What we will learn:
1] Comparative Politics;
2] Nature and major Approaches;
3] Political economy;
4] Political sociology perspectives;
5] Limitations of the comparative method.
Comparative politics is one of the core element of political science. Comparative politics means comparing the political systems of different states. Comparative politics is as old as political theory. Aristotle is regarded as the father of comparative politics. He 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.
Why Comparative Politics is important?
Comparison is at the heart of analysis of any phenomenon. In comparison, meaning is searched. Whenever scientific and objectivity are required- comparison is a method. Natural sciences have luxury of laboratory, but in Political Science, comparison is a substitute for laboratory condition. Not only dis-similarities but similarities are also compared.
Advantages of comparative politics.
1] Gaining knowledge -By comparison at micro level and one learns about politics of different countries. It helps in understanding our own country and politics in better way.
2] Evaluating good practices and avoiding mistakes – Every system innovates / develops as a response to situations. There is no paradigm shift in Social Sciences after few years like Natural Science. Thus we can benefit from research already done by someone else. For example, democracy developed in western countries but later imported to 3rd world. Institution of Lokpal is also inspired from practice in European countries.
3] Enhances Objectivity – to make studies more objective. To avoid criticism of ethnocentrism. Earlier, whatever studies were made, it was criticised and being ethnocentric. It was criticised as cultural imperialism.
4] Comparative method to make enterprise more scientific. It helps in better analysis and understanding.
5] It allows verification/rejection of behavioural trends and patterns of people under certain circumstances.
6] How different institutions function in different atmosphere can be understood by comparative politics.
Limitations of comparative politics.
1] Range of variables – There are multiple factors which affect politics i.e. society, history, climate, geography, economy, resources etc. And not all factors can be quantified and observed. They also operate at various degrees in various states.
2] Lack of sufficient information – Public information often may not be complete and can be filtered by state agencies e.g. China has strong control over what comes out. And some totalitarian countries may not release any information at all (N. Korea). Comparison then really becomes difficult.
3] Problem of objectivity – Certain social practices may be too incomprehensible to a foreign mind. Objectivity then gets obscured.
4] Dynamic nature of discipline – Politics is shaped by multiple factors. It is never static. Comparison we may do today may not be relevant tomorrow. This also creates a problem.
Method of comparative politics.
Even today there is no unanimity among scholars in regard to method to be used in comparative politics. Various methods can be used depending on purpose of comparison.
Prior to 1914, 2 forms of comparison existed. Until mid 18th century, approach was normative and philosophical. It studied existing situation and proposed blueprint for future e.g. what type of future can be build. With expansion of democracies in west, from middle of 18th century, legalistic-constitutional approach emerged. It included study of constitution and laws of states. It dominated till 1st World War.
After 2nd World War, we see emergence of modern comparative methods. Along with comparing constitutions these approaches also focus on study of society, politics, culture etc.
How to compare?
Comparing similar things and different things. This is also matter of debate. Both have their purpose and rational.
Why comparison should be of similar situations?
Like sciences, it is keeping experimental conditions same. It helps in identifying factors which make difference. Factors responsible for that phenomenon.
Why comparison of dis-similar situation?
It strengthens the hypothesis of theory i.e. the assumption is true only in given circumstances and changing certain factors changes the outcome.
Traditional comparative politics
Analysis of traditional approach.
Traditional comparative politics was very narrow in its scope. It included just the study of the constitutions of the western world. Since rest of the countries were colonies and had no independent political systems.L
Because all western countries have been at similar level of development, their societies, culture, way of life does not differ from each other. Hence there were 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. It is better to call it ‘comparative government’ rather than comparative politics.
Since constitutions or the forms of governments was the focus of the study, the method that was used was legal institutional i.e. study of laws and institutions. The approach did not observe the norms like value neutrality, quantification etc. And since it focused on study of institutions, it was largely static and suffered from number of limitations.
Limitations of traditional comparative politics.
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 traditional approach is criticised as ethnocentric (just focused on west), parochial, limited.
Comparative govt. vs Comparative politics
Government represent the set of institutions. Comparative govt. focuses on study of constitutions and statues.
Politics denote processes. Hence when we study social, economic, cultural and psychological, formal and informal practices beyond constitutions we understand politics. Along with constitution and laws, comparative politics includes study of civil society, cultural factors, domestic as well as international politics
Modern comparative politics and its features
Reason for emergence of modern comp. politics
After 2nd World War, world witnessed 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 realiesd that it is not sufficient if we just go for the study of constitutions and statutes (laws). 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. Many new methods to study comparative politics were developed in the following period.
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 was 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. Talcott Parsons was a source of influence for David Easton. He has developed social system analysis in sociology.
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. 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.
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.
3] 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.
4] 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. A conversion machine which converts input into output. Political system gets input from the environment.
5] Input are of two types.
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.
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.
6] Output functions.
If a single decision comes, it will be treated as a decision. If multiple decisions come, it reflects policy.
7] 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.
It brings unnecessary complications, unnecessary jargons. It does not have much analytical importance. It is just a very preliminary conceptual framework. It can be utilised only at the initial level of research. Its only importance can be a conceptual framework for the collection of data.
Marxists are critical of behaviouralists. 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.
2] Structural Functional Approach – Almond and Powell
The approach was developed To address some of the deficiencies in systems approach. Systems approach was too general. It does not tell in detail about the structures and processes within the political system. And systems approach was criticized for being too static. It was modelled on western countries hence was not found to be very relevant for the study of ‘developing societies’. Thus limited importance in comparative politics.
Even structural functional approach is based on Easton’s model. Therefore Systems approach remains the basic conceptual framework. However it takes ‘micro-view’ rather than the macro-view. It is aimed at formulating more ‘universalist’ model so that it is useful for developing countries.
Almond and Powell looked into the developments in other disciplines. They found the approach of anthropologists like Malinowski and Radcliff Brown also useful. They’ve (anthropologists) shown that all societies performed some essential functions which are necessary, however societies may vary with respect to the structures performing such functions. It means every society / political system may have to perform the function of security but the structure or the institutions performing these functions may vary.
Structural functional approach takes the dynamic view of the political system. According to them, different political systems are at the different stages of development. The approach utilizes the concepts of institutional approach to give the micro-view of the functioning of the political system.
Political System according to Structural Functional approach consists of four Inputs functions and three output functions.
4 Inputs functions and their structures
|Political socialization and recruitment||Family, School, Peer group, Society|
|Political communication||Mass media|
|Interest articulation||Interest groups, Pressure groups|
|Interest Aggregation||Political Parties|
3 Output functions and their structures
|Rule Making||Legislature, but some rules are made by Exe and Jud also.|
|Rule Execution||Executive, but some executions are done by Leg and Jud also.|
|Rule Adjudication||Judiciary, but some functions are done by Exe and Leg also.|
Traditionalists: Same as criticism of systems approach.
Marxist: Same as before.
Though it does not removes all the defects of the systems approach, yet it is an improvement in the sense that it gives more detailed view of the political system. However lacks much analytical importance.
3] Political Development Approach
Type of approach: Behavioural.
Purpose: Study of developing areas.
Exponents: Lucian Pye, F. W. Riggs.
Lucian Pye has given the parameter of political development. We can compare the countries on the basis of amount of development. Political development should not be confused with economic development. Political development means the development of democracy. According to Lucian Pye, there are 3 parameters of political development. 1) Equality – Equality means increasing political equality or political participation. 2) Capacity – Capacity denotes the capacity of the state to enforce laws. * e.g. Gunnar Myrdal has used the term ‘soft state’ for India because of poor capacity. 3) Differentiation – Means functional specialization.
Samuel P Huntington added the concept of ‘political decay’. Riggs added the concept of Development Trap. Sometimes development may get trapped when all dimensions of development do not develop equally.
Same as systems approach.
4] Political Modernisation
Samuel P Huntington, Edward Shils
Political development approach was seen as biased. It is seen as biased because it defines political development in the form of movement of a political system in the lines of western liberal democracy. e.g. Political development for China requires that China should move towards democracy. Hence Marxist challenge that political development model is biased. Hence scholars invented a new parameter for comparison. This new parameter is ‘modernization’.
Modernization is an economic category. It denotes the nature of economic development. Modernization denotes a) Industrialization. b) Urbanisation c) Secularisation d) Rationalisation. If we compare on above parameters, ideological dimension looses importance. Thus political modernization overlaps with the ‘end of ideology’ thesis. It shows that ideological differences do not matter much, so long countries go towards modernization.
According to Samuel P Huntington when countries go for modernization, it ultimately move towards democracy. Modernization thesis face a major challenge in context of China. Ideally China should have moved towards democracy after economic modernization, however in case of China, the control of communist party has become more entrenched. Communist party has an example of USSR. Hence Chinese communist party has not gone for democratic reforms.
Above analysis show that even political modernization theory is not completely neutral. It does have the inherent agenda.
5] Political Culture Approach
Sidney Verba & Gabriel Almond (Almond and Verba) – THE CIVIC CULTURE (book)
According to these scholars culture can be a determinant for comparisons because culture is a long term phenomenon. Culture denotes the set of norms, values, orientations of the people. Political culture is a subset of culture. It denotes people’s norms, values, orientations with respect to the political system.
Almond and Verba have used the concepts from following approaches to explain the types of political cultures.
1] The concept of ideal types given by Max Weber. Ideal types denotes formulation of models.
2] Easton’s input and output approach.
3] Almond and Verba have developed certain ideal types of political cultures. The prominent types can be discussed as following.
Parochial political culture
Parochial political culture denotes the attitude of the people towards the political system where people are not very much connected with the system. They feel themselves at the margins or periphery.
e.g. Tribes living in Andaman have a very peripheral position with respect to what goes in the Indian political system.
Parochial political culture can be explained through input-output model. When people neither influence input nor influence output, their culture is called as parochial.
Subject political culture
When people matter only at output, they are not very influential at input level. It means they are not in a position to determine what political system should do, however they matter in terms of the implementation of policies. It means political system is concerned about people’s reactions.
e.g. India’s political culture till 80s and 90s was primarily ‘Subject Political Culture’. People were not in a position to influence the policies which could go inside the political system but political system could not entirely ignore how people will react.
e.g. One of the reason for inability of the Indian elites to take economic reforms earlier was the fear that people may not support such policies.
Participant political culture
People play active role at both the levels. Input as well as output. It means they have active participation in the formulation of the laws and are not just at the receiving end of the political system.
e.g. The political culture of Switzerland can be said to be the participant.
Even in India, there is a growth of participant culture since the beginning of 21st century. The assertion of civil society, to get Jan Lokpal Bill implemented is an example of the growing participant culture in India.
Civic culture is considered to be most conducive for democracy. Civic culture is a combination of Participant culture, Subject political culture and Parochial political culture. According to the idea of civic culture, excessive participant culture is not good. Excessive participation may convert democracy into mobocracy. The best scenario for democracy is when majority has participant culture, but some sections also have the subject and parochial culture.
6] Political Sociology Approach
History of Political Sociology
Aristotle, who is considered as father of political science, is also considered as father of political sociology. His theory of revolution where he explained the sociological factors like rising inequalities as the cause of revolution can be considered as an example of political sociology.
We can also put forward the example of Machiavelli. Machiavelli prescribed that the form of govt. depends on the nature of society. If society is corrupt, then the rule of the prince who rules with the iron hand.
Above examples show that political sociology deals with the issues which are located at the interface of politics and society.
Origin of Modern Political Sociology.
We can consider Karl Marx as a father of modern political sociology. It was Karl Marx who suggested that to understand politics, we have to understand the basic structure of the society. Politics cannot be studies independently. Marx proposed base and superstructure model as a method of analysis.
Against Marxist approach to political sociology, emerged another school known as Weberian school. Max Weber challenged Marxist mode of analysis as monocausal explanation. There are two prominent schools in political sociology – Marxian and Weberian.
Impact of behavioural movement.
Political sociology approaches where further enriched by behavioural studies and methods. Even scholars like David Easton proposed that instead of institutional approach, politics should be studies with ‘systemic perspective’. It has been felt that specifically for developing areas the study of constitutions will not be enough. It is necessary to understand the socio-cultural environment in a country.
Political sociology has become a most prominent approach in comparative politics. Political sociologist deal with the issues located at the interface of politics and society. It tries to understand the interaction between decision making authorities and conflictual social forces and interests. For example same institutions function at different levels in different societies. Democracy may be successful in USA but in some country of Africa it may lead to more anarchy.
The four main areas of research in Political Sociology are:
1] The socio-political formation of modern state.
2] How social inequality between different groups i.e. caste, class, religion etc. influences politics.
3] How public opinion, ideologies, political parties, pressure groups, social movements and trends outside formal political institutions affect formal politics.
4] Power relationships within and between social groups i.e. families, bureaucracy, media etc.
The three major frameworks employed in political sociology are
2) Elite or managerial theory and
3) Class analysis.
Pluralism sees politics as a contest among different competing interest groups.
Elite theory focuses on the role of elites in management of power. In modern times, elites are leaders, those having strong organisational (managerial) skill. Weber / Theda Skocpol proposes this mode of understanding.
Class analysis (Marxist) framework emphasises the role of capitalist class. According to them propertied class influence and operates politics.
Some of the prominent works and the scholars who have used political sociology in Indian context are:
Andre Beteille – who has studied the role of caste;
Paul Brass – studied the role of religion;
Christophe Jaffrelot – studied role of RSS;
Yogendra Yadav – analysis India’s electoral behaviour.
What is the status of political sociology?
Political sociology has once attracted lot of attention of political scholars but later on they have realised that political sociology makes politics too much dependent on society. Further, the approach is also used by sociologists. Therefore there is a fear that political science will loose its independent identity. It will get submerged in the discipline of sociology.
Theda Skocpol calls for ‘Bringing the state back in’. It means political science should not get submerged in sociology. We have to give centrality to the study of the state in the discipline. It is true that society influence politics but it is also true that politics also shape society. e.g. Under the leadership of Charismatic leaders like Pandit Nehru, Indian society was being transformed into a modern society.
Presently there has been so much growth in political sociology in terms amount of research that it has become a hybrid discipline in itself rather than just the approach.
Limitations of political sociology approach
1] Political sociology suffers from the factor of over-emphasis on society. The society is emphasised so much so that Theda Skocpol calls for ‘bringing the state back in’.
2] It undermines the role institutions play in politics. Structure of politics also influences the power relations.
3] It ignores role economy play in politics. This has led to the separate development of political economy approach in comparative politics.
4] Due to globalization…
5] It is also more analytical in nature. Thus it lack the utility in prescription to resolve the crisis in governance.
Since the focus on society, this approach alone is not sufficient and should be used with other approaches like political economy and institutional approach.
7] Political Economy
In the east political economy goes back to Ancient India. Kautilya’s ARTHASHASTRA can be treated as the first textbook in political economy. According to Kautilya, the most important obligation of the state is to secure the material well being of its people.
In the west, the tradition of political economy starts with Adam Smith. His WEALTH OF NATIONS is considered as the first textbook.
Political economy show the interface of economics and politics. In political economy, scholars analyze ‘economic policies’ of the state. Influence of political factors on economic outcomes of state and vice versa. It studies the influence of political institutions like legislature, executive, judiciary in implementation and formulation of economic policies.
Political economy approach helps us in understanding the nature of the state as well as suggests the type of public policy which a country can adopt. Political economy is a useful approach because it has the qualities of being quantitative as well as prescriptive.
The approach also includes the trade policies of country and the role of international financial institution directive/norms etc. e.g. countries facing CAD are more vulnerable to dictates of IMF than countries with strong exports.
Political economy approach has different schools of thought.
1] The classical and utilitarian approach represented by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, J. Bentham.
2] Marxist approach represented by Karl Marx, Lenin, Engels, Rosa Luxemburg.
3] Neo Marxist school – dependency school represented by A G Frank, Sameer Amin
Structuralist school – represented by Hamza Alvi.
4] Welfare economics – represented by Keynes, Galbreath and in contemporary times by Amartya Sen, Jean Dreze.
5] Neo Liberal school – represented by Hyek, Nozick, Jagdish Bhagwati, Arvind Pangariya.
6] Public Choice school – James Buchanan.
Political economy approach has also been used widely in context of the study of India by scholars like Pranab Bardhan, Atul Kohli, Rudolph and Rudolph, Francine Frankel, Gunnar Myrdal. They have analyzed land reforms, green revolution, neo liberal economic policies etc.
The disadvantage of political economy approach is that it is just focused on analyzing the economic policies. Hence to be used in combination with other approaches.
Que. Critically examine the Marxist aspect of political economy.
Comparative politics is one of the oldest disciplines. There are various approaches to the study of comparative politics, political economy is one such approach. The tradition of political economy in east is as old as Kautilya. Modern political economy in west has its origin in Adam Smith.
Political economy approach analyses countries economic policies. Basically macroeconomic policies. Political economy has an advantage of being quantitative and qualitative. It is prescriptive in nature and normative in approach.
There are different schools of political economy, the oldest school is classical school represented by Adam Smith, who favoured Laissez Faire model.
Marxist approach emerged as a reaction against Adam Smith’s political economy. Marx believed that Adam Smith’s policies will lead to the wealth of few and not the entire nation. Marx prescribed social ownership of means of production.
Neo-Marxist added new approaches which can be used for the analysis of post colonial societies. The instrumentalist approach known as dependency school – AG Frank…. – has been utilised to study the states in Latin America, Africa, Middle East… Bourgeoise… Structuralist school represented by Hamza Alvi is utilised for the analysis of the states in South Asia.
To conclude we can say that Marxist approach is primarily the criticism of liberal approaches and the operation of capitalism at different levels.