AP Comparative Government and Politics is a study of states.
It includes knowledge of how states are formed, the roles of cultural and historical factors in shaping states, and comparisons of institutional structures of states to better understand their functions.
People often refer to states as "countries" or "nations", but those are not appropriate academic terms.
The states can choose to implement a decision or law by force with no consequences from higher authority.
The threat of physical force is one of the ways in which sovereignty requires power.
The ability to compel people to take actions they wouldn't choose to take on their own is what power truly requires.
States must have a body of people, a territory with defined boundaries of sovereignty, and a system of government to make political decisions.
Today's global political system is built on the supremacy of the state.
Some states are created differently.
A strong state is one that has the ability to pass a policy and see through it.
When Britain decided in 1946 to provide health care to all British citizens through the National Health Service, it was not only able to create the institutions necessary to run such an operation, but also able to fund it.
A weak state wouldn't be able to carry out a program as popular as guaranteed health care for all.
Basic legal frameworks and law enforcement are difficult to provide in Nigeria.
The emergence of failed states, which are unable to provide even basic law and order to their people, is a growing concern for the international community.
Criminal elements and violent non-state actors are free to act without fear of consequences because of the state's lack of capacity to deal with internal problems.
Terrorists, extremists, pirates, and other dangerous elements could use failed states as safe havens, which is why they are of special concern.
Recent examples of failed states include Haiti.
The capacity of states to implement their policies domestically is described in terms of strong, weak, and failed states.
The ability of the state to act without the support of the public is a separate consideration.
States with high autonomy can take actions that their citizens would be unlikely to support without fear of consequence, whereas states with low autonomy rely on public support for successful policy implementation.
China is an excellent example of a state with high autonomy.
On the first day of school, imagine your Comparative Government class meeting together.
Everyone is waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
Suddenly, a young person who seems no older than junior-high age walks in and asks everyone to sit down and open their books.
Many others might ignore the young man's direction altogether, and others may challenge his basis for giving directions in the first place.
An adult in business attire walks in and gives the same direction.
The class would quickly sit down to begin their reading.
One of the most important concepts in comparative government is the reason.
The students think the adult is the legitimate teacher because of their official authority.
States try to get people to do things they wouldn't normally do.
The people accept the right of the state to rule over them if the public perception is that the state has legitimacy.
There are three types of legitimacy that states have historically possessed.
When legitimate political rulers acquire their status and power through old traditions that are unchanging in the present, traditional legitimacy exists.
The tradition of hereditary monarchies wielding political power across much of the world hundreds of years ago is an example of this.
It was the way it always was that made leadership a product of birth.
Sometimes, traditional legitimacy was justified through religious lore or legend, claiming that one individual or family had been chosen by God, or that a sword was given to a great conqueror by the Lady of the Lake.
England before and through its gradual transition into a democratic state will be one of the examples of rule by traditional legitimacy in our studies.
A personality cult is when a single individual captures the loyalty and attention of the people that the individual leader alone now serves as the basis of the legitimacy of the state.
In the aftermath of a revolution, a leader gains a reputation as a great hero of the people and rides the wave of popular support up to the point of exercising complete political power.
A leader's public image is often manipulated to portray him as the embodiment of all that is good in the nation.
Stalin's dictatorship in Russia, Maoist China, and the rule of the Islamic Revolution in Iran are examples of charismatic legitimacy in this class.
States need legitimacy to maintain rule.
Tradition, personal charisma of a leader, or rational-legal processes are some of the factors that can lead to legitimacy.
In a state where formal understood legal practices and rules of the political game determine who wields political power and when, rational-legal legitimacy exists.
Power is exercised by leaders under the terms of the political rules.
When unpopular leaders are still in office, they still have political power.
The legal rules of the regime determine how power is acquired and used.
In our countries of study, Britain has a long tradition of rational-legal legitimacy, while the other five states fall in a variety of places along the continuum as they try to develop rational-legal processes.
The sovereignty and capacity of a state can be seen in its state institutions, which is a very broad term for all of the various actors that carry out the policymaking and policy implementation functions of the state.
The legislature, an executive, a judiciary, and a military are some of the common institutions in most states.
The study on individual states will focus on the different structures and powers of their institutions.
The people of the country are connected to the formal policymaking process through linkage institutions, which include political parties, interest groups, the media, and many others.
In the next chapters, Linkage institutions will be addressed.
In an AP Comparative Government and Politics course, one of the most important things a student must do is correctly differentiate terminology used to describe the various elements of the state.
A successful academic discussion requires a clear and distinct definition for each of these terms.
The desire to gain or maintain self-government is one of the reasons why nations are formed.
The countries we will study are sometimes firmly united by a strong shared nationality, such as Mexicans or Chinese, who are largely bound together by shared language, history, culture, ethnicity, and in the case of Mexico, a common religion.
Some states don't have a unified national identity.
There are over 250 different ethnic groups in Nigeria, each with their own language and cultural traditions.
Religion is very divisive in Nigeria, with large parts of the population practicing Islam, Christianity, or other indigenous religions.
There isn't a strong sense of what it means to be a Nigerian, which can make it difficult for a state to impose a unified policy approach on all of its people.
National disunity doesn't equate to instability.
Britain has a long and stable history of unified sovereignty and is not composed of one nation.
The English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish of Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Their national differences don't mean they can't share the state they live in with each other.
Nations are groups of people who share a common political identity.
The Welsh in the United Kingdom are integrated into the state they live in, but that is not always the case.
Some nations are considered stateless because they are poorly integrated into the political system of the state they reside in, and their desire to separate and form their own nation-state is currently unrealized.
The Chechen people in the Caucasus region of southwestern Russia and the Uighur people of western China would be examples in this course.
The rules and systems of the political process are referred to as the regime.
Political power is determined by how individuals and groups acquire it.
The supreme and fundamental basis for determining how the political process occurs is defined by some regimes in written law.
The personality currently holding supreme executive power shapes other regimes.
Regime change can be achieved through gradual changes to the political rules that do not fundamentally change the political system.
Revolution is a sudden and radical change in the structures and systems of the political regime.
There can be regime change through a coup d'etat in which the military of the state takes control of the government.
Specific examples will be provided in each of the individual country chapters.
The rules of a political system define who may exercise political power and how they may do so.
Government refers to those individuals currently exercising political power from official positions of authority.
The current president and his administration in Mexico are called a government.
A change in government occurs when the president's term ends and a new election is held.
A scheduled election in which a previous minority party wins the majority is one of the ways in which governments can change.
The current president and his or her administration are some of the people who exercise political power in the government.
States can either concentrate power at the national level or decentralize power.
The history of the formation of the state, ethnic or national diversity, the desire for more efficient policy implementation, and the list could go on are some of the reasons for taking either approach.
All power is concentrated at the central, national level.
The power wielded by the central government is more important than that of the regional governments.
Britain, China, and Iran are all unitary states according to the AP Comparative Government and Politics course.
Power is centralized at one level of government.
One variation on this is a policy of devolution, in which the central government willingly cedes certain key powers to regional governments in order to achieve a policy objective.
In 1997, Tony Blair's government created regional parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with certain powers, such as control over their local budgets, after he promised a program of devolution in his campaign for prime minister.
The powers are not permanently built into the constitution of the crown, and could theoretically be revoked by a simple act of parliament.
federalism does not equate to a devolved unitary state.
There is a legal division of powers between the central government and the regional governments in a federal state.
The regional governments are part of the regime and have a defined role to play.
The United States had the first form of constitutional federalism.
Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria are federal systems, though Russia has made a series of recent reforms that have altered the level of autonomy held by its regional republics.
The chapter on Russia will address those changes.
The power between the central and regional levels of government is divided by federal states.
supranational organizations allow many states to send representatives to make collective decisions for the group, which is relevant to the modern globalized world.
The European Union is a supranational organization.
The European parliament has power over certain policy areas that the member states have agreed to give the European Union.
There is no common European military, member states retain the right to choose to leave the European Union should they ever see fit, as well as the right to give up their sovereignty in areas such as trade and environmental policy.
The sovereignty of the member states is not completely sacrificed to the union.
In the realm of trade, there are many other forms of international organizations and agreements that reduce the sovereignty of the members.
WTO members agree to principles to help make trade more free and fair between states, especially for reducing tariffs, quota, and other restrictions on trade that states may impose.
Membership in the WTO requires states to comply with its decisions and states can bring complaints about trade practices against one another.
Although these types of organizations that facilitate economic integration place some limitations on their member states, none come as close to creating a true supranational union as the European Union does.
Policies made by supranational organizations limit the power of their member states.
Other organizations allow member states to meet and discuss possible collective action, but pose little to no threat to the sovereignty of the member states.
The UN holds regular sessions where member states discuss a wide array of global issues and plan collective action to respond to shared problems and humanitarian crises.
The UN doesn't have an enforcement mechanism to force states to comply unless they choose to act on their own with economic sanctions or military action.
The UN General Assembly passed resolutions calling on states to refuse to recognize Russia's possession of the territory when it seized the territory from the Ukranian.
Since the UN has no power to place sanctions on Russia, individual states such as the United States and Germany placed their own economic sanctions on Russia to express their disapproval.
Depending on the circumstances of their history and the degree of trust their people place in the institutions of the state, states come in many different forms.
We will look at the impact the people have on the political system of the state.
The terms that appear on the AP Comparative Government and Politics exam are tested.
The perception of the people that the state and its leaders have the right to rule is referred to as political efficacynationalismdevolutionlegitimacy.
A coup d'etat and public protests force an authoritarian leader to hold elections and draft a constitution.
An elected leader refuses to step down after his term limit.
A unitary stateplaces all political power in a single governing institutionconcentrates power at the national level and does not have any local regional units of government.