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Define the
missing words
Power definitions
• Weber – person or group has power is they have the
ability to get what they want despite the opposition of
• Coercion – power via the use of force and violence.
People obey because they have no choice.
• Authority – people obey willingly as it is seen as the right
thing to do.
• Marx’s view – power is held by the rich, property owning,
economically dominant class – the bourgeoisie. They use
this power to exploit the working class.
Sources of authority
• Traditional – based on custom or tradition, we obey
because it is customary to do so. Example – the Queen,
Elder etc.
• Legal rational – obey because of the position they hold in
an organisation . Example – the Prime minster or a head
teacher of a school.
• Charismatic - we obey because we believe the person
has extra-ordinary personal qualities which inspire us.
Example – religious leaders such as Ghandi or
campaigners for democracy such as Nelson Mandela.
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that power is
shared equally between
different social classes in
Britain today. (12 marks)
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in Britain
today political power is in the
hands of wealthy men. (12
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in society
today power is shared equally
between women and men. (12
• Democracy – government by the people
• Based on legal rational authority
• Direct democracy – citizens in a country take part
directly in the decision making process –
• Indirect democracy – we elect representatives to
make decisions on our behalf . We elect MPs who
represent us in parliament
• Being a member of a state - such as the UK – we are UK
• All citizens have full legal rights – vote in elections and to be
treated equally
• Responsibilities – respect the law, pay taxes
• Citizenship can also be about active involvement in public
life voting, joining a pressure group, being interested in
current affairs.
• Citizenship education – learning how to become an informed
citizen – rights and responsibilities and what it means to be
What is the state?
• Central part of the political process
• Institutions who regulate society by making,
implementing and enforcing laws.
• Parliament – legislative power – makes the law
• Civil service – executive power – implements
policy, advises government but does not become
involved in political debate – stay neutral
• The courts - judicial power – enforce the law
along side the police
Pluralist and conflict views of
the state
A range of competing groups exist in society
Power is shared between these groups
No one group dominates
The state acts as referee and regulates the different
interests and serves the needs of all citizens
• Those in power come from a narrow social and economic
• Power concentrated in the hands of the few
• The state’s role is to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie
• Their economic dominance gives them political power and
state policies are designed to benefit them.
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that young people
are not interested in politics.
(12 marks)
Barriers to political
Lack of time
Lack of money
Work and family commitments and personal circumstances
Access to transports
Lack of information or education on an issue
Employment status
Educational level
Social location – education/age/gender
Rational choice – time/cost/belief in change
Socialization – political behaviour develops though this process
some people are socialized into being more politically active
• Psychology or personality – extrovert/self-confident
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in Britain
today other factors are more
important than social class in
determining how people vote.
(12 marks)
• Turnout in general elections is falling – why?
• Can social factors (age, gender, class, ethnicity) help us to
understand this?
• Why do some people not vote in elections?
• Parties look too similar – no real choice between them
• They already know what the outcome will be – forgone
conclusion – why bother voting?
• Low in safe seats
• Less motivated to get involved in politics – other things
filling their time?
• Satisfied with the current situation?
Voting – class, gender, age
• Social class since 1945
• Up until 1970s class important influence on the way
people voted. Voting for a party (Labour or Conservative)
depended on occupation.
• Past 35 years – social class structure has changed –
traditional working class in decline.
• On one hand….social class no longer important
• Class dealignmnet – people no longer voting along
traditional class lines
• Kavanagh and Butler 2005 – class voting weaker than
ever in 2005 election as Labour able to gain more
middle-class voters
Voting – class, gender, age
• On the other hand…
• Class is still important
• In 2005 the working and lower middle-class was still more likely to
vote Labour
• Rowe 2005 – link between voting and social class still strong
• Age and gender
• Traditionally – young people more likely to vote Labour and older
people more inclined to vote Conservative
• In 1997 election the Labour party had the majority in all age groups
apart from the over 65s
• Since 1940s women more likely to vote conservative than men but
evidence show that this traditional gender gap has reversed in
recent elections Norris and Wiezien 2005 and now women are more
likely to vote labour
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that age is the
most important influence on
an individual’s participation in
the political process. (12
Political participation
• Narrow definition – voting in elections
• Broader definition – getting involved in public life – unions,
residents associations, campaign to save our school!
• How has it changed…past 50 years
• Decline in turn out in general elections
• Decline in membership of political parties
• People do not have as strong attachment to one political party
over a long time
• Why? – Power Commission- 2006
• Do not want to be involved – time, money, interest
• Feel that the political institutions are untrustworthy
• Feel like their views are not influential enough
Pressure groups
People who share a common interest or concern
Operate locally, nationally or globally
Uses power to…
Get views publicised
Influence decisions taken by local or national
• Influence public policy by getting its ideas adopted
• Protective – protect of defend members common
interest E.g. a trade union
• Promotional – promote a cause and bring it to the
attention of the general public through campaigning
• Insider – operate inside government networks and are
consulted by government departments as they may possess
information or expertise – AA and the CBI
• In a very strong position to influence policy!
• Outsider – not consulted automatically because their aims and
methods might not be accepted by the government
• Whilst trade union and political party membership has been in
decline – membership of pressure groups has been on the rise
on recent years.
Party or pressure group?
• A political party seek to win electoral power, form a
government and run the country
• Political parties have ideas on a wide range of issues –
education, economy, foreign policy
• Pressure groups do not seek to be elected or form a
• Pressure groups usually focus on a single issue or a set of
related issues
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in Britain
today pressure groups are
more attractive to young
people than political parties.
(12 marks)
Pressure group tactics
• Insider – campaigns, stunts, events usually legal
• Outsider – more radical campaigns and some may lead to
arrest in more extreme cases!
• Tactics – insider groups
• Petition MPs
• Sponsor a political party financially – trade unions
• Undertake research and provide decision makers with
• Contact media - advertise in press
• Using celebrity endorsement
• Industrial action
Pressure group tactics
• Outsider group action – Grant 2000
• Direct action- protest
• Marches
• Boycotts of a firms products
• Stunts
• Blockades
• Destruction of property
• Violence against individuals
Pressure group success?
Chances of being successful – several factors
Insider or outsider status
Resources of the group – finance, staff
Size of membership
Issue – can they get the support of the general public
Tactics used and how far the general public agree with
the tactics they use
So are all pressure groups equal ?
• Would some argue that it is just another way of the rich
and powerful gaining influence and control?
Pluralist and conflict view
• Range of views exist in society
• Pressure groups crucial to a democracy and they help different
views to influence the decision making process
• Pressure groups allow citizens to participate
• Help governments to keep in touch with public opinion
• Pressure groups often contain experts in their field
• Society is based on conflicting interests
• Some groups have more power and they are able to dominate
decision making
• Key groups such as big business are able to have more
influence due to their level of financial resources
• Decisions made in the interest of these powerful groups
• Citizenship participation – contribution to the local
• Formal and informal
• Formal – unpaid help given to organisations – Scouts
• Informal – unpaid helps that a person gives to someone
who is not a relative – childcare
• 2005 citizenship survey 44% of population volunteered
formally and 68% volunteered informally
• Social factors influence volunteering – higher proportions
of people in 16 – 24 age group volunteer informally and
women are more likely to engage in volunteering than
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that social
problems such as poverty and
unemployment are most
effectively addressed by
government action. (12 marks)
Welfare State
• State takes responsibility for protecting the health and welfare
of its citizens.
• History – Beveridge Report – 5 Giants1942
• Want
• Disease
• Ignorance
• Squalor
• Idleness
• Plan to provide from the cradle to the grave
• 1945 Labour government – implemented many of the
recommendations of the report – NHS, free education,
benefits etc.
Welfare State Today
• NHS – health care – paid for via taxation
• National insurance benefits – Job seekers
allowance and pensions – based on your
national insurance contributions
• Non- contributory benefits – designed for those
who have not paid in enough NI contributions –
Income support. Working tax credits
• Local benefits – paid by local councils – free
school meals, school clothing grants and social
Views of the Welfare State
Should the state provide welfare?
Labour Party View
Important in society
Give help to those who need it
Invest heavily in NHS
Key aims to tackle child poverty, helping people back to work and
cutting unemployment claims amongst young people
Conservative party view
The benefits system lets people choose a life on benefit rather than
work – creation of a dependency culture and deliberate avoidance
of work
This is a waste of the country’s resources and leads to low
Cut benefits for those who will not seek employment
Governments and Poverty
• Poverty remains a social problem today
• A major concern for policy makers but there are
disagreements about what should be done to tackle poverty
• State benefits – means tested
• Advantages – makes sure that the resources are targeted at
those most in need
• Disadvantages – people may not claim as process too
complicated or intrusive
• Benefits can label and stigmatise people
• Means tested benefits may trap people in poverty as any
increase in income make reduce benefits and they may be
worse off
• May discourage people from saving
Governments and Poverty
• Universal benefits – everyone receives this type of benefit
• Less likely to label or stigmatise
• National minimum wage…has this helped to reduce poverty?
• Introduced 1999
• Not reduced poverty 2006 half of children living in poverty
lived in a household where at least one adult was working
• Critics of government action
• The level of benefit is too low to meet people’s basic needs
Government and Unemployment
• Official measures – all those over 16 who do not have a job,
want to work and are available to start work in the next two
weeks and have been seeking a job for at least 4 weeks.
• The unemployment rates change over time and
unemployment is seen as a social problem for people and
• Unemployed people are more likely to….
• Experience low self-esteem
• Poor health
• Children underachieve in education
• Victim of crime
• Family breakdown
Government and
• Government action
• Welfare to work policies
• These are designed to…
• Increase job opportunities through job
creation and work experience schemes
• Improve claimants skills through
educational initiatives
• Give claimants more financial incentives
by increasing benefit
Government and discrimination
• Discrimination happens when people are treated
differently and less favourably due to age, gender or
• one way that governments have tried to tackle this is
through laws
• Equal pay 1970
• Sex discrimination act 1975
• Race relations act 1976
• Civil partnership act 2004
• Disability discrimination act 2005
• Victimisation is when a person complains about
Ageing population
• Older people have been a major focus of social policy since
the early 20th century
• Walker and Maltby 2008 identify policy issues affecting older
people today
• Age discrimination in the labour market – employers may
believe that older people can not adapt to new technology
• The Employment Equality Act 2006 – regulations against age
discrimination in employment and training but employers can
still enforce a retirement age of 65.
• Some argue that state pensions are not adequate and should
be improved – 20% of pensioners live in poverty.
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in society
today relationships between
children and adults are
increasingly democratic. (12
Power Relationships
Main areas
Parents and children
Students and teachers
Employers and employees
Public and the police
• Think about….what is the base of their authority?
• Parents exercise authority when they constrain or influence
their children’s behaviour
• Teachers exercise authority based on their position within the
school’s structure
Power Relationships
• The police operates as an agency of formal
social control on behalf of the state and is
responsible for enforcing the law.
• They have legal rational authority due to
the position they hold in the police force.
• They have the power to stop and search,
arrest and detain people and their actions
are governed by codes of practice.
Discuss how far sociologists
would agree that in Britain
today power is shared equally
between different ethnic
groups. (12 marks)