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Cover Politics

16. Civil Society, Interest Groups, and Populism  

This chapter explores the role of civil society, interest groups, and populism in politics. It first considers the concept of ‘civil society’ and how it came to be associated with the protests that brought down communist regimes in Eastern Europe, along with its role in the Arab Spring. It then looks at interest groups as a major component of civil society, the rise of corporatism, and the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ or politics from below. It also discusses the growing phenomenon of populism as a way of enhancing the status and position of previously neglected groups in democracies as well as a challenge to liberal democracies. A case study on populism online involving Beppe Grillo and the Five star Movement is presented. The chapter suggests that populist politicians make use of the media to forge a direct relationship with their supporters.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

12. Political Parties  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with political parties: why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, how they interact, and what challenges they are facing today. One of the paradoxes about democracies is that there is almost a unanimous consensus about the indispensability of political parties. On the other hand, the benefits of being a member of a political party are bound to be minuscule compared to the costs of membership. Thus it is irrational for people to join parties. They should only form (small) interest groups. The chapter first provides a historical background on the development of political parties before discussing their functions, such as legitimation of the political system, structuring the popular vote, and formulation of public policy. It then considers different types of political parties as well as the characteristics of party systems and concludes with an analysis of the problems facing political parties today.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

14. Civil Society, Interest Groups, and the Media  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter focuses on the concept of civil society, along with interest groups and the media. It first provides a background on the evolution of civil society and interest groups before discussing corporatism. In particular, it examines the ways in which civil society responds to state actors and tries to manoeuvre them into cooperation. This is politics from below. The chapter proceeds by considering the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ and the emergence of a school of ‘subaltern’ studies. It also explores the role of the media in political life and the impact of new communication technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones on politics. Finally, it evaluates some of the challenges presented by new media to civil society.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

12. Political Parties  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with political parties: why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, how they interact, and what challenges they are facing today. One of the paradoxes about democracies is that there is almost a unanimous consensus about the indispensability of political parties. On the other hand, the benefits of being a member of a political party are bound to be minuscule compared to the costs of membership. Thus it is irrational for people to join parties. They should only form (small) interest groups. The chapter first provides a historical background on the development of political parties before discussing their functions, such as legitimation of the political system, structuring the popular vote, and formulation of public policy. It then considers different types of political parties as well as the characteristics of party systems and concludes with an analysis of the problems facing political parties today.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

14. Civil Society, Interest Groups, and the Media  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter focuses on the concept of civil society, along with interest groups and the media. It first provides a background on the evolution of civil society and interest groups before discussing corporatism. In particular, it examines the ways in which civil society responds to state actors and tries to manoeuvre them into cooperation. This is politics from below. The chapter proceeds by considering the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ and the emergence of a school of ‘subaltern’ studies. It also explores the role of the media in political life and the impact of new communication technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones on politics. Finally, it evaluates some of the challenges presented by new media to civil society.