Political systems are shaped by the societies in which they function. For this reason, it is helpful to know something about the historical, geographical, social and economic settings against which they operate. It is also helpful to understand something of the values and ideas which have mattered and continue to matter to those who inhabit any individual country. This book examines the background factors that help to shape the way in which political life and processes operate in Britain and America. In particular, it examines the similarities and differences in the political culture of the countries. Constitutions describe the fundamental rules according to which states are governed, be they embodied in the law, customs or conventions. Liberties and rights are of especial concern in liberal democracies, which claim to provide a broad range of them. The book examines the protection of liberties in both countries, in particular the right of freedom of expression. In advanced Western democracies, the media perform a major role. The book deals with the impact on political life of the two major mass media: the press and television. Elections are the main mechanism for expressing the public's collective desires about who should be in government and what the government should do. The book examines a number of issues about the functioning of elections in two democracies, looking at the electoral system, and the way in which voters behave and the influence upon their voting.
In liberal democracies there is a belief that citizens ought to take an active interest in what is happening in the political world. Political debate in modern Western democracies is a complex and often rowdy affair. There are three fundamental political issues: 'politics', 'power' and 'justice', which feature in almost all political discussions and conflicts. The book assesses the degree to which the state and state sovereignty are disappearing in the modern world of 'globalised' politics, economics and culture and new international institutions. The main features of the nation and the problems of defining it are outlined: population, culture, history, language, religion, and race. Different types of democracy and their most important features are discussed. 'Freedom' is usually claimed to be the prime objective of political activity. The book discusses equality of human rights, distributional equality, equality before the law, the claims for group equality on the grounds of race, gender, class. Rights, obligations and citizenship are closely associated. Ideology is the driving force of political discourse. The book also discusses nationalism's growth and development over the last two centuries with particular reference to its main features and assumptions. It outlines the development of conservatism as a political ideology and movement in Britain during the last two centuries. An overview of liberalism, socialism, Marxism, anarchism, and Fascism follows. Environmentalism and feminism are also discussed. Finally, the book talks about how ideological change occurs and stresses the importance of rationality in politics.
This book seeks to review the state of political issues early in the twenty-first century, when New Labour is in its second term of office. As part of the updating process it became necessary to choose which political issues are important. The book includes the main issues which appear in current Advanced Level Politics syllabuses. In the case of Edexcel, which offers a specific political issues option in its A2 specification, all the specified issues have been included. The book deals with the process of constitutional and political change which are issues in themselves. It also includes material on constitutional reform (incorporating the recent development of human rights in Britain), and devolution. The book includes the global recession and other recent political developments and looks at the important issues in British politics since 1945. It examines the key issues of British politics today: economic policy, the Welfare State, law and order, environment policy, Northern Ireland, issues concerning women, European integration and the European Union, and the impact of the European Union on Britain. The book also deals with the European Union and Britain's relationship to it. Finally, it must be emphasised that Britain's relationship to the European Union is in itself a political issue which has fundamentally changed the party system.