Political Expression in Today's World Essay

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1. Why is the state considered a central institution in comparative politics? What does state power look like, and where does it come from? Towards what ends do states use their power? Give detailed examples from three country-cases. 

The state is the central institution in comparative politics because it represents the group of institutions and agencies that exercise authority over the people subordinate to it. The state mediates disputes and serves to unite the individual will and the collective will under one umbrella. The state is recognized as the legitimate authority by the people and thus they comply with the state’s rules without needing to be coerced. To understand comparative politics, one has to understand the central role of the state.

State power can take numerous forms. In America it takes the forms of the courts, the Congress, and the police—for starters. The government has three branches of government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, and that system was based on the doctrines of the Revolution—equality and liberty being the core ideals that launched the governmental structure in initially. Over time, it changed to develop more totalitarian characteristics. For example, beyond the three branches of state power are the lobbies—the special interest groups that throw money at elected (and unelected) officials to gain leverage in the government. Then there are the businesses, the major corporations that cozy up alongside government—companies like Google, Amazon, Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs, and so on—corporations that make sure they get the best deals and the legislation they want. They can be considered part of the state power structure too. Then there is the Federal Reserve—the independent banking institution that was given the right to coin the nation’s currency in 1913. All of them take part in the manifestation of state power, which can be described as domination without coercion—the subordination of people within that state to their rule without question or revolt.

In China, state power looks much more openly totalitarian: the state central plans all things and controls all aspects of society—even going so far recently as to launch a social currency system in which people receive a social credit score based on their good or bad behavior, which impacts their ability to do such things as fly, make purchases, apply for jobs. The state wields its power like an unyielding dictatorship from which no one can hide. China’s state power came from the revolution of the 20th century, in which the communist Mao Tse Tung reorganized China’s power structure, overhauled the social organization of the country, and ruled through total coercion. His authority was not recognized as legitimate, which was why force had to be applied.

In Saudi Arabia, state power is manifested in the form of a theocracy in which authority is granted by way of the religious culture, which serves as the dominant force of information in the Kingdom. The rulers of the KSA are a monarchical family—the House of Saud—whose rule is connected with their wealth and the fact that King Saud conquered the land a century ago and united the various districts under his authority, which initially required force but gradually won acceptance as the state became rich through oil.

In every case, the states use their power to command and control their economies, their social policies, the subsidization of entities (health care, housing, education), the control of commerce, the control of the culture industry, and so on. They use their power to ensure that their power is never at risk of being diminished—and that goes for every state, whether democratic in name, communist in name, or theocratic in name.

2. Is there actually a difference between democratic and authoritarian regimes? Explain your reasoning. Give detailed examples from three country-cases.

Theoretically there is a difference between democratic and authoritarian regimes. Realistically, it depends on the type of democracy that a state employs. In the U.S., the government has a democratic Republic, with government by representation instead of by direct democracy. Voters in the U.S. vote for a representative to go to the local, state or federal level of government to represent them and make decisions on their behalf. In reality, the elected officials have a great deal of power to do as they please, to ignore their constituents and to collaborate with other representatives to pursue aims that many Americans do not want pursued—such as the continuation of wars in the Middle East, or the continuation of the war on drugs, and so on. The government in America is authoritarian in the sense that behind the elected positions is a “deep state” of unelected officials—officials who are appointed, administration after administration to keep the “state” running while the representatives who serve as window dressing for the state are rotated out over 4 to 8 years.

In Russia, the situation is the same. Putin is recognized globally as the supreme power in Russia, and yet the Russian state has a system similar to the Western form of democracy, with elected officials serving in a representative capacity. Yet, Russia is mainly viewed as an authoritarian regime, as it was for most of the 20th century: the political culture is used to authoritarianism because of the Soviet Era which occurred from the early 20th century to the late 20th century; so while modern Russia has a veneer of democratic representation about it, the supreme authority is still Putin, who wields incredible power via his own state apparatus, which consists of various agencies, which he personally oversees. At the same time, this is typically the perception of the West, but it must be remembered the Putin is an elected official whose term will end at some point and the Russian people will elect another leader. So it cannot be said that Russia today is as authoritarian as was, for instance, under Stalin.

However, if one looks at an uncompromising authoritarian regime, such as that in North Korea, one sees the semblance of a true…

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…political change. The southern states wanted to secede from the Union and President Lincoln refused to allow them to do so, provoked them into a fight and then set about torching the South using Total War to subordinate them.

A third example is the violent overthrow of the Tsarist regime in Russia in 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution was a Communist revolution led by left-wing ideologues, similar to the revolutionaries in Cuba, Vietnam and other states where violent means was used to obtain political change on the part of Communist revolution. In Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks who seized control of the nation. A civil war of sorts followed in Russia between the Reds and the Whites (the Old World Russians of the aristocracy). The Reds were well-funded by Jewish financiers from abroad, which ensured that the Bolshevik Revolution would end permanently the old world order in which the Russian monarchy would follow in the footsteps of the French monarchy.

As these three examples show, the most common reason for violent political expression is that the people lower down the pecking order want to assume control of the political system and are not willing to submit themselves to the regime currently in power. They do not acknowledge their rule or law as legitimate and are willing to engage in any form of subversive behavior to obtain their control—whether that includes guerrilla style fighting tactics like the sort used in Cuba or Vietnam—or outright seizures of power by coups that end with the murder of the authority in power and with the assumption of power and control directly by the revolutionaries, as Lenin did in Russia and Robespierre did in France. Today, it is much harder for this sort of revolution to occur in developed nations because the leaders have loyal militaries and police battalions to enforce their rule when the protests turn violent. Other than via assassination (as also happened in the U.S. in 1963 when JFK was killed), there is not much likelihood of one regime being supplanted by a revolutionary one in the developed world. The best that revolutionaries can hope for in the developed world is to cause enough civil unrest that the political leader, whoever it is, will feel cornered enough to resign.

In the developing world, however, it is much easier for people to take control from their leaders using direct, violent means. It happened in Libya when Gaddafi was killed, and they have tried to do the same in Syria—though in both cases outside assistance from Western nations supporting the rebels was required. Today’s political violence tends to only be effective in changing the established political order in limited contexts. In industrialized nations, political violence is mainly an expression of political frustration among a group of people who feel they are not being represented and want to cause civil unrest to bring negative attention to their situation and cause their leaders to feel threatened with negative….....

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