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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Theory of the partial political system Galbraith, Gordon Stuart


The problem of political systems wholly or in part contained within other political systems has not often been treated in the literature of political science. When the matter has arisen, it is characteristically been handled by a "closed system" and "sub-collectivity" model. That is, the larger polity has often been assumed to be composed of a number of closed collectivities. This model assumes that citizens will know more about, participate more vigorously in, and feel more strongly about, political systems which are physically "closer" to them. But, in North America, Britain, and France, citizens vote at a much lower level in local elections than in national elections. Survey data from the Vancouver area indicate that secondary school students, at least, know much less about their community political systems than about regional, national, and "supra-national" systems. Fragmentary data from the United States and France tend to support these conclusions. The local community polity has, however, some interesting -infrastructural features. One of these is that its system of political communications is much inadequate to keeping its members informed about the local system; its stimuli are greatly outnumbered by political stimuli transmitted by "extra-systemic" "over-arching" media, and this is undoubtedly one of the major reasons for a low level of local political cognition. Another feature is that citizens involved in local organizations and structures explicitly of the local system often show a greater interest in local political activity; these structures form the "residuals" or "skeleton" of a shrunken polity. A final feature, suggested by some data and much speculation, is that the local system is a "low-affect" system. Finally a model is constructed which is believed to be a better representation of the observed reality than the traditional models discussed in an earlier chapter. This model is that of the "partial political system". A partial system is defined as one which does not contain within itself all the political life-experiences of the member units. The several propositions upon which this model is based have a number of ramifications for the structure and process of local politics. The theory of the partial political system has several implications for other branches of political science: (1) comparative politics; (2) normative democratic theory; (3) international relations theory.

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