Science Department's honors program and thus student who I take to be political scientists in training.  The need for this training gives the course multiple objectives:



REQUIRED TEXTS

SIX KEY QUESTIONS

  1. What is the author's specific claim (and conclusion)?  What is his claim (very likely only an implicit claim) about the general structure of power in the United States?
  2. What is the author's evidence for this specific claim?  What is his evidence for the more general claim?
  3. How does the author connect the evidence and his claim?  In  other words, what is his argument?
  4. This may be part of the previous question, but we'll look at it separately:   what is the author's method of obtaining this evidence, and is this method scientific (clearly stated;  objective;  reliable;  reproducible) and appropriate to the study requirements?
  5. Is the author's logic really logical?  In other words, how powerfully does the evidence compel the reader to believe the conclusion?  (Be sure to make this judgment independent of whether you believe the conclusion.  In other words, the author's argument can be flawed even if you believe his conclusion is correct.)  If not, why not?  What's the hole (or holes) in the argument?
  6. What is the author's conception of democracy (or of the system toward which we should aspire)?  (This may not always be clear, especially for elitist pieces, which often define democracy only by negation, i.e., "This pattern that I've found isn't democratic.")  How does this conception relate to and/or clarify previous conceptions we have studied?


GRADING
 
ASSIGNMENT DUE % OF COURSE
Exam 1  10/13 19
Term paper 12/15 23
Final exam 12/17 28
Participation & commitment N/A 30
Extra credit: N/A Added credit

Disability statement  |  Incompletes & extensions  |  Attendance  |  Respect

I am committed to being your firm ally in your education. I'm interested in you, not just your talents as a political analyst.  Lots of things happen to students outside of school that nevertheless affect their ability to learn and perform. And so I know that every student, without exception, has always done the best s/he could, if all the circumstances are taken into account.  This includes you.  Therefore, if you have trouble figuring out what to study, or if you study hard and get a bad grade on an exam or assignment anyway, or things simply aren't going well in your life, come and talk to me. Please don't just suffer in silence!



COURSE SCHEDULE

Please note that some sets of readings appear in a block that spans two or three specific class days. Unless otherwise indicated, all the readings are due for the first day, though we might not get around to discussing them until subsequent days.
WK DAY

CLASS PREPARATION

CLASS CONTENT
1 9/3 Essay assignment handed out in class Introduction
2 9/8

Essay assignment due at beginning of class

Read:  James Madison (1787)  Federalist #10  [Notes]

Read:  Edmund Burke (1789).  Selections from Reflections on the Revolution in France [Notes]

Naive democracy:  pure representative democracy;  the democracy of elementary-school civics.  The politics of homo politicus:  rational (self-interested, educated, goal-driven) actors.

Fear of mobocracy (Madison).  As you read Federalist #10, ask yourself what "faction" the author is in fact worried about.

The natural aristocracy (Burke).


9/10

Read:  Charles Beard (1913).  An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.  [RTF] [MS Word] [HTML] ||||||>>> and [Notes]

  • Ch. 5 "The Economic Interests of the Members of the Convention"
  • Ch. 6 "The Constitution as an Economic Document"
  • Ch. 10 "The Economics of the Vote on the Constitution"
  • "Conclusions" (appears after [or at the end of] Ch. 11)

Related reading:  Forrest McDonald has written two works that call Beard's conclusions into question:

  • Forrest McDonald (1958).  We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution.
  • Forrest McDonald (1965/1979).  E. Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American Republic, 1776-1790
Tying in to Federalist #10:  Charles Beard's quasi-conspiracy theory.  Beard argues that the provisions of the Constitution were deliberately designed by its property-owning authors, who were seeking to protect various sorts of property they owned.  This thesis was historical orthodoxy for some decades, but recent historiography has called it into question.
3 9/15

Read:  Alan Cantwell, Jr. (1993).  Queer Blood:  The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot.  [Notes]  As you read this, remember to ask yourself (and be prepared to answer) the six key questions

You might also enjoy taking a peek at:

Naive elitism:  conspiracy theory

9/17 Slack day
4 9/22 Chilton sick

9/24

Read:  David B. Truman (1951 / 1958 / 1965)The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion.

The links shown below are to and earlier (1958) edition of this work.

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 (“The Alleged Mischiefs of Faction”)
  • pp. 56-65 of Chapter 3 (“Groups and Government: Introduction”).  Pay particular attention to the table on p.58 and the first full paragraph on p.65.
  • Chapter 16 (“Group Politics and Representative Democracy”, noticing Truman’s sanguine view of American democracy).

Optional reading:

  • Chapter 2 (“Groups and Society”)
  • Remainder of Chapter 3 (“Groups and Government: Introduction”)
  • Chapter 4 (“Group Origins and Political Orientation”, pp.66-86, 98-99, 104-108)
  • Earl Latham (1952).  The Group Basis of Politics.   American Political Science Review 46 (June): 376-396.
  • Mancur Olson (1965).  The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups.   Cambridge: Harvard University Press.  Chap. 5.
  • Theodore Lowi, Jr. (1969).  The End of Liberalism.  NY:  Norton.  [Skip the first two chapters.]

Special interest group elitism.  The similar concern about the rise of mass political parties and machine politics, and David Truman's theory of democracy through group representation and competition.

The Olson and Lowi works are given as examples of the perspective that Prof. Andrew McFarland calls "multiple elitism" — the idea that while there are elites, there may be many of them.  And despite what we will later read in Dahl's work, the multiplicity of elites does not mean an equality of power.

5 9/29 Chilton sick

10/1

Reading:  Floyd Hunter (1953)Community Power Structure:  A Study of Decision Makers.  Durham, NC:  University of North Carolina Press.

Related reading:  Clarence N. Stone (1989).  Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta 1946-1988 (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press) [This follows up, refines, and to some extent modifies the conclusions of Hunter (1953).  Stone's work represents still another form of elitist theory, known as "regime theory".]

Read (maybe someday):  Robert Merton (1957).  [The Latent Functions of the Machine].  Pp.124-136 in Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. This selection is one section of the chapter, “Manifest and Latent Functions” (pp.114-138).  The chapter is worth reading in its entirety, but I'm only requiring pp.124-136.  [On 2-hour reserve {as soon as I can get it there}]

Issue:  What is power?  What is a power elite?

The reputational method:  Hunter's Atlanta elite.

6 10/6


More on Hunter

10/8 Exam 1 available online after class.  Be sure to prepare it using the standard format.
More on Hunter
7 10/13

Exam 1 due at beginning of class

Read:  C. Wright Mills (1956/2000)The Power Elite

Related reading:

  • G. William Domhoff (1968) “The Power Elite and Its Critics” in G. William Domhoff & Hoyt B. Ballard C. Wright Mills and the Power Elite (Boston: Beacon Press), pp.251-278
  • Robert L. Heilbroner (1970) “The Power Structure” Chapter 14 of his Between Capitalism and Socialism: Essays in Political Economics (NY: Vintage Books), pp.247-257


The positional method:  Mills's national elite

10/15
More on Mills
8 10/20

Read:  Robert Dahl (1961)Who Governs?

Related reading:  Robert Dahl (1963).  Modern Political Analysis.  Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice Hall.

The decisional method:  Dahl's image of a pluralist New Haven

10/22
Slack class
9 10/27
More on Dahl and pluralism

10/29
More on Dahl and pluralism


A SLIGHTLY IRONIC INTERMISSION

For the past 40 years pluralism has been the dominant theory of American democracy.  It is a subtle theory, very difficult to attack, because rather than opposing the various elitist theories, it subverts them.  It grants the existence of power elites, and yet argues that they are under control, even if the masses don't lift a finger to control them.  Why are they under control? — well, here the pluralists turn the elitist's argument against them.  Elitists believe that the masses are controlled by nondecisionmaking stemming from anticipated reactions, but pluralism simply replies that the same thing can be said about the masses' control over the elite.  Why can't the elite worry about the reactions of the masses and be controlled thereby?  Who's to say in any objective way whose control is the greater?

Because it has been so dominant, pluralism has come under attack from many directions.   An overview of these attacks, at least the early ones, is found in David Ricci's (1971) excellent essays, “Pluralism Opposed: The Critique of Method” and “Pluralism Opposed: The Critique of Tolerance”, Chapters 9 and 10 of his Community Power and Democratic Theory: The Logic of Political Analysis (NY: Random House). We now take up these attacks, both the ones Ricci cites and more recent ones.  Note that these attacks are based on new types of elitist theories.  Up until now we have been studying elitist theories that concentrate on the power of specific elite actors.  From now on, however, we will be studying elitist theories that concentrate on broader forces that are not located in any specific elite but that make our system undemocratic nevertheless.  These theories hold that elite power is exercised not directly, overtly, and publicly but instead through controlling various aspects of the conflict.

Nevertheless,  note that these new elitist theories have philosophical problems.   Remember my earlier demand for objective evidence disproving pluralism.  The problem is that once the pluralists have hidden the question of power inside people's perceptions, then any elitist objections have to delve into the subjective.  And once elitists make their arguments on the basis of subjective experience, they can be painted as sore losers, refusing to accept that the American people's refusal to choose the elitists' left-wing policies.  The new elitist theories try various ways to meet this challenge.  You can judge whether they are successful.

 

10 11/3

Reading [available through JSTOR]:

Related reading:

  • Raymond Wolfinger (1971).  Nondecisions and the Study of Local Politics.  American Political Science Review 65(4, December):1063-1080.  [Argues that Bachrach & Baratz's concept of nondecisions cannot be measured.]  [Available on JSTOR]
  • Raymond Wolfinger (1971).  Rejoinder to Frey’s "Comment".  ibid:1102-1104.  [Ditto]  [Available on JSTOR]
  • Matthew A. Crenson (1971).  The Un-Politics of Air Pollution: A Study of Non-Decisionmaking in the Cities.  Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.  See esp. pp.1-5 & 184.
  • [folder of various reviews of Crenson 1971] [Held in Chilton's office]  [Many of these reviews can be found on JSTOR]
  • Geoffrey Debnam (1975).  Nondecisions and Power:  The Two Faces of Bachrach and Baratz.  American Political Science Review 69(September):889-899.  [Available on JSTOR]
  • Peter Bachrach & Morton Baratz (1975).  Power and Its Two Faces Revisited: A Reply to Geoffrey Debnam.  American Political Science Review 69(3, September):900-904.  [Available on JSTOR]
  • Geoffrey Debnam (1975). Rejoinder to "Comment" by Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz.  American Political Science Review 69(September):905-907.  [Available on JSTOR]
  • Clarence N. Stone (1988).  Preemptive Power: Floyd Hunter’s Community Power Structure Reconsidered.  American Political Science Review 32(1, Feb):82-104.  [Available on JSTOR]
  • E. E. Schattschneider (1960).  The Semi-Sovereign People.  Hinsdale, IL: Dryden.
    • Chapter 1 “The Contagiousness of Conflict”
    • Chapter 4 “The Displacement of Conflicts”

Elite control through agenda-setting:  non-decisions and anticipated reactions.

In the "related readings", the Wolfinger pieces try to argue that nondecisionmaking is unmeasurable, because there's no way to distinguish between a nondecision and an agenda item that doesn't come up because it's a rotten idea.  Or to be more precise, the distinction is a normative one, not an empirical one, so that B&B are simply complaining that their radical agenda isn't being implemented.

The book by Matthew Crenson tries to meet this objection by arguing that issues of air pollution should (by any standard) have been at least raised in severely polluted cities like Gary, Indiana, and so the fact that they were not raised at all is evidence that nondecisionmaking is a real process.

Elite control through control of the scope of conflict:  Schattschneider's "mobilization of bias"


11/5
Slack class
11 11/10

Read: Herbert Marcuse (1965).  Repressive Tolerance.  Pp.81-117 in Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., & Herbert Marcuse (eds) A Critique of Pure Tolerance.  Boston: Beacon Press.

Assignment: Start work on the Kilbourne essay assignment

Elite control through "priming" & "framing"

Kilbourne video:  Jean Kilbourne (1987).  Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women.   (VC 1769)


11/12
Continued discussion of elite control via control over how issues are framed
12 11/17

Kilbourne essay assignment due at beginning of class

Reading:

  • Marilyn Frye (1983) "To Be and Be Seen: The Politics of Reality" in The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press), pp.152-174
  • George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980) Chapters 1-3 of Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
  • Sharon Rampton (1998). “Let them eat nutri-cake: Merriam-Webster thinks our 'biosolids' don't stink.” [How the word biosolid became a dictionary term.] Harper's Magazine 297(1782, Nov):48.
  • Leslie Savan (1999) “Decoding the new MTV-speak [Fuller Explanation Department]” The New Yorker (March 29):45-46
  • “Kurds to Live By” (1999) Harper’s Magazine (November):24
  • Nancy Fraser (1986) “Toward a Discourse Ethic of Solidarity” Praxis International 5(4, January):425-429, esp. p. 425.
  • Walker Gibson and William Lutz (1991) Doublespeak: A Brief History, Definition, and Bibliography, with a List of Award Winners, 1974-1990 (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, NCTE Concept Paper No. 2) [You can see more examples of doublespeak via the NCTE web site: http://www.ncte.org/]

Elite control through control of our understanding of issues.

Catherine Ishino talk


11/19

Reading:  John Gaventa (1982) Power and Powerlessness (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press)

Related reading:  Walter G. Runciman (1969.  False Consciousness.  Philosophy 44(4):303-313.
Related reading:  Excerpts from Steven S. Lukes (1974).  Power:  A Radical View.  London:  MacMillan.

Elite control through the control of our understanding of our wants and needs (i.e., through "false consciousness")

The concept of false consciousness has the same sort of philosophical problems as that of nondecisions.  If you don't agree with me, is that because you're suffering from false consciousness, or simply because my idea is idiotic?  How can we tell the difference?  Doesn't it just come down to a subjective judgment?

13 11/24 Gaventa

4:00:  Gaventa

5:00:  Catherine Ishino talk


11/26
Term paper writing day;  no class
14 12/1

Reading:

  • Marilyn Frye (1983).  Oppression.  Pp.1-16 in The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory.  Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press.  [In addition to whatever may be on reserve in the library, there is an online selection from this work here.]  [As you read this important work, see if you can answer the questions found here.]
  • Paul Sweezy (1956).  Power Elite or Ruling Class?  Monthly Review 8(5, September):138-150.
  • Jürgen Habermas (1976).  Hannah Arendt: On the Concept of Power.  Pp. 171-187 in Philosophical-Political Profiles.  Cambridge, MA: M.I.T.
  • Thomas McCarthy (1992).  The Critique of Impure Reason: Foucault and the Frankfurt School.  Pp.121-148 in Thomas E. Wartenberg (ed).  Rethinking Power.  Albany, NY: SUNY.

Elitism without elites:  The above theories all talk about different ways an elite can exercise power, but must there be any coherent “elite” at all?  A major problem with elitist theories is that the people identified as members of an elite don't see themselves in that way.  Rather, they see themselves as Dahl does:  surrounded by forces, including "slack power" and "countervailing elites", that prevent them from simply doing whatever they want.  Far from seeing themselves as a member of a coherent elite, then, they may see themselves as simply one fish in a very large pond—a bigger-than-average fish, maybe, but still only one out of many.  They may also see their actions as being good—actions that the unwashed masses aren't able to understand, or maybe a legitimate defense against the masses' envy.  (As we have already discussed, this is James Madison's theme in Federalist #10 .)


12/3
Slack class
15 12/8 Final Exam posted after class

Student evaluations


12/10

5:  Dinner at At Sara's Table (corner of 8th St and 19th Ave E)  [It should be obvious, but I'll say anyway that we won't be meeting from 4-5.]


Dec 15, 4:00:  Term papers due in my office or department mailbox.
Dec 17 (Wed), 3:55:  Deadline for turning in the final exam to my office or department mailbox.
Dec 22 (Mon), 12:00:  Grades and an annotated version of the final exam are posted by noon today.



COURSE MATERIALS ON THE WEB

FOOTNOTES

*Information about me: I am an Associate Professor of Political Science. My professional research interests are in the intersection of social science and moral philosophy, i.e., in the role of moral beliefs within social dynamics. This makes me particularly concerned with political philosophy and political theory, and you'll accordingly find this course to contain a healthy dose of theory. I concentrate primarily upon European political theory, within which primarily postmodern theory, within which primarily Frankfurt School / Critical Theory work, within which Jürgen Habermas, within which Discourse Ethics. I have written a number of works in this area: "A Second Moment of Discourse Ethics" (1998), Defining Political Development (1988), and Grounding Political Development (1991), and, with Shawn Rosenberg and Dana Ward, Political Reasoning and Cognition: A Piagetian View (1988). I'm currently at work on a book, Ways of Relating.  You can find my vita and, perhaps more relevant, my philosophy of teaching hanging off my web site.


URL: http://www.d.umn.edu/~schilton/3910/3910.Syl.2003.Fall.current.html
Author:  Stephen Chilton [emailLast Modified:  2003-12-12
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