To sign a manifesto for the right to abortion, vote in regional election, oppose transgenic maize, do not buy other than a “Fair trade” coffee brand, wear the red ribbon for the fight against AIDS, throw shoes at the head of the American president, attend the annual Requiem for Louis XVI messe, the commonlink between these various gestures is political behavior. It is the topic of this research paper.
Behavior means activity to an outside observer, as opposed to the innermost of an individual, his attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. They give meaning to this activity but these are behaviors that interest us as a priority, in the perspective discovered by the current behaviourism, which inspired the first empirical research on political behavior.
The term “activity” is preferred by economists and theorists of rational choice. It insists on the intentional and strategic dimension of behavior, the independence of the actor, as well as the term “behavior” used by psychologists non-behavioristes. That of “practice” emphasizes on the social and historical conditioning of individual behavior, as neither completely free, nor totally determined by the structures.
These definitions challenge reveal the ambivalence of the phenomenon. The policy is both what divides and what unites, which forces and makes free, the affair for politicians, and for ordinary citizens. How to identify behaviors associated to this activity?
We excluded from our field activities related to the exercise of political or administrative functions, the scope of the ‘professional’ policy appeared with the modern State. They fall under other logic, that of public activity, on which there are specific works.
Here, we will talk about the ‘governed,’ in multiple rapports that they maintain with the “governors,” to make a claim, defend their rights, to give their support or criticize their activities.
The verb to govern is taken in the broad sense. The State remains the main regulatory body. However, it is as well, increasingly, done by non-State actors, cities, businesses, international organizations. With the globalization of trade, European integration, decentralization, the levels of ‘governance’ are multiplied and relocated. The actors who have the power to arbitrate, “to draw the line” in the sense meant by the philosopher Michel Foucault, to fix the collective norms, to develop and implement standards of rules and “public policies.” Boycott a multinational that makes children work, demonstrate in Seattle against globalization, or protest against unemployment before the European Parliament, are political behaviors even if they are not directly addressed to the national State.
The policy is not limited to these vertical relationships of military rulers. To change the world there is also practice on a daily basis, without going through the electoral and political sphere.
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