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Politics, Power & the Common Good

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Derek Jenkins

on 10 June 2013

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Transcript of Politics, Power & the Common Good

Power The Common Good How do we work together to foster community? Ordinary citizens often seem encouraged to view politics as a game. It is something you "play," or, rather, it is something somebody else plays. But that view fails to consider the central role politics fills in social life. Why are we encouraged to see some political action as clownish? Is anything McMillan claims above untrue? Do we not recognize the values he appeals to? His dismissal has something to do with the distribution of power. According to your text, politics is "activity related to influencing, making, or implementing collective decisions for a political community." That's a pretty broad definition, and it requires refining. For instance, what do we mean by "activity"? Politics We could mean a lot of things... Also, what are some examples of political decisions? How about... Image: National Post Image: Professionally Speaking Image: Fresh Fuzz Finally, do you feel confident in your role in this so-called "collective" decision-making? According to your text, power "can be defined as the ability to achieve an objective by influencing the behaviour of others (Nye, 2004), particularly to get them to do things they would not have otherwise done." Some basic forms of power immediately spring to mind... ...but political power is exercised in a number of more nuanced ways. Coercion involves the ability to wield not only threats of violence but any harmful outcome. Inducements employ the use of some kind of incentive, usually financial, such as campaign money, gifts or related "swag." Persuasion is a rhetorical approach which may rely on 1) careful arguments to convince others of a course of action, 2) purposefully misleading or manipulative messages and 3) a given speaker's charismatic appeal. Leadership may involve providing an example through a successful course of action. On close examination, it's hard to rid power of its sinister edge, but we tend to judge the powerful based on the extent to which their ends serve our understanding of the common good. According to your text, the common good represents "what is good for the entire political community" and aims for outcomes that reflect the community's shared interests and values. Critics of appeals to the common good often invoke the individualist perspective and the free rider problem. The individualist perspective posits that human beings "[act] primarily in accordance with their own interests," and therefore at times against the interests of the community at large. The free rider problem results from an individual's capacity to experience the rewards of voluntary collective action without contributing to that action in productive ways. Elinor Ostrom seeks to unpack these concerns in her work on what is called "the tragedy of the commons." SOURCES Close, D., Croci, O., & Mintz, E. "Thinking Globally."
Critical and Innovative Thinking. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 77-84. Print.
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