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PSC 201: American Government

Janda, Berry, Goldman & Hula, Challenge of Democracy: Essentials Edition

Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015

Compiled from a student's contributions (thanks) by Jeremy Lewis.  Last revised 15 Dec. 2015.
Chapter: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]



Chapter 1, Dilemmas of Democracy
Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015
  • globalization- the increasing interdependence of citizens and nations across the world
  • government- legitimate use of form to control human behavior; also, the organization or agency authorized to exercise that force
  • national sovereignty- a political entityís externally recognized right to exercise final authority over its affairs
  • order- established ways of social behavior. maintaining order is the oldest purpose of government
  • communism- a political system in which, in theory, ownership of all land and productive facilities is in the hands of the people and all goods are equally shared. The production and distribution of goods are controlled by an authoritarian government
  • public goods- benefits and services, such as parks and sanitation, that benefit all citizens but are not likely to be produced voluntarily by individuals
  • freedom of- an absence of constraints on behavior, as in freedom of speech or freedom of religion
  • freedom from- immune, as in freedom from want or freedom from fear
  • police power- the authority of government to maintain order and safeguard citizensí safety, health, welfare, and morals
  • political equality- equality in political decision making: one vote per person, with all votes counted equally
  • social equality- equality in wealth, education, and status
  • equality of opportunity- the idea that each person is guaranteed the same chance to succeed in life
  • equality of outcome- the concept that society must ensure that people are equal, and governments must design policies to redistribute wealth and status to achieve economic and social equality
  • rights- the benefits of government to which every citizen is entitled
  • political ideology- a consistent set of values and beliefs about the proper purpose and scope of government
  • totalitarianism- a political philosophy that advocates unlimited power for the government to enable it to control all sectors of society
  • socialism- a form of rule in which the central government plays a strong role in regulating existing private industry and directing the economy, although it does allow some private ownership of productive capacity
  • democratic socialism- a socialist form of government that guarantees civil liberties such as freedom of speech and religion. citizens determine the extent of government activity through free elections and competitive political parties
  • capitalism- the system of government that favors free enterprise(privately owned businesses operating without government regulation)
  • libertarianism- a political ideology that is opposed to all government action except as necessary to protect life and property
  • laissez faire- an economic doctrine that opposes any form of government intervention in business
  • anarchism- a political philosophy that opposes government in any form
  • liberals- those who are willing to use government to promote equality but not order
  • conservatives- those who are willing to use government to promote order but not equality
  • libertarians- those who are opposed to using government to promote either order or equality
  • communitarians- those who are willing to use government to promote both order and equality
  • democracy- a system of government in which, in theory, the people rule, either directly or indirectly
  • procedural democratic theory- a view of democracy as being embodied in a decision-making process that involves universal participation, political equality, major rule, and responsiveness
  • universal participation- the concept that everyone in a democracy should participate in governmental decision making
  • majority rule- the principle-basic to procedural democratic theory- that the decision of a group must reflect the preference of more than half of those participating; a simple majority
  • participatory democracy- a system of government where rank-and-file citizens rule themselves rather than electing representatives to govern on their behalf
  • representative democracy- a system of government where citizens elect public officials to govern on their behalf
  • responsiveness- a decision-making principle. necessitated by representative government, that implies that elected representatives should do what the majority of people want
  • substantive democratic theory- the view that democracy is embodied in the substance of government policies rather than in the policy-making procedure
  • minority rights- the benefits of government that cannot be denied to any citizen by majority decisions
  • majoritarian model of democracy- the classical theory of democracy in which government by the people is interpreted as government by the majority of the people
  • interest group- an organized group of individuals that seeks to influence public policy; also called a lobby
  • pluralistic model of democracy- an interpretation of democracy in which government by the people is taken to mean government by people operating through interest groups
  • elite theory- the view that a small group of people actually makes most of the important government decisions
  • oligarchy- a system of government in which power is concentrated in the hands of a few people
  • democratization- a process of transition as a country attempts to move from an authoritarian form of government to a democratic one

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    Chapter 2, The Constitution
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015
  • declaration of independence- drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the document that proclaimed the right of the colonies to separate from Great Britain
  • social contract theory- the belief that the people agree to set up rulers for certain purposes and thus have the right to resist or remove rulers who act against those purposes
  • republic- a government without a monarch; a government rooted in the consent of the government rooted in the consent of the governed, whose power is exercised by elected representatives responsible to the governed
  • confederation- a loose association of independent states that agree to cooperate on specified matters
  • articles of confederation- the compact among the thirteen original states that established the first government of the united states
  • Virginia Plan- a set of proposals for a new government, submitted to the constitutional convention of 1787; included separation of the government into three branches, division of the legislature into two houses, and proportional representation in the legislature
  • legislative branch- the lawmaking branch of the government
  • executive branch- the law-enforcing branch of government
  • judicial branch- the law-interpreting branch of government
  • New Jersey Plan- submitted by the head of the new jersey delegation to the constitutional convention of 1787, a set of nine resolutions that would have, in effect, preserved the articles of confederation by amending them rather than replacing them
  • Great Compromise- submitted by the connecticut delegation to the constitutional convention of 1787, and thus also known as the Connecticut Compromise, a plan calling for a bicameral legislature in which the House of Representatives would be apportioned according to population and the states would be represented equally in the Senate
  • republicanism- a form of government in which power resides in the people and is exercised by their elected representatives
  • federalism- the division of power between a central government and regional governments
  • separation of powers- the assignment of lawmaking, law-enforcing, and law interpreting functions to separate branches of government
  • checks and balances- a government structure that gives each branch some scrutiny of and control over the other branches
  • extraordinary majority- a majority greater than that required by majority rule, that is, greater than 50 percent plus one
  • enumerated powers- the powers explicitly granted to Congress by the Constitution
  • necessary and proper clause- the last cause in Section 8 of Article 1 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the means to execute its enumerated powers. This clause is the basis for Congressís implied powers. Also called the elastic clause
  • implied powers- those powers that Congress requires in order to execute its enumerate powers
  • judicial review- the power to declare government acts invalid because they violate the constitution
  • supremacy clause- the clause of Article VI of the Constitution that asserts that national laws take precedence over state and local laws when they conflict
  • Bill of Rights- the first ten amendments to the Constitution. They prevent the national government from tampering with fundamental rights and civil liberties and emphasized the limited character of national power
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    Chapter 3, Federalism
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page



    Chapter 4, Public Opinion, Political Socialization, and the Media
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page



    Chapter 5, Participation and Voting
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page


    Chapter 6, Political Parties, Elections & Campaigns
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015

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    Chapter 7, Interest Groups
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page



    Chapter 8, The Congress
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015


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    Chapter 9, The Presidency
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page



    Chapter 10, The Bureaucracy
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015 Top of page



    Chapter 11, The Courts
    Definitions guide provided by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015



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