Machiavellian - one who adopts the principles of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), a Florentine political theorist who advocated the use of duplicity and cunning in political affairs. Machiavelli thought man was naturally evil and was best governed by the use of fear and force: "Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature." An unscrupulous and crafty strategy was acceptable because the ends justified the means.

macroeconomics - a branch of economics that is concerned with the overall picture of the economy, with aggregates rather than individual parts. Macroeconomics deals with data such as the level of employment, Gross National Product, economic growth, balance of payments, inflation, etc., rather than with individual companies or markets, which is the province of microeconomics.

magistrate - a judge of a minor court.


majority - more than half of a given thing, as when a political party has the largest share of seats in a legislature; also means being of full legal age, as in she reaches her majority on her next birthday.

Malthusian - refers to the theory of Thomas Malthus, an eighteenth century British clergyman and professor of political economy, whose Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) developed the theory that the world's population tended to grow faster than its food supply. If the population continued to increase, there would be mass starvation. Malthus thought that famine, poverty, and war were natural checks against population growth and should not be alleviated by misguided compassion. Malthus also advocated restraint on the size of families. Although Malthus was proved incorrect as far as Western industrial society is concerned, the dramatic world population growth in the twentieth century, and the fact that some Third World nations cannot feed their rising populations, has led to a renewed interest in Malthusian theories in some circles.

mandate - an order or command; the wishes of constituents expressed to a representative. Politicians usually like to maintain that they have a mandate for the policies they pursue, which gives the policies the legitmacy that they need. When politicans win elections by big margins they tend to assume they have a mandate, and are sometimes thereby more bold in pursuing their goals than they might otherwise be. During the Clinton administration (1993-2001), some of Bill Clinton's opponents questioned whether Clinton had a mandate from the people because he was elected president in 1992 and 1996 with less than 50 percent of the vote. This was because of a strong showing by a third-party candidate.

manifesto - a public statement of beliefs or plans by a government or other group, such as the communist manifesto.

maritime law - a collection of laws, built up by custom over centuries, that relate to shipping. Maritime law deals with such matters as registration, license, and inspection procedures; with contracts regarding insurance, carrying of goods and passengers, towage, supplies.

market - the buying and selling of goods and commodities, in a marketplace. This has nothing to do with a particular location-it refers only to the conditions where buyers and sellers can conduct business together. A market results whenever the forces of supply and demand operate.

market forces - refers to the mechanism by which basic questions of buying and selling are answered, such as the quantity of goods to be produced, the price they are to be sold at, etc., when this takes place without governement intervention. If, for example, a supply of certain goods suddenly becomes scarce (say a fruit crop is badly affected by the weather), the law of supply and demand will ensure that the price for those goods goes up, and this is an example of market forces at work.

martial law - rule of a state by the military, usually as a temporary measure, caused by an emergency. The term can also refer to a period of harsh rule by a military regime that is not sanctioned by popular vote or the nation's constitution. For example, for much of the 1980s, Pakistan was placed under martial law by the military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq.

Marxism - the theory developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which became the official doctrine of communism. According to Marxism, the key to how society operated was economics; all other aspects of society, such as politics and religion, were conditioned by the economic system. Under capitalism, society was divided into two classes: the capitalists who owned the means of production and distribution, and the workers, or proletariat, whose labor was exploited by the ruling class. Marx saw history as a dialectical process in which two opposing forces (thesis and antithesis) generate a third, synthesizing force. According to this view, capitalism would eventually break down because of its own contradictions and this would lead to the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the classless society. In the later part of nineteenth century Marxism was adopted by labor and socialist movements in Europe. In the twentieth century Marxist governments came to power in Russia and Eastern Europe, and in varying guises, in Asian countries such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, in Cuba, and in some African countries. In none of these countries did the state eventually wither away and a classless society replace it. On the contrary, Marxist societies were characterized by large and inefficient bureaucracies and had all the trappings of a police state. After the collapse of Soviet and Eastern European communism in 1989 and 1990, Marxism remained a viable system in only a few countries.

Marxist - a believer or expert in Marxism.

Marxism-Leninism - the term was first used by Stalin in 1924: it referred to the interpretation of Marxism by Lenin, which became the official Soviet ideology during the rule of Stalin, and beyond. It included the doctrine, devloped from Lenin, that the absolute power of the communist party had to be maintained during the interim period of the building of socialism. However, much communist ideology was so adapted by Stalin that some of it bore little relation to Marx's or Lenin's original thoughts. For example, it was Stalin, not Marx or Lenin, who proclaimed "socialism in one country" (the idea that socialism could succeed in Russia without the assistance of worldwide revolution). See also Marxism; Leninism.

mass hysteria - when irrational, or wild and uncontrollable behavior spreads rapidly through a crowd, or through a section of society. The notorious Salem witch trials in seventeenth-century Massachusetts, in which innocent people were put to death, was an example.So was the mass panic that spread in a number of American cities in 1938, when a radio broadcast of Orson Welles' adaption of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds???about the invasion of earth by Martians???was misinterpreted as a genuine news report of a real event.

mass media - the media that reaches huge numbers of people: television (over 99 percent of American homes have one), radio, newspapers and magazines, and the Internet (including blogs and podcasts). A study in 2008 by the Pew Research Center showed that 40 percent of people got most of their their news about national and international events from the Internet. Thirty-five percent cited newspapers as their primary source. Television was cited by 70 percent of people as a main source of news. (Numbers add up to more than 100 because people cited more than one source.) Amongst people under 30, 59 percent said they got most of their news from the Internet, about the same number as cited television. The mass media has a huge amount of power to shape public opinion on a range of issues, and politicians regularly complain of media bias, one way or the other.


masses - the vast majority of people in a given population; the common people.

massive retaliation - part of the concept of deterrence during the Cold War. The policy of massive retaliation meant that any nuclear attack on the U.S. would be met by an overwhelming nuclear response. The belief was that knowledge of this policy would deter the Soviet Union from launching a first strike.

materialism - putting the highest value on the acquisition of wealth and consumer goods rather than in developing a spiritual or moral life. In philosophy, materialism is the doctrine that describes matter as the only reality-even mind and feelings can be explained in terms of matter.

matriarchy - a society that is dominated by women, the opposite of patriarchy. Also refers to a society or tribe where inheritance is passed down through the female line.

mayhem - in law, the offense of deliberately maiming a person.

McCarthyism - to accuse a person, or a number of persons, of subversive activities by the use of smears and half-truths, and without any supporting evidence. The term alludes to Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-56) who claimed in 1950 that he had the names of 57 "card-carrying" commmunists in the State Department. He produced no evidence, but continued his witch hunt against alleged communists for several years, using it as a means of attacking leading Democrats and intellectuals. McCarthy was censured by the Senate in 1954, but not before his demogogery had sent a wave of fear, known as the "red scare," through American society.

media - all the means by which news is disseminated in society: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and Internet, including social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Conservatives often claim that the mainstream media is biased against them, and this dissatisfaction has in part led to the rise of "talk radio," call-in shows which are dominated by right-wing hosts and contributors, such as Rush Limbaugh. The U.S. has been called the world's first "media state," in which the media dominates the political process. Because of the decline in political party organizations, politicians now take their message straight to the people via the media. Elections can be won or lost by paid TV advertising campaigns; "media events," designed to showcase the candidate and his wares, are carefully orchestrated. But the media has imposed its own laws on political discourse. Speeches, instead of being full of carefully argued substance, are geared to 10-second or less "sound bites" for the evening news; a politician's "image" is everything, and is carefully crafted by media-savvy experts. The result is often a media-packaged candidate whose real nature and political convictions are hard to determine.

mediation - the use of an independent party to help settle a dispute between two other parties. Mediation is sometimes used in labor disputes or in international disputes. Unlike in arbitration, the disputants enter into no agreement to accept the suggestions of the mediator.

mercenary - a person who offers his services for pay, and does not have any personal adherence to the cause he represents. Usually used of a mercenary soldier, but can apply in other fields as well.

mercantilism - a school of economics in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that was directly opposite to the school of classical economics. Unlike the laissez faire classicists, mercantilists believed in government action designed to encourage the flow of gold and other precious metals into the country.

meritocracy - a society in which power is wielded by those who deserve it, based on their talents, industry, and success in competition, rather than through membership of a certain class or the possession of wealth, etc. America prides itself on being a meritocracy, an equal opportunity society; the ideal of a meritocracy is often cite today by those who oppose affirmative action programs.

messianism - a doctrine that is inspired by the prospect of the imminent arrival of a messiah, a savior, who will lead his people to freedom.

methodology - the science of methods; a system of methods.

microeconomics - a branch of economics that deals with the individual parts of an economy, rather than the aggregate, which is the sphere of macroeconomics.

military-industrial complex - the extremely close political, economic and bureaucratic relationship that exists between the Pentagon and its network of defense contractors. The phrase was coined by President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961, when he warned that "In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Because of the huge amounts of money (and large numbers of jobs) involved, the military-industrial complex has a profound influence on the nation's security policies.

militia - an armed force of citizen soldiers. Originally, militia systems were based on the idea that every citizen was obliged to serve his country; George Washington's army consisted of 41 percent militia. The other justification for a militia is that it safeguards the country against the possibility of gross abuse of power by a government or professional army. The Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," a clause that is hotly debated today by gun control advocates and their opponents. The state militia were replaced in 1916 by the National Guard. However, during the 1990s there was a resurgence of interest in the idea of a citizen's militia, and many states now have such organizations. Some of them are dominated by right-wing patriots and believers in conspiracy theories, who believe the U.S. government is becoming a tyranny and they must take steps to defend themselves against it before it is too late.

millenarianism - the term originally referred to the Christian belief that Christ would return, and in this Second Coming, he would establish his thousand year reign (the millenium), which would be followed by the Last Judgment of all humanity. The term is now used in a wider sense to describe a certain form that this belief has taken in Christian sects and movements. Norman Cohn, in his classic book, The Pursuit of the Millenium, describes the following beliefs that millenarian movements profess: Salvation is thought to be collective (that is, to be enjoyed by the faithful as a group); it will be realized on this earth, not in an other-worldly heaven; it will come soon, probably within the lifetime of the believers; it will utterly transform all life on earth to perfection; and it will be miraculous, in that it will be accomplished by supernatural agencies. Millenarian sects and movements flourished at various times in Europe from the eleventh to the seventeenth century. Elements of millenarian beliefs are found in many Christian churches and movements today, and some "New Age" groups profess similar beliefs, often shorn of their Christian jargon.

minimum wage - the lowest hourly rate that an empoyer must pay an employee. Federal law mandating a minimum wage was first enacted in 1938, when the rate was set at 25 cents an hour. In 2010 the federal minimum wage was $7.25 an hour. Over 32 U.S. states have minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal level. Supporters of a minimum wage law say it reduces poverty. Opponents say it increases unemployment among lower-skilled workers because employers would have to reduce the number of jobs to meet higher wage bills. Some argue that increasing the minimum wage would lead to job losses by prompting factories to move to countries with even lower wages, such as Mexico.


minority - less than half. The Senate minority leader, for example, is the leader of the party that has less than 50 percent of the seats in the Senate. Minority also refers to ethnic or racial groups in a society, when they form part of a large society. A Native American, for example, is referred to as a minority, as are Native Americans collectively. The same applies to African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups.

mixed economy - an economy in which elements from the free enterprise system are combined with elements of socialism. Most industrial economies, now including those in the post-communist world, are mixed economies. Even in the U.S., that bastion of capitalism, some enterprises, such as the Post Office, are publically owned, and private business is subject to many federal regulations.

mobilization - the process of calling up the armed forces in preparation for war.

moderate - not extreme. Moderate political policies are those that occupy the middle ground, between the right and the left, and that do not try to effect fundamental societal change. As such, moderate is the opposite of radical.

modus operandi - Latin phrase meaning manner of working, as in the modus operandi of an army, an organization, a political system.

modus vivendi - Latin phrase meaning "manner of living," which is used to describe informal arrangements in political affairs, as in the two sides reached a modus vivendi regarding the disputed territories. They may not agree, but they have worked out a way of living with their differences.

momentum - the impetus of something that is already moving. In election campaigns, politicians always strive for momentum-a good performance in one presidential primary, for example, will give them momentum going into the next one.

monarchy - form of rulership whereby a queen or king, empress or emperor holds absolute or limited power, usually inherited. In this century most European monarchies have become constitutional or limited, meaning political power is vested in elected officials and the monarch's duties are largely ceremonial. Such monarchies often represent a strong symbol of national identity in the people's minds. In some countries of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia monarchs still continue to hold absolute power.

monetarism - the economic school that places growth in the money supply as central to economic planning.

money supply - the amount of money in an economy, made up of circulation currency and demand deposits (checking accounts) in commercial banks (the latter make up three-quarters of the money supply). It does not include U.S. government deposits. The total amount of money supply results from the interaction of banks, the Federal Reserve, business, government, and consumers.

monism - the doctrine that only one ultimate being exists. Thus Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monistic religions.

monopoly - exclusive control of something. In economics, it refers to exclusive control of a commodity or service in a given market-which usually leads to higher prices for the consumer. Monopolies are not common in American industry, partly due to anti-trust laws. The term also refers to an exclusive privilege, granted by the state, of engaging in a particular business or providing a service.

Monroe Doctrine - a U.S. foreign policy that opposes European intervention in the political affairs of the Western hemisphere. It was first laid down by President James Monroe in 1823, who stated that "the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. . . . We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any part of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." In return, the U.S agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Europe. The Monroe Doctrine was at the center of debate regarding U.S. involvement in World War I and World War II, and was also invoked during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. However, analysts claim that the Monroe Doctrine is now declining in importance.

moralism - a doctrine that prescribes a code of ethics but does not link it to religion.

muckraking - a journalist who exposes conduct or practices that are against the public interest. Modern day journalists who expose malpractices prefer to be called "investigative reporters." Referring to a character from Pilgrim's Progress, President Theodore Roosevelt first applied the term to early 20th century reporting practices, calling them the "men with the muckrakes." He criticized them for focusing exclusively on corruption without providing a positive outlook for social problems.

mudslinging - the practice of trying to discredit political opponents by spreading lies, distortions, and innuendo about them. Mudslinging is part of what is today called "negative campaigning," and by many accounts has been on the rise in recent election campaigns, although it has existed as long as politics has.

multilateralism - pertaining to several sides. It can refer to international trade between more than two countries without discrimination between them, or to international diplomatic accords or treaties between more than two states. It is multilateralism, for example, when the U.S. consults with its European allies before making important foreign policy decisions, so that a unified position may emerge.

multinational corporations - corporations that have operations in more than one country. Many of these corporations are very large, with budgets that exceed that of some nations??? GDP. The majority of them are American or Japanese.


multipolar - having many poles. The term is often used to refer to the post-Cold War world, which is multipolar rather than bipolar, meaning that there are now many centers of global power rather than just two (the U.S. and the Soviet Union.)

multiple warheads - several warheads (the part of the weapon that carries the explosive charge) on one strategic missile. Multiple warheads are also referred to as MIRVs, for multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles. Each warhead can be guided to a different target. The creation of multiple warheads in the 1980s made the nuclear balance between the superpowers more unstable because it made a first strike more attractive. Al Gore explained how the thinking went: "If the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. have three missiles apiece and that's their total arsenal, and each missile has six warheads, then the nation launching a first strike can launch one missile and put two warheads there, two there, and two there [Gore hits three paper cups on a table]. In the aftermath, the aggressor has two thirds of its forces remaining, and the victim has none." (Quoted in The Power Game, by Hedrick Smith.)

municipal law - local legislation; also refers to the national law of a country, as opposed to international law.


Muslim Brotherhood - a fundamentalist Islamic group that is a political force in several Arab countries. In Egypt it is banned, but supporters still run for office, calling themselves independents. In elections in Egypt in 2005, the Brotherhood became the largest opposition party in the National Assembly. in Jordan the Muslim Brotherhood holds more seats in the parliament than any other party.<

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