Fabianism - the socialist ideas outlined by the Fabian society, a group founded in Britain in 1884. It rejected violent revolution, arguing that socialism would come about through the ballot box after a long period of political evolution.

faction - a group within an organization (often within a political party) that has different goals than those of the party as a whole, and seeks to promote those goals. James Madison warned against what he saw as the dangers of factions when he defined the term: "A number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse or passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interest of the community." In modern political speech, faction does not necessarily have a negative connotation, however. It can mean simply subgroup, as in the moderate (or liberal, or conservative), faction in a political party.

fait accompli - a French phrase that means literally an accomplished fact. A fait accompli refers to something that is already done, making any debate over it useless. In politics, an executive might simply go ahead and make a decision, perform an action, initiate a policy, as a way of bypassing potential opposition. He can then present his actions as a fait accompli, so wrong-footing his opponents.

fascism - a nationalistic, authoritarian, anti-communist movement founded by Benito Mussolini in Italy in 1919. Fascism was a response to the economic hardship and social disorder that ensued after the end of World War I. The main elements of fascism were pride in the nation, anti-Marxism, the complete rejection of parliamentary democracy, the cultivation of military virtues, strong government, and loyalty to a strong leader. Fascists wore a uniform of a black shirt and and used a greeting derived from ancient Rome of the outstretched arm. Mussolini's Black Shirts (as they were known) seized power in 1922. A movement modeled on fascism, Germany's National Socialism (Nazism) also began its rise in the 1920s. In 1936 in Spain, General Francisco Franco's fascists seized power and precipitated a three-year civil war, with Franco victorious. Italian fascism collapsed with the death of Mussolini and the end of World War II. Although since then there have been South American military regimes that have adopted some of the terminology and concepts of fascism, fascism in its classic form is considered to have died with Mussolini. Sometimes the term is used now as a term of abuse, triggered by any real or imagined outbreak of authoritarian thought or behavior.

featherbedding - refers to a labor union practice of limiting work or output in order to preserve jobs. Featherbedding may result in the employment of unnecessary workers.

federalism - the system of government that operates in a federation.

federation - a state made up of a number of subdivisions or individual states, which share power with the central government. Each of the smaller units retains control of many aspects of its own affairs, but grants to the larger political unit the power to conduct foreign policy. The relationship between the states and the central, or federal government, is laid down in a constitution, which cannot be changed without the consent of a specified number of states (in the U.S. it is two-thirds). The United States is a federation, as are Australia and Canada.

fellow traveler - someone who goes along with a specific belief without openly endorsing it. Often used in respect of communism, about those who are not members of the communist party but who support its cause. Fellow travelers may lie low because they do not want to risk the consequences of associating with dangerous or unpopular beliefs. The term is used in an accusatory way: calling someone a fellow traveler is a hostile comment.

feminism - see women's movement.

feminist - one who supports the beliefs and goals of feminism. A feminist is usually a woman, but a man can be a feminist too.

feudalism - a medieval form of social economic and political organization. Feudalism had a pyramidal structure. At its head was the king; below the king was a hierarchical chain of nobles, down to the lords of individual manors-the manor being the basic social and economic unit. The lords leased land to tenants, offering them protection in exchange for military and other services. Society was thus knit together in a network of obligation and service. The lowest part of the pyramid was occupied by serfs, who were obliged to cultivate the land belonging to their lord. There was thus no mobile middle class in feudalism; social rank was fixed by inheritance and could not be changed. When at the end of the Middle Ages a middle class did begin to emerge, it marked the beginning of the end of feudalism.

fiat - an order or decree issued by a legal authority. A fiat may be of an arbitrary nature, as, for example, when it is used as an instrument of government by an authoritarian regime that is not compelled to have laws approved by a legislative body. Government by fiat may be the last resort of a regime that has no legitimate mandate to rule.

fifth column - a treasonous group or faction who give support to an enemy. For example, a nation might be successfully fighting an external enemy, but then be undone by the appearance of a fifth column within their midst. The term dates from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), in which four columns of rebels attacked Madrid, while rebel contingents within Madrid organized a campaign of sabotage and uprisings. They became known as the fifth column.

figurehead - someone who is nominally in a position of authority but who holds no real power.

filibuster - holding up legislation or other business in the U.S. Senate by organizing continuous speeches in opposition so that no vote can be taken. It needs 60 Senators to vote to end a filibuster. Filibusters are often used by minority groups, to offset their numerical disadvantage. In the 111th Congress (2009-11), for example, there were a record number of filibusters in the U.S. Senate, including 100 in the first eleven months, mounted by the Republican minority.

fireside chat - the term has its origins in the radio addresses given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Roosevelt aimed for informality, to convey the impression that he was speaking directly to all the American people, grouped around their own firesides. The term can be used today when a contemporary president or any politician attempts to do a similar thing.

fiscal policy - the use government makes of its taxing and spending powers to achieve particular ends, such as the rate of growth of the money supply, the amount of the budget deficit or surplus. Fiscal policy includes decisions about what level of taxation, and what type of taxation (direct, like income tax, and indirect, like sales tax), to impose.

foreign policy - the objectives pursued by a state in its dealings with other states, and the methods and course of action used to pursue them. P. A. Reynolds, in An Introduction to International Relations, defines foreign policy as "The range of actions taken by varying sections of the government of a state in its relations with other bodies similarly acting on the international stage . . . in order to advance the national interest."

fourth estate - the press, and other media. The term was first used in England in the eigtheenth century. Estate means the same as class, the other three being nobility, commoners, and clergy.

franchise - a privilege granted to an individual or a corporation by a government to operate a business. The term also refers to a practice in the retail trade where a company (the franchisor) gives another company (the franchisee) the right to operate under the franchisor's name. The advantage for the franchisee is that they can have immediate name recognition for their business (particularly if the franchisor is nationally known). The franchisor gains by expanding their business with the minimum of capital.

free enterprise - the economic system that is fundamental to capitalism. The means of production are privately owned and decisions regarding producing and pricing are governed by market forces. i.e., prices are regulated only by free market competition. There is only minimal government intervention.

free market - economic transactions that are conducted under the conditions of a free enterprise, market economy, i.e. one that is controlled only by forces of supply and demand. See also supply and demand.

front organizations - organizations that provide respectable cover for subversive or criminal activities. The mafia, for example, conducts many of its operations under cover of apparently respectable businesses, which serve as front organizations.

free trade - international exchange of goods without government regulation, such as tariffs, quotas, exchange controls, subsidies to domestic producers, etc. The principles of free trade hold that a country which is efficient at producing a given product will profit from exporting it to countries which are less efficient at producing it. In return, such a country can use the wealth it gains for exports to buy goods and services that are being more efficiently produced elsewhere. When each country focuses on what it does best, market forces of supply and demand organize distribution for maximum economic growth, and consumers benefit from lover prices. In 1995 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) marked a new leap towards worldwide free trade. Tariffs were cut by an average of 40 percent in the 124 participating countries.

fundamentalism - the term is usually applied to a certain kind of religious conservatism, whether Christian, Muslim or other, that takes the words of the Bible, or other sacred text, as literal truth, and advocates the adherence to Biblical (or Koranic) prescriptions and values in social and political life, as well as private life. Christian fundamentalists, for example, advocate the teaching in schools of what they call creation science, which asserts that the Biblical account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis is literally true and can be read as real history and real science. Critics accuse Christian fundamentalists of intolerance and censorship; fundamentalists reply that they merely wish to return the country to its roots in Christian civilization and Christian moral values.

gag rule - any order from a court, or other authority, not to discuss something. For example, the administration of President George Bush (1989-1993) instituted a gag rule that disallowed federally financed family-planning clinics from informing their patients of the availability of abortion services. (The rule was lifted by the Clinton administration in 1993.)

general strike - a strike that is not limited to one trade or industry, but involves several, and is sufficiently widespread to paralyze the economy. In U.S. history, general strikes occurred in the early days of unionism but were generally short-lived, and diminished as labor unions became more practiced and successful at negotiating with employers. The general strike has been a more effective weapon in Europe. In Britain in 1926, for example, a general strike involving miners and transportation workers brought the country to a standstill for nine days.

genocide - the systematic killing of a whole people. The term was first applied to the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews during World War II. It has been applied more recently to the war in Bosnia, where the Serbs have been accused of practicing genocide against the Muslim population, and to ethnic conflict in Rwanda in 1994, which resulted in the killing of thousands of members of the Tutsi tribe by Hutus. Another example in history would be the killing of an estimated 600,000 Armenians by the Turks in 1915. See also Holocaust.

geopolitics - the influence of geographic factors on international politics. These include size, location, natural resources, topography, and terrain. To give just a few examples of geopolitical considerations: the Middle East, as a main route between east and west has always been considered of great strategic importance, and since the discovery of oil in the region it has become even more so. Topography has historically been important for Britain, because as an island it could not be conquered except by the sea. Therefore it built up the biggest navy in the world, which also encouraged trading and the acquisition of overseas territories, which led to the development of the British Empire. Geographic influences on foreign-policy-making tend to be stable over time and change only slowly.

gerontocracy - a government controlled by old men.

gerrymander - to deliberately and unfairly arrange voting districts to favor one party or group—usually by those who are in power and want to preserve it. However, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 encouraged a new kind of gerrymandering—it has been called "affirmative gerrymandering"—the rearranging of electoral districts so that they contain a large percentage of minorities, and so greatly increase the chance that a minority candidate will be elected to office. This sometimes results in Congressional districts of unusual shapes that have (so opponents of the practice argue) no justification, since they are spread wide geographically, and do not constitute a real community with common interests. "Affirmative gerrymandering" was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1977, but in June, 1995, the Supreme Court ruled that such gerrymandered districts were unconstitutional.


globalization - usually used to refer to the emergence in recent years of a global economy based on the principle of free trade. Trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) accelerated this process. Advocates of globalization say it ensures growing prosperity for everyone; in the U.S. it has resulted in benefits for consumers, since it enables large retailers to import goods at low prices. However, globalization also allows U.S. companies to move their operations to low-wage regions of the world, thus causing a loss of domestic jobs. Critics also point to the downside of the economic interdependence that globalization has produced: an economic crisis in one area will produce a ripple effect throughout the world, as happened as a result of the economic crisis that began in the United States in 2008. Still other experts are concerned that economic globalization gives too much power to multinational corporations, at the possible expense of human rights and democracy.

gross national product (GNP) - the value of all the goods and services produced by a country in a one-year period. GNP is used as a means of assessing the condition of a nation's economy.

gold standard - refers to a monetary system in which the unit of currency is equivalent to a given amount of gold; currencies can be converted into gold at a fixed price; and gold is usable as a currency. The gold standard has not been in operation in any country since the 1930s, as a result of the worldwide disruption caused by the Great Depression. In other words, the value of the currency is not related to the value of gold on the free market.

good offices - the means by which a state that is not party to a dispute may be a channel for suggestions by others for a settlement, but does not get otherwise involved.

Gordian knot - in Greek legend, an oracle revealed that a knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia could ony be undone by one who was destined to become the ruler of all of Asia. Alexander the Great tried to untie it but failed, after which he cut it with his sword. The phrase now refers to any perplexing or apparently insoluble problem, and to cut the Gordian knot refers to finding a quick solution. So the attempts of Congress to reduce the U.S. budget deficit might be described as attempts to cut the gordian knot of the budget deficit.

graft - to use public office for private gain; to take advantage of one's position to make money. In 1995, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich revealed that he had accepted a $4.5 million book advance shortly after becoming Speaker, he was accused in some quarters of graft. (He later rejected the advance.)

grandstanding - the term refers to a deliberate attempt to win applause from an audience. In political speech, a politician might be accused of grandstanding when he makes statements or speeches that are designed to win quick applause from the public, or certain sections of it, but which do not contribute substantially to the matter under discussion (although the politician will undoubtedly deny that he is grandstanding: he is, of course, making serious and constructive proposals.)

greenhouse effect - also called global warming, it is caused by atmospheric pollutants, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels (like the gasoline in automobiles) that form a barrier in the upper atmosphere which traps the heat being radiated from the earth. Since the heat cannot escape, temperatures at the earth's surface begin to rise, creating changes in the earth's weather patterns.

guerrilla - a person who practices guerrilla warfare.

guerrilla warfare - the term guerrilla comes from the Spanish, meaning skirmishing warfare. Guerrilla warfare is when a small band of irregular soldiers, which would be no match the enemy in a conventional battle, wages war by making surprise attacks on enemy supply lines, etc.

guild - an association for the promotion of mutual interests or for mutual aid, as in a writers guild, etc. Guilds arose in medieval times, when men of the same craft or trade would group together to uphold standards and protect each other.

habeas corpus - a right that safeguards a person against illegal imprisonment. Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase that means literally "you must have the body." It refers to a writ that requires a person to be brought before a court to establish whther he is being detained legally.

hack - a worker for a political party, usually at a fairly low level of the organization, who is unquestioning in his loyalty to the party. Also refers to someone hired to do writing, often of a routine or uninspired nature.

hard currency - currency that has a stable value in international exchange and is therefore freely convertible into currency of other countries. The opposite is soft currency, which is subject to exchange controls. Hard currency serves as an international currency.

head of state - in a presidential system, the head of state is the president himself, who is considered to be the symbolic embodiment of the nation. In parliamentary systems, the head of state is not the prime minister but a figure considered to be above politics and representing the nation as a whole. In these systems the head of state may have mainly a ceremonial function, as in present-day Germany and Israel. In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen is the head of state-their real power may be limited but their symbolic power may be great.

hierarchy - an organization with people ranked in order of grade, rank, etc. An executive, for example, would be high in the company hierarchy; a sales clerk would be low in that hierarchy.

hegemony - authority or influence. Usually used to refer to international affairs, to describe the dominance of a specific country, as in the nineteenth century was the period of British hegemony; the post-World war II era was one of U.S. and Soviet hegemony.

holocaust - the systematic extermination in gas chambers built in concentration camps of 6,000,000 Jews by the Nazis in World War II. The Holocaust was the most terrible example of genocide in modern history, perhaps in the entire history of the world. It marked the only time that the resources of a large industrial state have been dedicated to rounding up, transporting and killing so many people in such a short space of time, for no reason other than the victims' race. Jews were gathered from all over Europe for the slaughter; in one two-month period in 1944, 438,000 Jews were shipped to Auschwitz alone. This is what awaited them: "The victims, unsuspecting, walked to the gas chambers under the blank and baleful gaze of the SS, and then were turned into smoke that blackened the skies, and a stench so awful and pervasive that Lyon [a survivor, Gloria Lyon, who was taken to Auschwitz when she was fourteen] lost her sense of smell for nearly five decades after." (From Newsweek, on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.)

hostage - someone who is held against his will, as a bargaining counter or as security. For example, in the 1980s, terrorists in the Middle East took Westerners hostage frequently, hoping to use them as a bargaining counter to win the release of Arab prisoners in U.S. and Israeli jails. In 1995, Serb forces in Bosnia took U.N. soldiers hostage, trying to use them as security, hoping to prevent an attack by NATO forces. In the twenty-first century, Somali pirates have taken many hostages off the east African coast.

human rights - Human rights were defined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. It was a historic step brought about in response to the horrors of World War 11. Article 1 of the declaration states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Article 2 states, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." President Jimmy Carter's administration(1977-81) made human rights an important aspect of American foreign policy; those countries that violated human rights were less likely to have good relations with the U.S. than those who observed those rights. Human rights continue to be an important factor in U.S. relations with the rest of the world. In the 1990s, the debate over U.S. relations with China revolved around China's poor human rights record, and whether that was reason enough to cancel China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status with the U.S. (MFN was granted permanently to China in 2000.)

humanitarian - an individual or organization devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity, especially to relieve pain and suffering. Thus the Red Cross is a humanitarian organization; sending aid to starving people is a humanitarian act.

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