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Power and Rational Choice approaches, powerpoint (9/25

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Power Approach -- Neustadt
Defining power – the “clerkship” of presidential
power. "The conditions that promote his
leadership in form, preclude a guarantee of
leadership in fact."
Command – the limitations of unilateral presidential
power. Not a very effective way for presidents
to operate because five conditions have to be in
place: direct order, clarity, publicity, ability to
carry it out, and authority to do it.
Power approach, cont.
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Persuasion – the core of presidential power.
Separate institutions sharing powers.
Successful uses of presidential power don’t
come from the Constitution, but from the ability
of the president to persuade. Logic doesn’t
work: have to make others think it is in their
interest to do what the president wants, not
because it is in the president’s interest. The
“Tom Sawyer” theory of presidential leadership.
Power approach, cont.
Professional reputation – the President’s standing
“inside the Beltway.” Influence will depend on
the appraisals of those who would be influenced
Public prestige – the President’s standing in the
public (Gallup approval numbers). “Approve of
the job the president is doing.” Personal
component to this: is it support of the president
as an individual? Or more the office? Also,
separate the personal from job performance
evaluation?
Presidential Approval Ratings
1946-2004
100
90
80
Bush 41*
LBJ
Truman
Ford
Reagan
70
60
50
40
30
20
Ike
Bush 43*
JFK
Nixon
Carter
Clinton
10
0
1946 1949 1952 1954 1957 1960 1963 1965 1968 1971 1974 1976 1979 1981 1984 1987 1990 1993 1995 2000 July
2004
Power approach, cont.
Interaction between reputation and prestige.
Making right choices. How to do it: guard
power prospects, protect against unrealistic
expectations and hopes, has to be his own
director of central intelligence (not literally)
Examples – Clinton and gays in the military.
Didn’t think about the long-term power
stakes. Bush and post-war planning attempt
to reform Social Security.
Critiques of the Power approach
Alternative goals: presidents have pursued goals
that are not consistent with the power motivation.
Moral leadership, accountability instead of
“protecting power stakes” (“the buck stop here”).
Alternative sources of influence: Legitimacy and
loyalty can be important in addition to prestige,
reputation, and legal authority.
Methodological – only supports with anecdotes.
Ken Mayer’s work on executive orders. Also,
approach only makes sense if presidents are
trying to influence others. May use confrontation.
Critiques of the Power approach, cont.
Prescriptive: As practical advice to pres., how
does it stack up? Can lead to "overload and
breakdown."
Normative: what power ought to be or what it is?
Have to ask what power is being used for.
Modification of the critique – not wrong so much
as incomplete. Presidential power also varies
by decision-making situation and substantive
policy type.
Alternative interpretations of presidential power:
charismatic leadership (Max Weber).
Rational Choice Approach
Assumptions of the rational choice approach
a. Goal directed behavior, consistency,
maximize expected value.
b. Complete versus incomplete information.
c. Explain collective action by looking at the
maximizing behavior of individuals.
Does this approach make more sense to apply at
the mass level or elite level (for example, to
study presidents)?
Rational Choice, cont.
Applied to other areas of politics
a. Social choice / Arrow’s paradox
b. Collective Action
Apply to the Presidency
a. Basic decision theory
b. Game theory
Approach may be used to formulate
hypotheses that can be tested across a
variety of issues and presidents. Allows
broader generalizations.
Rational Choice, cont.
New Institutionalism: the politics of structural
choice (Moe): uncertainty, political compromise,
and the fear of the state. Importance of public
authority, Creates conditions under which it is
much more difficult for the president to lead.
Response of president: politicize and centralize
authority within the White House. Can lead to
things like the Iran/Contra affair in the Reagan
administration. Also, intelligence failures in the
buildup to the war in Iraq.
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