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Political Development, Political Systems, and Political Goods

  • J. Roland Pennock (a1)


Political theorists from Plato to the present have concerned themselves not only with the nature of the polity as we know it, but with how it came to be, what purposes it serves, and by what stages it has developed. The last item, however, has more often than not been slighted. This lack now forces itself on our attention for an obvious reason: Never before have so many “new states” come into being in so short a span of time and never before have students of politics been provided with so many living examples of states at all stages of development, many of them conspicuously failing to perform vital functions, frequently to the extent that disorder and violent change prevail.



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1 Two recent discussions by leaders in the theoretical elaboration of, respectively, “political development” and “political systems” have dealt with these problems. See Almond, Gabriel A., “A Developmental Approach to Political Systems,” World Politics, XVII (January 1965), 183214; and Easton, David, A Systems Analysis of Political Life (New York 1965), esp. chap. 2.

2 “Political development,” “political modernization,” and other locutions used to describe the same phenomena all have their drawbacks. It should be made clear that the biological connotations of inevitability, uniform stages, and unvarying patterns are excluded from the term “development” when it is applied to the political realm. Political development may be interrupted and its institutional manifestations may revert in part to earlier patterns, sometimes to the accompaniment of further development on another front—perhaps economic. One thinks of “Tudor despotism” following “Lancastrian constitutionalism.” (One might think also of the child who had started to talk but who, on learning to walk, apparently loses the speech capability for several months.) Development may be arrested for long periods, as in Spain and Portugal; it may also be very uneven, with bureaucracy developing at one period at the expense of popular participation—or vice versa; and, of course, it may reverse its direction. See Eisenstadt, S. N., The Political Systems of Empires (Glencoe 1963), 342–53. Even the organic analogy, which should certainly not be pressed too far, is by no means incompatible with the notion of political deterioration, decay, and, for that matter, illness, and death. These terms supply the means for coping, terminologically, with phenomena that would otherwise call for such strange concepts as “undevelopment,” or “backward development.”

3 Easton, David, in his A Vramework for Political Analysis (Englewood Cliffs 1965), states that “from the point of view of the analysis being developed, structure is definitely secondary, so much so that only incidentally and for secondary purposes need discussion of structures be introduced” (p. 49). Neither “institution” nor “institutionalization” appears in the index of this volume or in that of his Systems Analysis of Political Life, nor are they discussed at any length in these volumes. The closest he comes to such a discussion is in the elaboration of the concept of “authorities,” while protesting that he is not lapsing into “arid legal formalism” (A Systems Analysis, 214),

4 Frey, Frederick W., “Political Development, Power, and Communications in Turkey,” in Pye, Lucian W., Communications and Political Development (Princeton 1963), 301. He adds to these ingredients the overall level of power, and notes, in a passage suggestive of the difficulties of this subject, that an increase in the distribution of power may have an adverse effect on its overall level (pp. 303, 324).

5 “Evolutionary Universals in Society,” American Sociological Review, XXIX (June 1964), 339–57, at 349.

6 This point is ably argued by Huntington, Samuel P. in “Political Development and Political Decay,” World Politics, XVII (April 1965), 386430.

7 This statement is entirely compatible with the opinion that development in both respects would be more functional, more favorable to the survival of the polity, and for this reason preferable. Parsons, for example, argues that the existence of a definitive link between popular participation and ultimate control of decision-making is so great an aid in building and maintaining support for the political-legal system as a whole and for its outputs (binding rules and decisions) that, for large-scale societies, the “democratic association” is an “evolutionary universal” (“Evolutionary Universals,” 340–41, 353–55). Anticipating an objection, he declares, “I realize that to take this position I must maintain that communist totalitarian organization will probably not fully match ‘democracy’ in political and integrative capacity in the long run. I do indeed predict that it will prove to be unstable and will either make adjustments in the general direction of elective democracy and a plural party system or ‘regress’ into generally less advanced and politically less effective forms of organization, failing to advance as rapidly or as far as might otherwise be expected” (p. 356). Incidentally, this statement from the leading systems theorist needs to be taken into account by those who argue that systems theory tends to be static.

8 See, for instance, Parsons, “Some Highlights of the General Theory of Action,” in Young, Roland, Approaches to the Study of Politics (Evanston 1958), 282301, esp. 292–95.

9 A Framework, 78; also 88, and chap. 6 generally.

10 Pye, 18. Deutsch, Karl W. declares that political development should mean the ability to absorb more and more information from the environment, the ability to respond to and change the environment more effectively, in accordance with needs, and an increase in the range and diversity of the goals that the organization can follow (The Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control [New York 1963], 139–40).

11 See Parsons, , Structure and Process in Modern Societies (Glencoe 1960), 181–82; Parsons, , “‘Voting’ and the Equilibrium of the American Political System,” in Burdick, Eugene and Brodbeck, Arthur J., eds., American Voting Behavior (Glencoe 1959), 83ff.; and Vorys, Karl von, “Toward a Concept of Political Development,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 358 (March 1965), 1419, at 19.

12 The political-development literature is not devoid of references to this aspect of the subject, but for the most part they are brief and almost incidental. Pye, for instance, in the process of listing many of the items discussed in the preceding pages, lists, without elaboration, “a clear recognition of the rights and duties of citizens,” and a care for “the public interest” (p. 18). In discussing the problems with which new states in particular are confronted, Almond mentions, along with two problems of the kind discussed above (“national integration” and “political participation”), two substantive problems: “international accommodation” and “welfare distribution” (“Political Systems and Political Change,” American Behavioral Scientist, VI [June 1963], 310, 7).

13 Not all political goods result strictly from “outputs” of the political system. Some derive directly from the political process, as by-products, so to speak. For instance, political participation is part of the political process; it may help build up political support for the system in the future; it may provide guidance as to demand and need; and at the same time it may contribute directly to the welfare of the individuals concerned by giving them expressive outlets and contributing to their individual development. In these last-mentioned ways, it creates a political good, whether or not the polity had selected this good as one of its goals.

14 I say “to that extent” because it might be that in a particular situation order is incompatible with other political goods and therefore, while it is good in itself, it should be temporarily sacrificed to make possible the creation of other goods. In such a discussion as this, the all-important qualifier “other things being equal” must be taken as understood even when it is not expressed.

15 “Political Modernization and Political Culture in Japan,” World Politics, XV (January 1963), 569–96, 571.

16 It will be noted that I have here reverted to discussion of the processes and organization of government, but the point is that their value is to be judged by their outputs—or more specifically, by the outcomes of these outputs.

It might be objected that modern totalitarian dictatorships may not subscribe to the standards of justice according to law outlined above. Are we then to call them less “developed” than modern constitutional regimes? I would suggest three replies to such an argument, any one of which would seem to me adequate. In the first place, we might avoid the issue by saying that whether or not you call these regimes “developed,” to the extent that their standards of the administration of justice do not meet the principles outlined above—to that extent, all else apart—they are less productive of “political goods” than are polities that do conform to these principles. Secondly, I would be quite happy to say that to this extent they are in fact less developed, less fitted to fulfill the needs of men and society. Finally, I would doubt that in fact totalitarian regimes have questioned the principles set forth above. Where practices differ it is generally, I suggest, for one of two reasons. It may be claimed that values are in conflict and that “justice” in the legalistic sense has to be sacrificed to some more basic value, perhaps the security of the political system itself. Thus for instance when individuals are punished for the alleged crimes of others it is generally on the theory that the threat of such punishment is, under existing circumstances, a necessary mechanism of social control (cf. the Supreme Court's justification for our wartime treatment of the Japanese Americans). Alternatively, the problem may be one of disagreement as to what are “like” cases. If it is believed, for instance, that a Jew is a human being of an inferior type and that his behavior subverts sound Aryan standards, then even one who accepts the formal standards of justice belonging to the “Western” tradition must come to a differing conclusion because of his factual judgment of what a Jew is or does.

17 Political Systems of Empires.

18 lbid., 363. Cf. Aristotle on perverted forms of government (Politics, 1279a).

19 This concept is developed in Almond, “A Developmental Approach,” 204–5.

20 Some of the ways in which survey research techniques could be used to explore this kind of question are suggested by Almond, and Verba's, SidneyThe Civic Culture (Princeton 1963).

21 It may be suggested that political development is characterized by a movement toward, or an increase in, each of the following elements, regardless of whether the polity h democratically or autocratically governed: dynamism; achievement orientation; differentiation of function; such elements of rationality as a bureaucracy organized on rational principles or, more generally, the breakdown of ascriptive bases for selection, access, and opportunities, in favor of rational criteria (perhaps qualified by a “political” component); secularization of politics; development of instrumentalities for political communication and for articulating and aggregating interests; popular political participation (not necessarily in decision-making); the capacity for social mobilization; and the acceptance of broad responsibility for welfare.

22 See Braybrooke, David and Lindblom, Charles E., A Strategy of Decision: Policy Evaluation as a Social Process (New York 1963).

23 Such guarantees of course may be written into the constitution and protected by judicial review or other devices, but this is not market action. Guarantees of this nature do not reflect current pressures, but earlier decisions made by the constituent power.

24 This discussion borrows heavily from Frederick W. Frey, in Pye, 300–301.

25 See for example the valuable tables in Almond, and Coleman, James S., eds., The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton 1960), Appendix.

26 As worked out in detail by Cutright, Phillips, “National Political Development: Measurement and Analysis,” American Sociological Review, XXVIII (April 1963), 253–64.

27 See Deutsch, , “Social Mobilization and Political Development,” American Political Science Review, LV (September 1961), 493514.

* I gratefully acknowledge helpful comments and criticisms, at various stages, from John W. Chapman, Charles E. Gilbert, David G. Smith, and Bryce Wood.

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World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
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