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Социология Text XIV. THE ECONOMY
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COMPREHENSION EXERCISES

I. Reread the text and answer the following questions.

1) Why is a political system a cultural universal? 2) How can you prove that power is at the heart of a political system? 3) What basic sources of power are there within any political system? 4) What differs «force» from «influence» as sources of power? 5) In what connection do sociologists commonly use the term «authority»? 6) What are the basic forms of government in contemporary industrial society? 7) What differs the monarchy from the oligarchy? 8) Why do dictatorships frequently develop into totalitarianism? 9) What are the basic characteristics of a totalitarian state? 10) What does «democracy» mean in a literal sense and in practice? 11) Through what process do members of a society acquire their political attitudes and develop patterns of political behavior? 12) How can you prove that the family, schools and the media are the principal institutions of political socialization? 13) How can you characterize the process of involving people in political activities in theory and in practice? 14) What models of power structure do you know? 15) Do they offer an accurate picture of the political life in contemporary society? Why so? 16) What is one common point of both models? Do you agree with this statement?

II. Define the following key terms and memorize the definitions:

political system, politics, power, force, influence, authority, monarchy, oligarchy, totalitarianism, democracy, representative democracy, political socialization, elite model, power elite model, ruling class, pluralist model.

III. Speak on government and politics in brief and illustrate your reports withexamples and situations of your own.

IV. Discuss the following topics thinking like sociologists.

1) The former Soviet Union: a representative democracy or a totalitarian state? 2) The present organization of the Russian system of power and authority. 3) Political socialization and its agents in the Russian society. 4) The process through which you have acquired your political outlook. 5) The influence of the Russian mass media on the country's political campaigns. Can Russians be considered active or apathetic in their political behavior? Why? 6) The distribution of power in the Russian political system: are there any citizens «more equal» in our country?

The termeconomic system refers to the social institution through which goods and services are produced, distributed and consumed. Like the other social institutions, it shapes some aspects of the social order and is, in turn, influenced by them.

Sociologists have developed a classification of societies on the basis of their economic systems. The first category of society according to this classification is thepreindustrial society. This type of society was composed of rather small settlements of people almost always related to one another. As a result, the family took on a particularly important role. The technology within this society remained rather limited as it mostly relied on the physical power of humans and animals. Members of this society were primarily engaged in the production of goods and later, of tools and household objects. But at the last stage of the preindustrial societya social surplus was created, i.e. the production by a group of people of enough goods to cover their own needs, while, at the same time, sustaining individuals who were not engaged in these tasks. As a result, the division of labor into specialized tasks was more extensive. The political institutions became more elaborate, and the concepts of property rights took on growing importance.

The industrial revolution, which took place largely in England during the period 1760 to 1830, was a scientific revolution that focused on the application of nonanimal sources of power to labor tasks. The process of industrialization produced significant changes and had distinctive consequences. Thus, the second type of society according to the economic classification introduced by sociologists isthe industrial society, which, in general terms, can be defined as society that relies chiefly on mechanization for the production of its economic goods and services.

As for the contemporary industrial societies, there are two basic types of economic systems that exist: capitalism and socialism.Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are largely in private hands and the main goal of economic activity is the accumulation of profits.

In practice, capitalist systems vary in the degree to which private ownership and economic activity are regulated by government. During the period immediately following the industrial revolution, the prevailing form of capitalism was what is termeda free enterprise system which allowed people to compete freely with minimal government intervention in the economy.

Two centuries later, capitalism has taken on a somewhat different form which is characterized by extensive government regulation of economic relations. Without restrictions, business firm can mislead consumers, endanger the safety of their workers, and even defraud the companies' investors.

Contemporary capitalism also differs from the early capitalist stage in another important respect... monopolistic practices. In numerous industries, a few companies aremonopolies because they dominate and control the field and exclude new enterprises from entering the marketplace.

Socialism is an economic system under which the means of production and distribution are collectively owned. The basic objective of this economic system is to meet people's needs rather than to make profits. Socialists reject the idea of free competition and believe that basic economic decisions should be made by the central government, which acts as the representative of the people. Therefore, government ownership of all major industries is a major feature of socialism as an ideal type.

As described above, capitalism and socialism serve as ideal types of economic systems. No nation precisely fits either model. Instead, the economy of each industrial state represents a mixture of capitalism and socialism.

The significant changes in the contemporary industrial societies have led social scientists to call technically advanced nationspostindustrial societies, i.e. societies whose economic systems are based on the production of information rather than goods. Large numbers of people become involved in occupations devoted to the teaching, generation, or spreading of ideas.

In a very real sense, the world is not as large as it once was: one can travel from New York to Tokyo, or reach someone a continent away much more quickly than has ever been possible. Therefore, a cultural item is spread from group to group or society to society. One result is that the world can now be conceived of as a single marketplace. But, while the common marketplace is gradually being organized, the profits of business are not equally shared. There remains a great disparity between the world's «have» and «have not» nations. Two forces particularly responsible for this are colonialism and multinational corporations.