coalition - a combination of parties or states. For example, in 2001 a U.S-led international coalition invaded Afghanistan. Domestically, coalitions can be made up of many organizations which band together to pursue a particular cause, as for example the Christian Coalition of America is a coalition made up of many different Christian organizations for the purpose of influencing public debate on moral affairs. There can also be legislative coalitions, in which legislators team up with others to advance a particular issue or piece of legislation, even though they may not be of the same party or agree on any other issues.

code - a systematically organized set of laws, such as the criminal code, the civil code.

codification - the act of arranging laws in a code.

coercion - the use of force or other powerful means of persuasion to get someone to do something. Often used to refer to government by force.

coexistence - a tacit agreement between two or more groups, parties, nations etc., that are in fundamental disagreement or conflict, that they will not go to war. Coexistence is not quite the same as peace, because the parties remain wary of each other and often hostile, but they accept that widely different ideologies and social systems can exist without those differences alone being a cause for war. Coexistence was a phrase often used during the Cold War, when it was a preferable alternative to the U.S. and the Soviet Union incinerating the entire world in a nuclear holocaust.

cohort - a group of soldiers. Also refers to an assistant or colleague.

Cold War - the struggle between the U.S. and Western Europe against the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies. It involved confrontation but no actual "hot" warfare. The Cold War began in the 1940s when the U.S. believed it was imperative to check Soviet expansionist designs on Western Europe. It reached its height during the 1950s and 1960s, when the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the world, particularly during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The Cold War made itself felt all over the globe; it was as if the entire world was divided into two units, East and West. No small regional Third World conflict was insignificant. The U.S. backed any regime that was anti-communist; while the Soviets tried to expand their influence anywhere they could, from Cuba and Central America to the Middle East and Africa. The Cold War eased slightly during the 1970s as a result of the U.S.-Soviet policy of d??tente. It finally began to wind down in the late 1980s. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power in the Soviet Union and had begun his policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). The Soviet Union and the U.S. agreed to wide-ranging arms control measures. Then when communism crumbled in Eastern Europe in 1989, without resistance from Moscow, U.S.-Soviet relations warmed dramatically. By 1990, the Cold War was virtually over. Many claim that the U.S. won the Cold War because of the massive U.S. arms buildup during the Reagan adminstrations of 1981-89. The Soviets knew they could not match this and so had to come the bargaining table. Others say that the Soviet Union would have been forced to reform anyway, because its economic system was so inefficient.


collaboration - working with onother person, or with many others, on a project, such as a literary or scientific endeavor. Collaboration also refers to cooperating with an enemy.

collective bargaining - negotiations about terms of employment (wages, hours, etc.) conducted between an employer and the representatives of a group of workers, usually a labor union.

collective responsibility - the responsibility born by everyone who participates in a decision to abide by that decision and be responsible for its consequences. Britain applies the doctrine to its cabinet, which is collectively responsible to parliament for its decisions.

collective security - an agreement by participating nations that they will take joint military action against any nation that attacks any one of them. NATO and the Warsaw Pact are examples of collective security agreements.

collective - any enterprise in which people work collectively, such as collective farms in Russia and China.

collectivism - refers to all economic and political systems that emphasize central planning and group, as opposed to individual, endeavor. Thus socialist and communist societies are collectivist. The theory of collectivism emphasizes the value of cooperation under, usually, authoritarian leadership. The efforts of the individual matter less than the goals of the group as a whole.

collectivization - the transfer of something from private to public ownership. For example, the establishment of communism involved the collectivization of land and private property.

collegialism - a theory that the church is an organization equal to and independent of the state, with authority resting in its members.

colonialism - the system whereby a state acquires and rules colonies.

colonization - the establishment of a colony. Sometimes this involves moving a group of people from the colonizing state into the area to be colonized, usually to solidify control and to facilitate adminsistration of the area.

colony - a territory that is ruled by another state. Hong Kong, for example, was a colony of Great Britain until 1997, when China took over responsibility for it. Many colonies have a limited amount of self-government.

Cominform - the Communist Information Bureau, set up in 1947 to coordinate the activities of communist parties in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, France, and Italy. It was dissolved in 1956, on the initiative of the Soviet Union, in an attempt to reassure the West about Soviet intentions.

Comintern - The Communist International, also known as the Third International. The Comintern was founded in Russia in 1919, with the purpose of promoting revolutionary Marxism. As such, it encouraged revolution in capitalist countries. It was dissolved in 1943, during World War II, to ease the fears of Russia's Western allies.

comity - rules of etiquette in international relations that do not have the force of law but make international relations smoother.

commercialism - the methods of commerce and business. Sometimes in social commentary the term is used in a negative sense, as when a writer bemoans the commercialism of our society, which is said to squeeze out moral or spiritual values, such as the commercialism involved in promoting the Christmas holiday, or the conducting of business (i.e. the making of money) where it is not appropriate.


commissar - formerly the title of Soviet administrative officers, particularly the heads of government departments. The term was dropped in 1946 in favor of minister.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) - a UN committee; created by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. CERD examines reports of racial discrimination; operates UN libraries in New York and Geneva; reports to the UN General Assembly. Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

common good - the welfare of all. See also commonwealth; national interest; public interest; social welfare.

common law - the legal system of most English-speaking countries, including the U.S, based on custom, habit, and precedent. Common law is supplemented by statutory law, which is established by legislation. The distinction between common law and statutory law has become blurred in modern times, because much of common law has been converted into statutes.

Common Market - see European Union.

commonwealth - similar in meaning to common good. The term originated in seventeenth century political thought. The idea was that all members of a society had certain common interests which contributed to the good of all (originally called the "common weal") and which they should therefore pursue and protect.

commune - the smallest territorial district in some European countries. More commonly used to denote a small group of people living communally, working together and sharing proceeds, etc.

Communism - the political system under which the economy, including capital, property, major industries, and public services, is controlled and directed by the state, and in that sense is "communal." Communism also involves a social structure that restricts individual freedom of expression. Modern communism is based on Marxism, as interpreted by the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin (1870-1924). See bolshevism; Communist manifesto; dialectical materialism; Leninism; Marxism; Marxist-Leninism.

Communist Manifesto - one of the most influential documents in modern history, the appearance of which marked the birth of modern socialist theory. Published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848, the manifesto began by declaring that the history of all societies was that of class struggle. It then described the history of the rise of the bourgeoisie, who had developed the system of production and distribution on which capitalism was based. But in doing so they had created an entirely new class, the proletarians, who possessed no land, wealth, craft or trade, and so were forced to labor in the factories of the bourgeoisie. The proletarians were driven into a ceaseless struggle with their oppressors, who were always exploiting them because of capitalisms need for ever cheaper production. But the proletariat, or workers, were destined to win the struggle. The last passage of the manifesto became famous. "The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all lands, unite!"

competition - rivalry. In economics, it refers to a situation in which two or more companies vie for business; if for example, there is competition between sellers for a limited number of buyers, this will tend to bring down the price of the commodity being sold. Buyers can also compete with each other; the result is usually that prices go up. Competition is a cornerstone of the free enterprise system, and extends itself into all areas of U.S. society: people vie for the best university places, the best jobs, etc. According to this idea, competition provide the spur for people to succeed and to excel.

competitiveness - in political speech, competitiveness often refers to the need to make sure that U.S. goodsand services are on a par with or better than those of its foreign competitors. Commentators often point out in this respect that we live in an increasingly competitive world.

compromise - a settlement in which each party gives up something, or makes a concession, for the purpose of reaching an agreement. It also refers to something that is midway between two things. Someone once said that politics is the art of the possible; it might also be said that politics is the art of the compromise. Politicians constantly have to make compromises to keep the widely different groups that make up society, and who all have their own interests to defend, satisfied. Without compromise it is difficult to reach agreements and keep government running.

conciliation - the process of getting two sides in a dispute to agree to a compromise. The conciliator is a third party not involved in the dispute. The agreement has to be voluntary; the process of conciliation, unlike arbitration, does not compel the disputants to accept the proposed solution.

confederation - a group of states which join together to execute some government functions, such as the conduct of defense or foreign policy, but remain independent, sovereign states. The U.S. was a confederation from 1778 until 1787, after which it became a federation.

conflict of interest - a situation in which a person's private interests are in conflict with the public interest that he is entrusted with representing. For example, if a legislator has investments in a certain business, and that business stands to benefit or lose by a particular piece of legislation, he is involved in a conflict of interest. He may choose to declare this conflict and abstain from voting. If he does not, he runs the risk of later being accused of unethical conduct.

congress - a representative assembly, such as the U.S. Congress. In the U.S., Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress also refers to the two-year period which starts on January 3 each odd-numbered year, in which each particular Congress holds its meetings and debates. Thus one can speak of the achievements of, say, the 92nd Congress, or the 101st.

conscientious objector - someone who refuses to serve in the military for religious or moral reasons. They may believe, for example, that it is wrong to fight or kill, under any circumstances.

conscription - compulsory enrollment in the armed services. Also called the draft. The draft was ended in the U.S. in 1973, due to its unpopulaity during the Vietnam war.

consensus - agreement. In politics, consensus refers to occasions when there is broad agreement on specific issues and / or the overall direction of policy, either between political parties or in public opinion. Consensus politics, the seeking for the middle ground on the assumption that society has shared values, is the opposite of politics driven by sharp ideological confrontation.

consent of the governed - the idea that a just government must be based on the consent of the people who live under its jurisdiction. Government must be an expression of the popular will. This concept is found in the writings of theorists from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, especially John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill. Locke's work influenced the Founding Fathers, and the Declaration of Independence states that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."

conservatism - a political philosophy that tends to support the status quo and advocates change only in moderation. Conservatism upholds the value of tradition, and seeks to preserve all that is good about the past. The classic statement of conservatism was by the Irishman Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), in which he attacked the French Revolution. He compared society to a living organism that has taken time to grow and mature, so it should not be violently uprooted. Innovation, when necessary, should be grafted onto the strong stem of traditional institutions and ways of doing things: "it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society."

conservative parties - political parties that advocate conservatism. In the U.S., the Republican party is more conservative than the Democratic party, although the Democrats also have their conservative wing. The trend in the Republican party in the 2010s is towards greater conservatism.

conservative - a person who supports conservatism. Naturally, those who are most conservative are usually those who have most to conserve, such as those who own wealth and property, or who are otherwise privileged, and thus have a stake in the disposition of things as they are. Conservatives tend to be for the free market in economic affairs, and against what they call "big government"???an excessive federal bureaucracy that intervenes in a wide range of social and economic areas. Conservatives prefer a kind of individualistic self-sufficiency. On social issues conservatives are pro-family, anti-abortion, and in general support traditional moral values and religion. Conservatives usually favor a strong military.

consortium - an association or partnership of states or companies. Often used of an association of bankers.

conspicuous consumption - refers to consumption of goods or services that is mainly designed to show off one's wealth. The term was coined by Thorstein Veblen in the 1890s, who said that all classes in society, indulged in conspicuous consumption, even the poor (who, like the wealthy, sometimes buy something that is not essential and which is beyond their means). According to Veblen, the way to decide whether a certain item belongs in the category of conspicuous consumption is to ask, "whether, aside from acquired tastes and from the canons of usage and conventional decency, its result is a net gain in comfort or in the fullness of life."

conspiracy theory - the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of conspiracies that are largely unknown by the public at large. Conspiracy theorists often assume that the political authorities are involved in massive deceptions and cover-ups to disguise their actions and intentions. Official versions of events are regarded with suspicion. Conspiracy theories are probably as old as human society itself. The one that has gripped the public imagination like no other claims that President John Kennedy was killed not by a sole assassin acting alone, as the official Warren Commission concluded, but by a conspiracy involving (take your pick) the Mafia, the Cubans, the CIA, the military-industrial complex. Conspiracy theories have also flourished around the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, in 1968, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 against the United States.

conspiracy - a planning and acting together in secret, especially for an unlawful purpose.

constitution - a document that describes the fundamental legal and political structures of a state. A constitution may be written or unwritten.

constitutional government - a form of government in which a constitution details the powers available to each branch of government, and the rights of the individual in relation to the government. Any action by the government that it not in accord with the constitution is considered illegitimate.

constitutional law - the law that governs relations between the state and the citizens of a country.

constitutional monarchy - a system of government in which the head of state is a hereditary king or queen who rules through a constitution

constitutionalism - government according to a constitution. The term also refers to the branch of political science that deals with the theory of constitutional government.

consul - an official appointed by one country who lives in another country and assists his country's nationals with their business dealings.

consumer activists - people who are active in protecting the interests of consumers by pressing for higher standards of safety, healthfulness, truth in labeling, and customer service among producers of consumer goods.

consumer - in economic terms, someone who consumes goods and uses services. Consumer is distinguished from producer, since a consumer uses the goods or services to fulfill his or her needs, not to produce more goods.

consumption - in economics, the terms refers to the using up of goods or services, as opposed to production. It also refers to the amount used up.

containment - refers to the policy of the U.S. that began in 1947 and continued throughout the Cold War. It aimed to contain communism within its existing limits. This could either be through military means, as in Korea and Vietnam, or through technical and economic assistance to noncommunist countries. See also Cold War.

contempt of court - obstructing the business of a court; disobeying a court order; acting in such a way as to undermine the dignity or authority of a court.

corporation - an organization of people bound together to form a business enterprise or any other stated function. A quarter of U.S. business firms are corporations, but over three-quarters of all sales are through corporations. Ownership shares of a corporation are sold to buyers, but shareholders do not get much direct say in how the corporation is run. Another distinguishing characteristic of a corporation is the principle of limited liability, under which owners of corporations are not liable for debts of the firm.

cosmopolitan - belonging to the whole world, not just one locality or nation. A cosmopolitan person would be at home in many countries; a cosmpolitan city would be one in many different nationalities congregrated.

cost-benefit analysis - a comparison between the cost of a specific business activity and the value of it. A cost-benefit analysis is not limited to monetary calculations, but attempts to include intangible effects on the quality of life. For example, say there is a proposal to build a new factory in a town. The factory may bring economic benefits, but what if also gives off toxic emissions? In a cost-benefit analysis, the increase in jobs and other economic activity that the factory would bring has to measured against the possible damage on the health of the community.

Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon) - was set up in 1949 by Eastern European countries, as a counterpart to Western Europe's Organization for European Economic Co-operation. Comecon existed to coordinate the various national economies???to provide, for example, adequate raw materials, and also to facilitate cooperation in science and technology. Comecon disbanded in 1991.

counter-culture - the term given to the youth movement of the 1960s, which rejected many aspects of mainstream American culture. The counter-culture had both a political and a personal dimension. Politically, it was left-wing. Counter-culturalists loathed the concentration of power and resources in the military-industrial complex, they opposed the Vietnam war, they espoused the causes of minorities, and tried to create a new social order based on cooperation not competition. The counter-culture was strongly anti-authoritarian. It also promoted ecological awareness, feminism, and utopianism. In their search for personal fulfillment, counter-culturalists tried to expand their minds through drugs and meditation; sex and rock music was added to the mix to create a personal ethos of abandonment to a kind of Dionysian freedom. The movement petered out in the early 1970s.


counter-revolution - the overthrowing of a revolution and the return to the social order that preceded it. A famous series of counter-revolutions took place throughout Europe in 1848. After revolutions had overthrown monarchies and autocrats all over the continent, a conservative backlash restored the ousted monarchies and aristocrats to power.

coup d'etat - a sudden revolution in which control of a government is seized by force. Also means a sudden stroke of policy.

court martial - a military court convened for the trying of military personnel for military offenses.

covenant - a binding agreement. In law, a covenant is a writing, under seal, containing the terms of agreement between two parties. A covenant may also be a clause containing a subordinate agreement or stipulation in a deed. Another meaning of covenant, although not used often, is international treaty, such as the Covenant of the League of Nations in 1919.

contract - a legally binding agreement between two or more people. Also refers to the document that describes the terms of the contract.


credibility - believability. In political discourse it sometimes refers to a politician's standing with the electorate. If he is perceived to have broken many promises, for example, his credibility will be low. He will have what is sometime known as a "credibility gap". The same applies to international relations. If a country's policies are always changing, little credibility will be given to each new position adopted.


criminology - the study of crime and criminals.

criterion - a standard of judgment; any rule, principle, law, or fact by which a correct judgment may be formed. The plural is criteria. If someone wishes to apply for Medicaid, for example, they must meet certain criteria before they can be eligible.

cult of personality - the term refers to authoritarian regimes in which the enormous power of the leader is reinforced and enhanced by exaggerated propaganda centered on him personally. The leader's picture is everywhere, on billboards, in public squares and buildings; he is supposed to be the embodiment of wisdom and compassion and courage and leadership-a true father of the country, possessing almost superhuman powers. The term was first used in 1956 by the Russian Communist Party when it denounced Josef Stalin for indulging in a personality cult when he was in power, from 1924 to his death in 1953.

cultural revolution - refers to the period of social and political upheaval in China between 1965 and 1968. The cultural revolution was a massive attempt to reassert the principles of revolutionary Maoism (the doctrine associated with the Chinese leader, Mao Tse Tung) and teach them to a new generation of Chinese. Any elements in the communist party that were considered liberal, or influenced by the model of Russian communism under its then leader, Nikita Khrushchev, were denounced. There were massive party purges. A personality cult of Mao emerged. Revolutionary fervor was whipped up by groups known as Red Guards; writers, economists and other intellectuals were criticized and denounced. Schools and colleges were closed, as thousands of urban teen-agers were sent to work in the countryside. The cultural revolution had run its course by 1968. In ensuing years, many of the measures promoted by the cultural revolution, particularly those which were based solely on ideology rather than practical utility, were gradually eased.

curfew - a time, usually in the evening, after which it is forbidden to appear in the streets or in public places. Curfews are sometimes imposed by an occupying army in a city in order to maintain its control, but in unstable countries in times of great upheaval, the legitimate authorities may impose a curfew as a way of maintaining public order.

currency convertibility - the right to exchange the currency of one country, at the going rate of exchange, for that of another. This enables a person to carry out a transaction in a foreign market whilst using the currency of his own country, which the seller can then convert to his own national currency. Currency convertibility is an essential element of world trade.

currency - refers to legal tender that is "current," that is, it is in circulation as a medium of trade and exchange.

© copyright 2013 by Executive Clarity. All Rights Reserved • email: editor@iamericanspirit.com