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This chapter examines the notion of power in relation to authority and the state. Power and authority are central concepts in politics. Politics is about competing interests and values, and this requires knowing something about power, since those who have power over others can determine which interests and values will be adopted by political decision-makers. The chapter first considers the link between power and authority before discussing the classic threefold typology of authority proposed by Max Weber: traditional authority, charismatic authority, and legal–rational authority. It then explores some conceptual questions about power; for example, whether it is the same as force, or whether it must be exercised deliberately. It also evaluates the methodological problems inherent in the measurement of power, particularly in relation to the different theories of the state such as pluralism, elitism, and Marxism.

Chapter

Robert Garner

This chapter explains why the state and sovereignty are relevant to the study of politics. It first provides an empirical typology of the state, ranging from the minimalist night-watchman state, approximated to by nineteenth-century capitalist regimes at one end of the spectrum, to the totalitarian state of the twentieth century at the other. It then examines the distribution of power in the state by focusing on three major theories of the state: pluralism, elitism, Marxism, as well as New Right theory. The chapter seeks to demonstrate that the theories of the state identified can also be critiqued normatively, so that pluralism, for instance, can be challenged for its divisive character, as exemplified by identity politics. It then goes on to review different views about what the role of the state ought to be, from the minimalist state recommended by adherents of classical liberalism, to the pursuit of distinctive social objectives as recommended, in particular, by proponents of communitarianism. Finally, it discusses empirical and normative challenges to the state and asks whether the state’s days are numbered.

Chapter

This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. The chapter proceeds to explain why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism. It documents the contemporary malaise experienced by democracy and seeks to explain its perceived weaknesses as a form of rule. Finally, the chapter describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy.