Politics in Minutes (2016)

Structures and institutions

Although political philosophers focus on the theory of government or ideology, there is also the very practical business of how any form of government operates in practice – the systems, structures and institutions through which it conducts its business. The processes, institutions and behaviour of a government are sometimes known as ‘governance’ to distinguish it from the governing body itself.

The most obvious institutions are housed in the seats of government, often in imposing buildings, such as royal palaces or parliament buildings. But other government departments occupy offices, town halls and courts of law. These visible signs of systems and structures allow a government to run a state by administering its economic, social and foreign policies, and enforcing its laws. And while the extent of these bureaucratic systems differs from state to state, the basic structures and institutions are similar no matter what form of government, and no matter what political ideology it represents.

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