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1. Comparative Politics

Que. Explain the nature and scope of comparative politics. What are the limitations of traditional approaches. What are the reasons behind the emergence of new approaches.

Comparative politics means comparing the political systems of different types. Comparative politics is as old as political theory. Aristotle is regarded as the father of comparative politics. He has studied 158 constitutions and gave the classification of constitutions. Comparative politics can be divided into two phases. Up till 2nd WW traditional comparative politics. After 2nd WW modern comparative politics.

Features of the traditional comparative politics
It was very narrow in its scope. It included just the study of the constitutions of the western world. Why? Rest of the countries were colonies. Hence had no independent political systems. What was the consequence? Since all western countries have been at similar level of development, their societies, culture, way of life does not differ from each other. Hence there are few basis for comparisons. The maximum comparison could be done only that of the constitutions or the forms of governments. Hence traditional comparative politics was the study of government. i.e. comparative government rather than politics. Difference in government and politics. Government represent the set of institutions. Politics denote processes. Hence when we study social, economic, cultural and psychological, formal and informal practices beyond constitutions we understand politics. What is the impact of focusing on the study of constitutions? Since constitutions or the forms of governments was the focus of the study, the method that was used was legal institutional. The traditional comparative politics did not observe the norms like value neutrality, quantification etc. When we focus on study of institutions, our study remains static. Hence traditional comparative politics suffered from following limitations.
1. Narrow in scope – excluded political systems of non-western countries.
2. Static – focused on the study of constitutions, rather than politics.
3. Essentially non comparative – The only point of comparison was constitutions.
Hence it is called as ethnocentric(Just focused on west), parochial, limited.

Modern comparative politics and its features
Started after 2nd WW. Reasons: Decolonisation and the emergence of ‘third world’ countries.
Third world countries are too diverse, there is a difference in theory and practice. Text and context. Hence it was realised that it is not sufficient if we just go for the study of constitutions. We will have to understand the socio-cultural factors in these societies.
The need for the study of developing areas coincided with the behavioural movement. Behavioural techniques made the study of modern comparative politics possible and the need to study new areas itself motivated scholars to make new innovations in approaches.

Modern methods in comparative politics can be listed as following.
1. Systems approach
2. Structural functional approach.
3. Political Development
4. Political Modernization
5. Political Culture
6. Political Sociology
7. Political Economy

1] Systems Approach: David Easton

Purpose of system approach
To develop scientific model.
To develop a grand theory / model which can be utilised to study political systems of different countries .
To create a model which is value free.

Source of influence
Talcott Parson. He has developed social system analysis in sociology.

General System Theory
Was developed to produce the general model of analysis which can be used for different disciplines.

Basic concepts in systems approach
1. The concept of system
System is a set of elements in the state of interaction. Interaction is patterned and not haphazard. Behaviouralists aimed to make political science ‘science’, hence they imported the concepts of natural sciences like system from biology.

2. Concept of political system
Just like there are different systems in a body there are different systems in a society.

How to distinguish one system from the other?
Though structures vary, yet the important basis to differentiate is the function. What is the unique function of political system? According to David Eastern, the function of the political system is ‘authoritative’ allocation of values. Allocation of values denote deciding the distribution of goods, resources, honours, titles or deciding who will get what. (The prime decision making body). Authoritative denotes power to make binding decisions. Means punish in case people do not follow the rules or laws. What is the difference in the concept of state and political system? Traditionalists use the term state. The term state denotes ‘institutions’. Thus state is a term used in institutionalist approach whereas the term ‘political system’ is a behaviouralists approach. System not only denotes the structures, it also denotes processes or functions. System denotes set of elements/environment in which a particular institution is based. (Refer diagram.)
All such things or subsystems which impact the main system is called as environment of that system.

image

Concept of Boundary.
Every system has its boundary. Boundary denotes the limit of environment. Systems kept out of boundary do not impact the main system.
Operation of Political system.
According to David Eastern, we can conceive political system as a machine. Every machine functions on the principle of input and output.
Political system can also be understood as a conversion machine which converts input into output. Political system gets input from the environment, input are of two types.

1. Demands
Demands are what people want from the system. There are four types of demands: 1. Demand for regulation, 2. Demand for participation, 3. Demand for distribution, 4. Demand for communication. 

2. Support
Support show people’s support for the system which is necessary for the functioning of the system. Support is also of four types.  1. Material support (e.g. tax)  2. Obedience to law  3. Participation in govt. programs  4. Paying attention to govt. communication.

Output functions.
If a single decision comes, it will be treated as a decision. If multiple decisions come, it reflects policy.

Concept of Feedback
Feedback play very important role in the maintenance of the system. Outputs interact with the environment, they re-enter into the system through the feedback loop. If feedback loop does not exist, system will collapse.

Critical evaluation

Traditionalists: It brings unnecessary complications, unnecessary jargons. It does not have much analytical importance. It is just a very preliminary conceptual framework. It can be utilized only at the initial level of research. Its only importance can be a conceptual framework for the collection of data.

Marxist: Marxists are critical of behaviouralists. Why? Behaviouralism emerged at the time of cold-war. It was initiative of American political scientists. Most of the behavioural research were directed towards understanding and explaining the social realities in ‘socialist’ countries. e.g. Elitist theory of democracy is an example of behavioural – empirical research. Elitist theory of democracy has shown that ‘oligarchy’ is the iron law. It means whether a country is socialist or liberal, power will always be in the hands of elites. Situation is better in western countries because elite structure is fractured. Thus Marxists looked at behaviouralism as a conspiracy against socialist countries.
According to the Marxists systems approach is status-quoist. Systems approach is not universalist. Systems approach is modelled on the political systems of western countries.
Systems approach gives too much focus on system maintenance. They do not explain crisis in the system. They have not pointed towards the protests, revolutions, disruptions. They project as if system is capable of absorbing all types of challenges.
Scientific model has to be universalist, unbiased but this model is not universalist. It takes western model as an ideal. Hence political systems which are not based on the western model will appear defective or problematic.
Marxists suggest that the system is not even correct explanation of even the western countries. It shows as if there are no problems in the western countries. Political system operates smoothly, there are no disruptions, protests.
Political system is status quoist. (As it is) It is not change oriented. It projects American system as the ideal type. It means they show as if there is no system which can be considered as better than this system. For Marxists, even western countries should move towards the communist model.

Posted in PSIR 2A

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