4MZ010 Media, Politics and Power

Week 1 - Some Key Concepts for Studying Politics and Media

A concept is ‘an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances’ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/concept (accessed 26 January 2011)

Politics

Understanding the concepts used in the study of politics can be seen as learning the language of the academic discipline of political science Remember that the way political scientists define and use concepts is not necessarily the same as the way politicians and political activists define and use them. All of you will already have some knowledge of important concepts in politics, drawn from previous study and from life experience.

Task 1
Make a list of at least 5 concepts that you think are important for the study of politics. You may want to choose some that you feel are very central to politics and others that are more peripheral or obscure. If you are doing this task with other people, you may want to concentrate on concepts that you do not think they will list.

Task 2
Take at least 2 of your chosen concepts and write a short definition of each. If you are doing this task with other people, decide jointly on the 2 or more concepts you want to define and work together on your definitions.

Task 3
Compare your definitions with the list further on in this handout. Then explore some of the online dictionaries of politics listed or some of the books indicated at the end. You may want to note down all the different definitions of the same concept or you may want to combine them in a way that makes most sense to you.

Tutor definitions

Politics

A human activity that involves 4 elements – scarcity of resources, conflict, power and decision-making.
Politics exists in all social groups and organisations, from the family & community groups to the national and international level.

Conflict

Conflict arises in a society when there is scarcity of resources, both in a literal sense of not enough food or wealth for everyone to have as much as they want, and in the sense that the social group has to make choices between incompatible options – for example, the political system cannot be both a monarchy and a republic.
The possible sources of conflict include economic, social, and cultural differences/inequalities between groups and personal factors such as values and temperament.

Power

The ability to get someone to do what they don’t want to do or to stop doing something that they do want to do.
There are many different sources of political power including wealth, social status, knowledge, ability, organisation and institutional position.

There are 4 types of power - authority, persuasion, bargaining and coercion.
Authority is power legitimated by political office and/or personal qualities.
Persuasion is an appeal to people’s rationality or emotions.
Bargaining involves some sort of exchange between the groups involved
Coercion means achieving compliance through the threat of sanctions.
Power needs to be exercised so that decisions can be made.

Government

A set of institutions through which decisions are made.

The State

a) a geographical area with its own government
b) the government and other institutions linked with it which run the geographical area.

Legitimacy

An activity or institution is legitimate if it is widely acceptable to members of society.

Ideology

A coherent set of beliefs and judgements about society which is used by those who follow it as a guide to action and a guide to the type of society they want.

Political Science

a) the study of politics
b) one branch of the study of politics which concentrates on the observation and investigation of what happens in politics

Definitions from books

Power

‘The ability of an individual or social group to pursue a course of action (to make and implement decisions, and more broadly to determine the agenda for decision-making) if necessary against the interests and even against the opposition of other individuals and groups’.
Tom Bottomore (1979) Political Sociology

Decision

‘An act of choice made by an individual, organisation or institution, that puts an end to deliberation by selecting, from a range of perceived alternatives, some goal or some means of achieving’.
G Roberts & A Edwards (1991) A New Dictionary of Political Analysis

Political Institutions

‘A set of fundamental forms or structures of social organisation, as established by law or custom’.
G K Roberts (1971) A Dictionary of Political Analysis

Government

‘Those institutions which make and implement rules in the form of binding decisions for a political community: whether a state, a city, a province, a tribe or any other organisation’.
G Roberts & A Edwards (1991) A New Dictionary of Political Analysis

The State

‘A set of institutions, separate from those of civil society, through which public policy and law are decided and executed: the state exercises sovereign power over its territory, successfully claiming compliance with its laws from those within that territory, and securing that compliance through its monopolistic control of legitimate force’.
G Roberts & A Edwards (1991) A New Dictionary of Political Analysis

Online resources

Nelson Political Science Glossary http://www.uiowa.edu/policult/politick2000/polisci.nelson.com/glossary.html
A Glossary of Political Economy Termshttp://www.duc.auburn.edu/~johnspm/glossind.html
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyhttp://plato.stanford.edu/

Politics Books

Axford, B. et al. (2002) Politics: an Introduction, 2nd ed., London: Routledge, 320/POL
Bellamy, R. (1993) Theories and Concepts of Politics: an Introduction, Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 320.01/BEL
Bottomore, T. (1979) Political Sociology, London: Hutchinson, 301.592/BOT & 306.2/BOT
Heywood, A. (1994) Political Ideas and Concepts, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 320.01/HEY
Roberts, G. and Edwards, A. (1991) A New Dictionary of Political Analysis, London: Edward Arnold, 320.03/ROB
Tansey, S. (2000) Politics: the Basics, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 320/TAN

Media

Task 4
Make a list of at least 3 concepts that you think are important for the study of media.

Task 5
Take at least 2 of your chosen concepts and write a short definition of each. If you are doing this task with other people, decide jointly on the 2 or more concepts you want to define and work together on your definitions.

Task 6
Compare your definitions with the list further on in this handout. Then explore some of the online dictionaries listed or some of the books indicated at the end. You may want to note down all the different definitions of the same concept or you may want to combine them in a way that makes most sense to you.

Definitions

Media

'The means of producing and disseminating news, information, and entertainment to a universal audience, typically through the press (both tabloid and broadsheet), magazines, cinema, radio and television, and even paperback publishing and pornography' (Crystal Reference Encyclopedia 2005).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/cre/media

Agenda setting

'The presumed power of interest groups, politicians, and the mass media to determine the public's perception of the salience and relative importance of issues' (Crystal Reference Encyclopedia 2005).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/cre/agenda_setting

Press Freedom

'The right claimed by newspapers, journals, etc to disseminate such information, news, and opinions as they judge to be in the public interest. Specific press freedoms include the right to found a newspaper free from licensing restraints; editorial freedom; the right of access to public institutions; and the confidentiality of the journalist's sources. [E]ven in democratic countries press freedom is usually limited by legal constraints, proprietors’ interests, economic factors, and professional codes’. (Crystal Reference Encyclopedia 2005).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/cre/press_freedom

Journalism

'The practice and profession of producing material of current interest for the press, broadcasting, and the Internet. Originally limited to the written word (print journalism), but now extended to the spoken word on radio and television (broadcast journalism) and pictures (photojournalism), the term applies to the collecting, working up, and editing of material, especially news. Journalism has its own trade unions, professional associations, codes of conduct, awards, and training schemes. Its laudable claim to ‘Fourth Estate’ status is often compromised by its collusion with those with power in society, invasions of personal privacy, and chequebook journalism' (Crystal Reference Encyclopedia 2005).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/cre/journalism

Spin Doctor

'Someone, especially in politics, who tries to influence public opinion by putting a favourable bias on information when it is presented to the public or to the media' (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (2001).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/chambdict/spin_doctor

'Somebody whose job is to make sure that the media report political events and policies in a way that creates a favourable impression for a particular politician or political party' (The Penguin English Dictionary 2007).
Retrieved 26 January 2011 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/penguineng/spin_doctor

'A public relations adviser, especially one skilled in presenting his employer's intentions to the public as more favourable than they really are, or even in concealing their reality altogether' (The Companion to British History, Routledge 2001).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/routcbh/spin_doctor

Propaganda

'Systematic spreading (propagation) of information or disinformation, usually to promote a religious or political doctrine with the intention of instilling particular attitudes or responses' (The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide 2010).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/heliconhe/propaganda

'The organized circulation by a political group, etc of doctrine, information, misinformation, rumour or opinion, intended to influence public feeling, raise public awareness, bring about reform, etc. and the material circulated in this way' (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary 2001).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/chambdict/propaganda

'Most broadly, a generic term covering any attempt to manipulate opinion’ (The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology 2009).
Retrieved 25 January 2012 from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/penguinpsyc/propaganda

'Systematically slanted information which is intended to affect the outlooks and attitudes of whole peoples' (The Blackwell Dictionary of Political Science 1999).
Retrieved 26 January 2011 from Credo Reference http://www.credoreference.com/entry/bkpolsci/propaganda

News management

'This term is normally used to describe the way that individuals or organizations attempt to control the flow of news to the media and to 'set the agenda' for the media. This might involve issuing a press release which is embargoed, holding press conferences timed to make the lunch-time and early-evening news, or staging an event which is big enough or unusual enough to grab the media's attention. The government might, for example, choose to announce bad news on the same day that optimistic employment figures are announced'.
Mick Underwood (2010) on Cultsock: communication, culture, media, http://www.cultsock.org/ (not available 1 February 2013).

Media Books

Branston, G. and Stafford, R. (2006) The Media Student's Book, (4th ed.) London: Routledge, 302.23/BRA
McNair, B. (2007) An Introduction to Political Communication, (4th ed.) London: Routledge, 306.2/MAC
Taylor, G. (2000) Freedom, Responsibility and the Media, Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University Press, 323.4450941/TAY
Tumber, H. (ed.) (1999) News: a Reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 302.23/NEW
URL: URL: http://pers-www.wlv.ac.uk/~le1810/4MZ010w1.htm
Created by Penny Welch October 2001/Last updated February 2013

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