Napoleonic law - often considered the chief legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Code Napoleon (Napoleonic law) came into effect in 1804 and remains the law of France. It is a collection of legal principles, in five sections: the Civil Code, the code of civil procedure, the code of criminal procedure and penal law, the penal code, and the commercial code. The Codes were based on common sense rather than any legal theory. According to the Cambridge Modern History, "the Codes preserve the essential conquests of the revolutionary spirit-civil equality, religious toleration, the emancipation of land, public trial, the jury of judgment. . . . In a clear and compact shape, they presented to Europe the main rules which should govern a civilised society."

nation - a large group of people bound together by common tradition and culture and usually language. Sometimes used synonymously with state, but this can be misleading, since one state may contain many nations. For example, Great Britain is a state, but contains the English, Scottish, Welsh, and part of the Irish nations. Iraq is a state, but contains three distinct nations: the non-Arab Kurds, the Shi'te Muslims and the Sunnu Muslims. And single nations may be scattered across many states, as was the case with the Jewish nation which existed in many states before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and is now the case with the Kurds. See also nation state.

nation state - usually used to describe the modern state, but strictly speaking applies only when the whole population of a state feels itself to belong to the same nation. This is certainly more the case now than it was in the nineteenth century and earlier, when large empires, such as Austria-Hungary, were states but contained many nations. But many states today still contain many nations (partly because of the arbitrary way that the borders of states were redrawn after both World Wars, and by the colonial powers as they withdrew from Asia and Africa). After the fall of communism in the early 1990s, many new independent nations were created in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

national debt - the total amount that the national government owes.

national interest - the real interests of the country as a whole. To determine what is in the national interest a community needs common agreement on its goals and the extent to which any proposed action contributes to those goals. This is not always easy to obtain. As P. A. Reynolds states in An Introduction to International Relations: "The words, 'the national interest' are among those most frequently to be heard from the lips of politicians. Many of them, if pressed, might be hard put to say with precision what the words mean, still less to define the criteria by which the interest is to be determined. The term commands such obesiance that to claim an act to be in the national interest immediately, if sometimes spuriously, increases the act's acceptability; and consequently groups in all polities endeavour to identify with the national interest."

national liberation - usually refers to the freeing of a country from colonial rule, or from oppressive rule of any kind. Wars to accomplish this end are often called wars of national liberation; guerrilla groups (usually leftist) that fight to overthrow their governments sometimes call themselves national liberation armies.

nationalism - excessive, narrow patriotism; the belief that the promotion of one's own nation as a culturally distinct and independent entity is more important than any international considerations. Nationalism flourished during the nineteenth century, which saw the rise of the nation-state, and the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, which were composed of many nations. After the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, which held national identities in check, nationalism become one of the chief driving forces in world affairs during the 1990s and was at the root of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

nationalization - the act by which government takes over a business enterprise or service that has formerly been privately owned. Opponents of nationalization say it is inefficient because it leads to overcentralization, and is costly. Supporters say that nationalized industries are easier to coordinate and can be expanded more easily and efficiently.

natural law - the eternal law that governs the entire universe, instituted by God, present in humans, and which should be the basis on which human society rests. Humans can deduce what natural law is through their reasoning power, and their innate moral sense of what is right. Theorizing about natural law and its application in society goes back to Plato and Aristotle. Natural law is contrasted to statute law, which are those laws that are enacted by human authority.

natural rights - similar to what the framers of the U.S. constitution called "unalienable rights," those rights that are given to humans by God or nature, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) embody this concept of natural rights, which was given modern formulation by English, French and American thinkers in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

naturalization - the conferring of citizenship on a person who was formerly an alien, that is, a citizen of another country.

negotiation - discussion; bargaining to reach an agreement.

neo-classical economics - an economic theory that built on the foundation laid by the classical school of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Neo-classical economics, developed in the twentieth century, retained a belief in the value of a free market economy but also developed a theory of prices and markets that did not depend on the classical theory that the value of a good depended on how much labor it incorporated. Neoclassicists argued that price was dependent solely on the forces of supply and demand. See also classical economics.


Neoconservatism - a movement that had a major influence on U.S. foreign policy in the first decade of the twenty-first century, following the terrorists attacks of 9/11. Neoconservatives, or neocons as they were known, advocated an aggressive policy in which the U.S. would directly intervene in the affairs of other nations, including waging preemptive war, in order to promote U.S. interests and values such as democracy. Neocons favored military action and were impatient of diplomacy. They believed the U.S. could and should act alone, without waiting for the approval of the United Nations, an organization they held in low regard. Neocons pushed hard for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the purpose of removing Iraq???s president Saddam Hussein. Neocons also favored aggressive action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and exhibited strong support of Israel.

nepotism - the practice of appointing relatives to positions for which others might be better qualified. In 1961 President John Kennedy feared that when he appointed his brother Robert Kennedy as Attorney General he would be accused of nepotism.

neutrality - legal neutrality under international law is granted to a country that has renounced all war in favor of permanent neutrality. Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, and Ireland are examples of such countries, although they are permitted to defend their borders if attacked. See also nonaligned.

New Deal - the far-reaching social and economic programs enacted during the first and second terms of President Franklin Roosevelt. The New Deal was inaugurated in 1933, to overcome the Great Depression. Unemployment relief was increased, industry and agriculture were revitalized, and large public works and other programs which eventually gave employment to ten million people were set up. Unemployment dropped from 17 million to 7 million. The banking system was also reformed, and in 1935 the Social Security Act was passed, giving security to the working population. The New Deal aroused some opposition at the time as "creeping socialism," but its main provisions have endured.

New Left - a radical movement in American politics that began in the mid-1960s and had run its course by the early 1970s. The New Left grew out of dissatisfaction with Democratic liberalism, which was perceived as not fully embracing the civil rights movement or being fully committed to ending poverty. New Left theorists decided that liberals were no more in favor of change than conservatives. The escalation of the war in Vietnam was another factor that gave rise to the New Left, which supported the Vietnamese, as it did the Black Panther movement at home. Both were seen as allies in the global struggle against racist imperialism.

New Right - the term arose during the 1970s to describe a new type of conservatism that placed the highest values on social issues, and pressed for constitutional amendments permitting prayer in schools and banning abortion. The New Right lost some momentum in the 1980s but remained a potent force in the form of the Christian Coalition and its supporters. Opponents claim that the New Right, or radical right as it is sometimes called, is intolerant of all views but its own. Supporters say they are trying to guide a country that has lost its way back to its moral and spiritual foundations.

Nihilism - from the Latin word, nihil, meaning nothing. Nihilism was an intellectual movement in Russia in the nineteenth century. Nihilists rejected everything in existing society, all authority, all accepted values, traditions and social institutions. They wanted to destroy everything in order to build a new society in which the absolute freedom of the individual was paramount. Nihilists have been compared to the beatniks of America in the 1950s.

Nobel Prize - Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards Nobel prizes to individuals who make outstanding contributions in Literature, Economics, Medicine, Physiology, Physics, and Chemistry in Stockholm, Sweden. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to world peace in Oslo, Norway. The first prize was given in 1901; thereafter, Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel, established a trust fund for the prizes. The Nobel Prizes are announced on October 21, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's birthday; prizes are awarded on December 10, the anniversary of his death. Headquarters is in Stockholm, Sweden.

nobility - high social rank, especially that which is inherited, or which is conferred by title; the body of nobles in any society.

nomads - people who have no permanent home but who constantly move about in search of food and pasture. Nomadic tribes are found in parts of Asia and Africa.

nomination - the naming of a candidate by a party as their representative in an upcoming election; an appointment by the executive branch of the U.S. government of a person to fill a particular office, subject to the confirmation of the Senate.

non-proliferation - not multiplying. The term is used to refer to restrictions on the spread of nuclear weapons. There is a Non-Proliferation Treaty on nuclear weapons that was signed in 1968 by 115 nations and has been signed by 189 as of 2010. However, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, all states with nuclear capability, have not signed. India and Pakistan both conducted tests of their nuclear weapons in 1998, causing new fears of nuclear war. Also, since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 there have been several incidents in which materials used to make nuclear weapons have been smuggled out of Russia and into Europe, leading to new concerns about proliferation. The first decade of the twenty-first century was marked by international concerns over Iran???s apparent desire to develop nuclear weapons.

nonaligned - nonaligned countries choose not to align themselves with any kind of military alliance or bloc. They hold to such ideals as expansion of freedom in the world, replacement of colonization by independent countries, and greater cooperation amongst nations. See also Non-Aligned Movement.

Non-Aligned Movement - an organization of 118 different countries (as of 2010) whose members do not belong to any millitary alliance (such as NATO). The movement was founded in 1961 by Prime Minister Nehru of India, and Presidents Tito of Yugoslavia, and Nasser of Egypt as a vehicle for non-aligned countries to come together to solve problems without benefit of military alliance. Its members represent the full spectrum of political systems from democratic to one-party communist forms of government including countries such as India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba, Egypt, most African and some Latin American countries. A summit is held every 3 years with the host country providing a chairman for the 3-year period until the next summit meeting. The Coordinating Bureau of Foreign Ministers meets more often. The headquarters is the host country.

nonconformist - a person who does not act in accordance with established beliefs or practices, especially in connection with an established church.

non-intervention - the principle that a nation should not interfere in the internal affairs of another during peacetime. The principle is often little adhered to, especially in regions which a great power regards as its own sphere of influence. See also Monroe Doctrine.

nonpartisan - not affiliated with any political party.

nonviolence - the policy of pursuing political goals through peaceful protests involving large numbers of people. Nonviolence as a weapon of protest has been been advocated by the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, and was put into action by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and his followers in India in their campaign for independence from Britain. Nonviolence, coupled with civil disobedience, was also a main plank of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, led by Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-68). Nonviolence can be effective because it carries a moral authority that violence does not, and so can often win widespread sympathy for the protesters. See also civil disobedience.

normalization - return to a standard state or condition. In political speech it refers to when a state brings its relations with another state back to normal after a period of rupture, as when the U.S. decided to normalize its relations with Vietnam in 1995.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - a military alliance signed in 1949 by 16 countries: Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, West Germany, Luxembourg, United States, and Canada. Since 1994, NATO has expanded and as of 2010 has 28 members. New members include the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia. The purpose of NATO is the joint defense of all of its members and the peaceful coexistence with all nations; it regards an attack upon any one member as an attack upon all members. NATO organizes joint defense plans, and military training and exercises. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the principal organization of NATO; it has several committees such as the Defense Planning Committee (DPC) which meet on a regular basis. Headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.

obscenity - something that is indecent and offensive. Obscene material is usually of an explicit sexual nature. A current national debate concerns the proliferation of obscene material over the Internet, and whether it should be censored. Those who oppose censorship often cite free speech, although in 1957 the Supreme Court ruled that obscenity was not protected under the First Amendment. However, one of the problems is that a workable definition of obscenity is hard to come by. Is something obscene, as some argue, if it violates "community standards"? But this begs the question of which community one is talking about, since standards are not uniform throughout the country, nor, perhaps, are they so within different segments of the same community.

obsolescence - in economics, a reduction of the life of capital assets, such as machinery, by improvements in technology or economic changes, rather than through natural wear and tear.

oligarchy - a political system that is controlled by a small group of individuals, who govern in their own interests.

oligopoly - control of goods or services in a given market by a small number of companies. An example is the U.S. auto industry, in which three major manufacturers account for over 90 percent of the output of passenger cars.

olive branch - figurative expression referring to any peace offering from one person or group to another.

ombudsman - a public official who is appointed to investigate complaints by individuals about the activities of government agencies.

omnibus bill - from the Latin meaning "for all," an omnibus legislative bill contains many miscellaneous provisions.

open society - a society, such as the U.S. and most European countries, in which individuals have freedom of movement and there are no restrictions on travel to and from other countries; public buildings and officials are relatively accessible, secrecy is at a minimum and there is a free flow of information. The opposite of a closed society is one such as North Korea, which does not permit free travel or open intercourse with other countries.

opportunism - in politics, the practice of adapting one's actions to gain any short-term personal advantage that may be available, but without regard for principle or long-term consequences.

opposition - the party or parties in a legislative body that are against the party or parties that control the legislature.

oppression - severity, especially when practiced by a government that puts too heavy burden upon its citizens, in terms of taxes or unjust laws.

Organization of African Unity (OAU) - membership consists of independent African states. OAU works to promote solidarity amongst members, improve the quality of life in Africa. Headquarters is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Organization of American States (OAS) - created in 1948 to defend the sovereignty of the nations of South and North America; OAS also is involved in the settlement of disputes and promotion of economic and cultural cooperation in the region. As of 2010 the OAS has 35 members. Headquarters is in Washington, DC.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - an international, intergovernmental organization with 33 member countries; promotes policies designed to achieve the rapid economic growth, employment, and standard of living in member countries, encourages sound economic expansion of world trade on a multilateral, nondiscriminatory basis in accordance with international obligations. Holds annual ministerial meeting every May in Paris, France where its headquarters is located.

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) — OPEC's 12 members are the oil producing nations from the Middle East, Asia, and South America. OPEC coordinates the policies of members and determines the best means to safeguard their interests such as ensuring the stabilization of international oil prices. Headquarters is in Vienna, Austria.

orthodoxy - the generally, conventionally accepted principles or beliefs of a religion, or political party; the usual view.

ozone layer - ozone is a form of oxygen that is found in the earth's upper atmosphere. The ozone layer screens out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In recent years, holes have started to appear in the ozone layer, which are attributed to widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), commonly found in spray cans, refrigerators, and air-conditioning units. Damage to the ozone layer is expected to result in a variety of problems, among them an increase in skin cancer. However, in 2003, scientific studies showed that ozone depletion may be slowing, because of the worldwide ban on CFCs.

© copyright 2013 by Executive Clarity. All Rights Reserved • email: