Government and Politics

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elections until 1920. American Indians were allowed to become citizens (thereby qualifying to vote) only in 1924, and as late as 1956, some states prevented Indians from voting in local elections if they lived on reservations. Unlike monarchies, oligarchies, and dictatorships, the democratic form of government implies an opposition which is tolerated or, indeed, encouraged to exist.

In the United States, we have two major political parties—the Democrats and Republicans—as well as various minor parties. Sociologists use the term political party to refer to an organization whose purposes are to promote candidates for elected office, advance an ideology as reflected in positions on political issues, win elections, and exercise power. Whether a democracy has two major political parties (as in the United States) or incorporates a multiparty system (as in France and Israel), it will typically stress the need for differing points of view.

Seymour Martin Upset, among other sociologists, has attempted to identify the factors which may help to bring about democratic forms of government. He argues that a high level of economic development encourages both stability and democracy. Upset reached this conclusion after studying 50 nations and finding a high correlation between economic development and certain forms of government.

Why should there be such a link? In a society with a high level of development, the population generally tends to be urbanized and literate and is better equipped to participate in decision making and make the views of its members heard. In addition, as Upset suggests, a relatively affluent society will be comparatively free from demands on government by low-income citizens.

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