pacifism - the doctrine that holds that war is never justifiable and that all disputes between nations should be settled peacefully. Probably the most powerful statements in favor of pacifism this century were written by Russian novelist turned Christian anarchist, Leo Tolstoy, in tracts such as "Bethink Yourselves," written to protest the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05.

pact - a broad term that refers to an international agreement, such as the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939.

pan-African - the movement that aspires to the unification of all Africa, a federal arrangement that would result in a kind of United States of Africa, and which would be based on African traditions. Pan-Africanism began in earnest in the early 1900s, and gathered momentum in the 1950s as African countries began to win their independence from colonial rule. In 1963 the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded, and it has since been the primary continent-wide African organization. But over the last forty years, much of the steam has gone out of pan-Africanism. Ethnic, regional, and ideological barriers have been too great, and many of the newly independent African countries have been reluctant to contemplate surrendering their sovereignty to an all-African federation.


pan-Arab - the movement toward Arab unity, associated with the name of Gamel Abdel Nasser, who was president of Egypt from 1956 to 1970. Nasser made Egypt into the dominant Arab power and in 1958 he spearheaded a union betwen Egypt and Syria, hoping eventually to unite all the Arab nations under his leadership. But Iraq resisted and Syria withdrew from the union in 1961. Although the Arab world is still divided, for decades the Arab nations have been trying to achieve the political unity among themselves envisioned by Nasser. In spite of the many differences between the nineteen Arab nations, the Arabs feel themselves to be united by a common language, Arabic, and by their Islamic culture, which permeates all aspects of daily life.

pan-Islamic - a mainly nineteenth century movement that aimed at uniting all Muslims. Pan-Islamism made some progress in India but it failed in 1914, when the Indian Muslims failed to rise up in support of a proclamation by the Muslim Ottoman Empire of a Holy War against the Christian British occupiers. However, in recent years, the idea of a pan-Islamic movement has found renewed vigor in Islamic fundamentalism, which is unified in its opposition to the Westernization of Islamic societies.

panacea - a cure-all, as in the government did not present its proposals as a panacea, but as a first step to tackling certain social problems.

paramilitary - forces that work along side of, or in place of, regular military forces. Often they do not have any official sanction and act in secret. Some of the citizens' militias that have recently sprung up in the U.S. are paramilitary organizations.

parity - equality. In political discourse, the term is employed in a variety of contexts: employment parity (when the makeup of a company's workforce is the same as the makeup of the population as a whole in its region); racial parity (when economic status of racial groups is equal); wage parity (the requirement that workers in certain occupations receive the same pay as workers in another, specified occupation).

Parliament - the name was first given to the British legislature, which dates back to 1275, and has since been adopted in many other countries. Countries with parliaments operate under the parliamentary rather than presidential system. The government is formed by the party that has a majority of seats in parliament. The government then controls the legislature, until such time as it lose its majority, usually in an election, but sometimes also by a vote of confidence.

parochialism - thinking in small, local, narrow ways, opposed to universalism.

participatory democracy - a system of government in which individuals and interest groups are involved directly in decision-making.

partisan - adhering to one party or another in a debate or on an issue, as in , the debate was dominated by partisan politics.

partition - the division of a country into parts. This happened, for example, in Ireland in 1922, when the country was divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and in Germany in 1945, when it was partitioned into West Germany and East Germany.

party - see political party

party line - the official doctrine or platform of a political party. The term is often used in a derogatory sense, implying a rigid adherence to party policy, as in communist bureaucrats always had to toe the party line.

party platform - the statement of beliefs and program of action that a political party proposes to take. It is issued at the party's national convention.

passive resistance - another term for nonviolent campaigns of civil disobedience. See nonviolence; civil disobedience.

passport - a document issued by a government to its citizens, that grants an individual the right to travel abroad, confirms his identity and that he or she is a citizen of the country that issues the passport. A passport is required for foreign travel; it entitles the bearer to the protection of his own country.

paternalism - governing or controlling a group, either employees or citizens of a state, in a way that suggests a father dealing with his children. In the U.S., employees generally resent being subject to paternalism, because it smacks of charity and condescension. They would rather be treated like equals and negotiate their own agreements. Other cultures, notably Japan, may feel differently about paternalism.

patriarchy - a society that is dominated by men. In anthropology, the term refers to a form of social organization in which the father is the head of the family or tribe, and descent and kinship is through the male line.

patrician - a person of high social rank; an aristocrat.

patrimony - something that is inherited, especially relating to property.

patriotism - love of one's country and loyalty to it, especially in relation to other countries.

patronage - jobs and other favors that an elected or appointed official is able to bestow on his political supporters.

peaceful coexistence - a phrase that was frequently used during the Cold War, to refer to the idea that even though the Soviet Union and the U.S. had differing social systems and were in an adversarial relationship, they could still exist together without resorting to war. The phrase could also be used for any situation in which rivals need to work out a "live and let live" arrangement.

peer - a member of the nobility, especially in Britain; an equal, as in being tried by a jury of one's peers.

people, the - the general public or the electorate in a state; the masses; the body that in theory holds the ultimate power in democratic societies, whose will should be expresssed by government.

people's democracy - the term used by communist governments to describe their political system, which does not resemble Western democratic systems.

per capita - for each person, as in per capita income increased last year.

persona non gratis - Latin phrase meaning a person who is not acceptable or unwelcome. If a diplomat is declared person non grata, he must leave the host country.

petit bourgeois - a member of the lower middle classes.

philosopher king - the idea that the ruler of a country should also be the wisest person. This idea goes back to Plato's Republic. Plato's ideal ruler emerged from an elite group, formed out of the highest talent and given the most thorough training. This was training in the abstract discplines of mathematics, science and philosophy-up to the age of 35. There was no practical training in the administration of affairs. The philosopher ruler would prefer not to have to rule, since he was devoted to the study and cultivation of wisdom; he served the state out of a sense of duty. (Plato thought that anyone who wanted power was de facto unsuited for it.) Today we might this as an elitist and undemocratic system of selecting a leader, and question whether such abstract training would fit a man for the task of practical politics.

pigeonhole - refers to the killing of a bill by a Congressional committee when it refuses to vote on whether the bill goes for consideration to the House of Representatives or the Senate. Pigeonholing is a frequent practice.

plank - any of the principles contained in a party political platform, as in welfare reform is a major plank of the Republican agenda.

planned economy - an economy that is controlled by the central government, which sets goals, priorities, production schedules, prices, etc. Planned economies are characteristic of socialist societies. Mistrusting the capitalist system of laissez faire, which results in social injustices, they attempt to promote the public good by manipulation of economic forces. As the economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe under communism reveal, however, planned economies are rarely as prosperous or as efficient as those which embrace free enterprise. Sometimes called a command economy.

plebiscite - a vote of all the people in a territory or country on an important issue, usually a matter of national sovereignty. Sometimes voters are presented with a choice between continuing to be ruled by the existing power, choosing independence, or some other course, such as annexation. In 1935, for example, the region of Saar chose to remain part of Germany rather than become part of France.

plenipotentiary - a person invested with full authority to act as a representative of a government.

pluralism - government carried out by a process of bargaining and compromise between a variety of competing leadership groups (business, labor, government, etc.). Advocates of pluralism claim that it best serves the democratic ideal in a complex modern society, in which individual participation in every act of decision-making is impractical. According to pluralism, individual rights and interests are protected by a sort of extra-constitutional checks and balances: No single group holds the dominant power position, power is always shifting, and individuals can have influence on policy-making through being active in one of these power groups. Some claim that America is such a pluralistic society; other theories say that pluralism is in fact a myth and American society is elitist.

plutocracy - government by the wealthy; or a group of wealthy people who control or influence a government.

pocket veto - the process by which the U.S. president may veto a bill by not signing it. A bill normally becomes law ten days (excluding Sundays) after it is submitted to the president for signature, if Congress is still in session. If Congress adjourns within that ten-day period, without the president having signed the bill, the bill is killed. A pocket veto cannot be overridden by a two-thirds vote in the Senate, as is the case with other presidential vetoes.

point of order - a question raised at a formal meeting about whether the action being taken is within agreed rules about how business is to be conducted.

polarization - showing two contrary directions and tendencies. In political speech, the term has come to refer to the process by which two sides in a dispute or a political issue move steadily further apart so that no rational solution or dialogue seems possible. One could say for example that American politics in the twenty-first century is undergoing a sharp polarization due in part to the divisive and shrill tone of much public debate. When one side makes a provocative or extreme point, the other side finds itself responding in kind in order to be heard, so a polarization is set in motion.

police power - the power of a state to regulate the actions of individuals and society as a whole in order to protect and promote the general welfare, including public health, safety and morals.

police state - a state in which the police, particularly the secret police, have wide and arbitrary power to survey, harrass and intimidate the citizenry, who are denied their civil rights and cannot protest thier treatment or seek redress through the normal administrative or judicial channels of government. Such is the case in totalitarian societies, which rule by force rather than law.

political - that which pertains to affairs of state, to government and its institutions.

political access - the ability to gain the attention of people in positions of influence in the political world. Gaining political access is the main function of lobbyists.

political asylum - the granting of refuge by a state to an individual who has fled his country because of persecution.

political capital - the sum total of potential political influence that a politician builds up, by doing favors to others, supporting another lawmaker on a key issue, etc., so that when the time comes he can draw on this reservoir of capital, because others will be indebted to him.

political party - a political organization that puts up candidates at elections who support the party's policies and attempts to win power so that it can put its policies into operation.

political realism - see realism

political theory - the study of the philosophy of the state and of government, or of a particular idea relating to it.

politician - a person who participates directly in politics (usually party politics) as candidate for or holder of public office. Politicans often rate low in public esteem, as lacking integrity ("they'll promise anything to get elected"), but many politicians would say this is an unfair characterization of them. They would point out that many of them are motivated by a genuine desire for public service, and that they have to work in an imperfect system that demands flexibility and a willingness to compromise if anything is to be accomplished.

politics - the process of government; the study of government.

politicization - the giving of a political character to something. For example, if a debate over some previously non-political issue becomes divided along party political lines, this would be a politicization of the debate.

populism - the term was originally used to describe political movements in Europe at the end of nineteenth century that appealed to the rural poor. In the U.S. the Populist Party was formed in 1890 as a protest movement by farmers and laborers; it functioned until 1908. The term is now used to describe mass political movements, or a party platform that purports to represent a populist sentiment, usually understood as the collective voice of the ordinary person on social and economic issues.

 

pork-barrel - a "pork-barrel" project, also known as an ???earmark,??? is a publically funded project promoted by a legislator to bring money and jobs to his or her own district. The "pork" is allocated not on the basis of need, merit or entitlement; it is solely the result of political patronage, the desire of legislators to promote the interests of their own district, and thereby build up their local support. In 1998, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that $10 billion in pork barrel projects was being allocated in that year's appropriations bills. Many of the projects McCain declared to have no valid national purpose were in the home states of senators who happened to sit on the Appropriations Committee.

possession - any territory belonging to an outside country.

post mortem - happening after death. Can be used figuratively, as in, party leaders held a post mortem discussion about the reasons for their defeat.

pragmatic - dealing with things in a practical, "whatever works" manner, rather than relying on ideology or other theoretical considerations.

preamble - an introduction to a law or constitution that describes its purpose.

precedent - in law, a judicial decision that serves as a guide for future decisions in similar cases. Can also apply to administrative decisions made by the executive branch of government.

prejudice - a preconceived idea, usually unfavorable, about something, or an adverse judgment about someone or something, either in ignorance of the facts or direct contradiction of them, as when a person exhibits a prejudice against a specific racial group.

prerogative - special exclusive powers, as for example, the powers that are vested only in the presidency and not in the legislature. The exclusive powers of a monarch are referred to as the royal prerogative.

president - the chief executive and head of state in a republic; an officer who presides over a legislative body. For example, the Vice-President of the U.S. is also the president of the Senate.

pressure group - the same as interest group: an organized lobby, not directly affiliated with a political party, that puts pressure on elected officials to further the interests of its members. See also interest group; lobby.

prestige - renown or reputation based on excellence of achievement, as in Nelson Mandela's prestige results from his lifelong dedication to justice in South Africa.

price controls - government control of prices to keep the cost of living down. It most usually happens in time of war, but there also instances in peacetime: in 1971 in the U.S. all prices were frozen for 90 days as a measure to fight inflation.

primary elections - elections held to nominate a candidate for a particular party at a forthcoming election for public office. Voters may only vote in the primary held by their own party (except in the case of a "crossover" primary, which is open to all voters.) Primaries developed in the early twentieth century as a way of making the selection of candidates more democratic, rather than relying on the judgments of party leaders.

prime minister - the leader of the government and head of the cabinet in parliamentary systems. The prime minister is also the leader of his political party.

prior restraint - the power to prevent publication of something, or to require approval of it before publication. In most cases, prior constraint is unconstitutional, prohibited under the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of the press. There have been exceptions in cases of the publication of obscenity.

privacy - the U.S. constitution guarantees the right to privacy, and the Privacy Act of 1974 contains measures that safeguard the individual against government misuse of personal information. The act also gives the individual the right to find out what personal information is stored by any federal agency.

private enterprise - a cornerstone of the free market, capitalist system, the term refers to those businesses that are owned by individuals rather than some level of government.

private sector - that part of the economy that is made up of business enterprises owned by individuals or groups of individuals, and also includes consumer expenditure for goods and services. It is in contrast to the public sector. In the U.S. the private sector accounts for about four-fifths of the economy.

privatization - the returning of a publically owned enterprise, whether a business or a service, to individual ownership. The opposite of nationalization. Supporters of privatization claim that private ownership in a competitive market promotes efficiency and improves service.

pro choice - refers to those individuals and groups who support the idea that a pregnant woman has a right to choose whether she will give birth to the baby or have an abortion.

pro life - the name given to the individuals, and the social movement, that oppose abortion rights.

probate - a legal term referring to the process through which the genuineness of a will is ascertained.

probation - the suspension of the sentence of a person who has been convicted of an offense, on the condition that he or she commits no further crimes and reports to a probation officer at regular intervals.

probe - an investigation by an appointed committee into alleged corruption or illegal activities.

productivity - output of goods and sevices. It can be measured in terms of labor productivity (output per worker, for example) or of capital.

proletariat - the Marxist term for the working class, meaning in particular those workers who own nothing but their labor (unlike artisans, who may own their own machinery or tools).

propaganda - a latin word that was first used by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, when he established the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, a commission designed to spread the Catholic faith worldwide. Since then propaganda has taken on a much broader meaning, and refers to any technique, whether in writing, speech, music, film or other means, that attempts to influence mass public opinion. Progaganda was used by both sides in World War I to demonize the enemy and so make the war more acceptable at home. It was refined by the totalitarian societies that emerged between the two world wars in Russia, Germany and Italy. For example, Leni Riefenstahl's film, Triumph of the Will, which recorded Hitler's Nuremberg rallies, was a masterpiece of propaganda for the Nazi regime (and is still used for propagandist purposes by white supremacy groups). Propaganda is also used in democratic societies, although it is rarely called that-except by those who oppose its content or message. Any group that advocates its cause with the intent of influencing opinion might be said to be practising propaganda-especially if its methods are blatently biased or misrepresent facts.

proportional representation - an electoral system that awards seats in a legislature on the basis of percentages of the vote won, not on the "first past the post," winner-takes-all system that operates in the U.S. In other words, if a party polls a certain percentage of the vote, they are guaranteed the same percentage of seats in the legislature. Advocates of proportional representation, which operates in some European countries, say it is a fairer system than winner-takes-all, because in the latter system a party can win a considerable number of votes and get only a paltry number of seats for their efforts. Opponents of proportional representation say it makes for weak, minority government. So many parties are represented that no single party has an overall majority, so governments tend to be made up of coalitions of many parties, which undermines their capacity for decisive, unified action and firm leadership.

prosecution - the conducting of a lawsuit; the party that initiates and conducts criminal proceedings in court.

protectionism - the practice of protecting domestic manufacturers from foreign competition by the imposition of tariffs and quotas on imported goods.

protectorate - a state that is not fully independent, and is under the protection of a larger state, which typically handles foreign affairs and defense.

Protestant work ethic - the concept developed by sociologist Max Weber that linked the growth of Protestantism to the rise of capitalism. Protestantism, particularly Calvinism and related Puritan doctrines, claimed that wordly success was a sure sign that a person belonged to those who were "saved." If a man prospered, it showed that he was divinely favored, so a "work ethic," emphasizing duty, hard work, and thrift, evolved. This individualistic ethic coincided with an economic phenomenon that was also individualistic: the growth of private capital, and the emergence of capitalism. Weber linked the two together as cause and effect.

protocol - a document that records the basic agreements reached in negotiations prior to the final form in which the agreement appears. Protocol also refers to the diplomatic manners that apply in ceremonial and formal business between states (seating arrangements at dinners, procedures at conferences, etc.)

providence - the benificent operation of divine will in human affairs. Also means skill in management; foresight.

provocation - incitement; the cause of resentment.

proxy - someone who acts on behalf of another (in filling out an absentee ballot, for example.)

public interest - the common good or welfare of all. In practice it would be difficult to find complete agreement on what is in the "public interest." Once one gets beyond generalities and platitudes (it is not in the public interest to allow drunk drivers on the highway) one comes up against differences in the values people hold; sometimes by appealing to the public interest politicians try to universalize what are merely personal beliefs and values (or the interests of a section of the community) that may not in fact find common assent. See also national interest.

public morals - commonly accepted standards of right and wrong in a community.

public opinion - a generally held attitude toward a particular issue in a community, as in public opinion favored or did not favor a reform of the health care system. Public opinion, which can be evaluated through public opinion polls, acts as a check on what it is possible for a government to do. Governments are loath to fly in the face of overwhelming public opinion. The problem with public opinion is that on some issues it can be easily manipulated by the mass media.

public opinion poll - a survey taken of a representative cross section of the general public to determine its views on a particular matter. Public opinion polls today are conducted for almost every conceivable topic-from the respondents' political allegiances to their views of controversial legal cases. Although the statistical methodology that underlies polls has become increasingly sophisticated, they are of varying accuracy. Often subtle changes in the wording ofa question can produce very different results, and on some matters, people may be reluctant to be fully honest with the interviewer.

public ownership - ownership by some level of government of a business enterprise, as opposed to private ownership, in which an individual or individuals are the owners. When a government takes over the running of a business or industry it is called nationalization.

public sector - that part of the economy that involves, or is controlled by, federal, state, or local government, as opposed to the private sector. The public sector accounts for about one-fifth of the total economy of the U.S.

public works - construction projects for public use, such as roads and bridges. Sometimes a government will take recourse to such measures in times of economic recession, as a form of "pump priming,"-the belief that borrowing money and spending it on the wages and materials needed for public works will improve the economy. Public works were a major part of the New Deal in the 1930s that pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression.

puppet regime - a regime that is controlled by the government of another state. For example, Vichy France, which refers to the French government after France fell to the Germans in World War II, was a puppet regime, since it was subservient to Germany.

purge - to get rid of party members and other citizens who are not toeing the official party line, or who are perceived as a potential or actual threat. Purges are usually associated with totalitarian societies: The Soviet Union under Stalin had massive purges, as did China under Mao Tse Tung.

pyrrhic victory - a victory in which the victor pays too high a price to make it worthwhile. The phrase comes from the victory of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, over the Romans at Asculum in 279 B.C., in which he lost a large part of his army.

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