Who holds the power in a democracy? Is the U.S. a democracy, or has the increasing gap between the super-rich and the rest of us shifted our government toward oligarchy?
Research the forms of government and the history of how governments evolve over time to meet the needs of society. Most of us agree that we need an organized system of government to maintain a desirable and stable society, but we hold little agreement on how governing should occur and who should hold the power and authority to carry out those decisions.
As is outlined in your text, some scholars believe the widening gap between the super rich (i.e., the top 1%) and everyone else has brought back a new type of Gilded Age where the concentrated wealth of the richest corporate execs and Wall St. tycoons wields enough clout to influence elections and policy decisions. As you are doing your research, consider the following points:
Does the shift in distribution of wealth mean a small percentage of elites have acquired enough influence to “buy” political power and limit the power of the majority?
Does wealth distribution dilute the foundational principles of democracy by creating a distinctly unfair system for the majority of citizens?
Sociologists use the various functionalist and conflict theories to explain the workings of power in government and political systems. Apply these theories to help explain why you believe the current form of government in the U.S. is more an oligarchy or a democracy.
Conflict perspective: Pluralist theory assumes that political power in democracies is dispersed among several veto groups that compete equally for resources and influence.
Functionalist perspective: Elite theories assume that power is instead concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy individuals and organizations that exert inordinate influence on the government and can shape its decisions to benefit their own interests (Sociology: Understanding the Changing the Social World, 2016, pp. 495-496).
After you have completed your reading and research, develop a post (minimum of 150 words) that addresses the following questions:
What is the difference between power and authority? Use Weber’s three types of authority to help you define power, legitimacy, and coercion.
Define the concepts of the political order and “the state.” Then, describe the state in modern industrial societies. Use this information to explain who holds power in the U.S. Use examples to illustrate your points.
Identify the characteristics of the four forms of government. Apply these characteristics, as well as the information outlined in your text and Exploration material, to determine what form of government is currently operating in the U.S.
Based on the recent shifts in wealth and power, do you think our government has changed from democracy to oligarchy? How should the government be run differently, and why? Use the pluralist and elite theories of power, outlined above, to help explain your position, and include either Mill’s or Reisman’s perspective on power.
Cite your sources in APA Style.