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Comparative Politics (Lecture notes) Professor Sujian Guo Department of Political Science San Francisco State University
Comparative Political Systems There are many things that can be learned by studying and comparing political systems, such as how governments are structured and how they function, the process through which governments interact with their populations in pursing community goals, how political leaders and the population behave in politics, and how political leaders and the public think about and feel about politics and how their feelings affect their behavior. By studying and comparing these different aspects of different political systems, we are able to learn more about the system in which we live, we can also determine which systems are successful and which systems are not. Throughout time there has always been diversity in political systems across the world. We will study them in this section.
Government, State, Regime, and Political System Government: government is simply the agency made up of offices through which problems are formulated, agendas are addressed, and decisions are made, which affect the lives of their citizens. The collection of offices in a political system constitutes the government of that system, and these offices are filled by particular individuals who are either popularly elected or politically appointed, and these individuals play various roles in the political process and can shift from one role to another. (key words: offices, bureaucracies, individual officials)
Government, State, Regime, and Political System State: the state is a permanent structure of domination and coordination, including a coercive apparatus and the legitimate use of physical force to administer control over the population within its territory. Therefore, when large numbers of people in a particular territory begin to doubt or deny the claim of the state to administer control by the legitimate use of coercive means or physical force, then the existing state is in peril of dissolution. However, governments succeed one another, or regimes come and go, while the state usually endures. (key words: coercive apparatus, physical force, population, territory)
Government, State, Regime, and Political System Regime: a regime is constituted by principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures which govern the power relationships among institutions and determine who has access to power, and how those who are in power deal with those who are not. A regime is a more permanent organization of power than specific governments. Governments may come and go, while the regime remains in place. (key words: norms, rules, or constitutions)
Why we need to make a distinction between these three concepts? (1) we encounter these concepts most often, but usually confuse them without a clear definition. We need a common basis for measuring the variables or changes, formulating and discussing the problems or issues. The three important concepts and the clear distinction between these concepts will provide us with an analytic tool or instrument to categorize and analyze different political systems. EX. for a nondemocratic state in modern world, there is a fusion of state, regime, and government through the ruling party. The ruling party is usually identified with the government, the regime, the state and even with the nation. They construct regimes in their own norm, ideology, image and need, mold the government and the state itself along lines compatible with this particular norm, ideology, image, and need. It is for this reason that the state/regime/government distinction becomes blurred in nondemocratic countries. By doing so, the ruling class views attacks on the party as an attack on the state or the nation, and interprets all proposals to change the government as an attempt to overthrow or destroy the state or the nation, and provides an legitimate excuse for repression or for containing social change.
Why we need to make a distinction between these three concepts? (2) we can tell governments succeed one another, but how can we identify regime changes? This has important theoretical and political implications for the political analysis or the comparison of different political systems. The first thing to do is to identify the defining features of one type of regime from which a transition departs or a change occurs. Principles and norms provide the basic defining characteristics of a regime, while rules and procedures can be consistent or inconsistent with the same principles and norms. Changes in rules and procedures are changes within a regime, if principles and norms are unaltered. A regime change occurs only when those fundamental principles and norms change, such as change from a “nondemocratic” regime to a “democratic” regime. (3) Furthermore, the nature of one particular type of regime can remain in place, even if this type of regime incorporate some features of another type of regime. Ex. A nondemocratic regime can have constitutional provisions for elections, but these are meaningless unless an opposition is allowed and able to succeed legitimately to government in an open, free, and fair contest.
Government, State, Regime, and Political System Political system is a pattern of political relationships that involves power, authority, or ruling, which authoritatively allocates values for a society. The key assumption built into this definition is that in every society people have different values such as interests, objectives, desires, resources, and these must be authoritatively allocated or distributed in a conflict situation (scarcity vs. incompatible goals). “How is this done” or “how are values distributed,” or in Lasswell’s classic phrase, “Who gets What, When, and How?” becomes the basic question of politics and the main task of any political system. This question refers to “the authoritative allocation of values,” which could take different forms!
Classification Schemes for Political Systems Schemes for classifying political systems into different types are as old as the study of politics itself. Aristotle’s classification can serve as a most influential classical example, which is based upon two criteria: the number of citizens entitled to rule – whether one, few, or many; and whether the rulers governed in the “common interest” or in their own selfish interests:
Aristotle’s classification # citizens entitled to rule rulers rule in interest of all rulers rule in interest of themselves Onekingship (monarchy) tyranny FewAristocracyoligarchy ManyPolity (republic)democracy
Three Types of Political System Constitutional democracy, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism are probably the most common typologies that have been used to classify and distinguish between different modern political systems. In this section, we will define and compare those distinctive characteristics of the different political systems that distinguish one from another. In order for us to do that, we need a workable classification scheme to identify the essential features of a political system and to distinguish one political system from another. This classification scheme is the distinction between core and operative features, in other words, core vs. operative levels
The Classification Model in Comparative Analysis TypesCoreOperative Primary categoryDogA B C Secondary categories SheepdogA B CE F RetrieverA B C G H SpanielA B C I J TypesCoreOperative Primary categoryDemocracyA B C Secondary categories Representative democracy A B CE F Participatory democracy A B C G H
Constitutional Democracy Democracy comes from two ancient Greek words – “demos” meaning “the people” and “cratos” meaning “power.” So, democracy is defined as a form of government for the people by the will of the majority of the people. Many countries have democratic governments. However, these governments can be very different in design and function, and democracy mean differently to different people. Then, the first question is: What’s Democracy?
Three Ways of Conceptualizing Democracy 1. A procedural or minimal conception. Among the first group of scholars (such as Joseph Schumpeter, Robert A. Dahl, Seymour Martin Lipset), the Schumpeterian definition is a minimal conception of democracy, which emphasizes the single most important defining property of democracy – the authority of government derives from the consent of people or electoral participation through free, open and contested elections.
Three Ways of Conceptualizing Democracy 2. A substantive or maximal conception. Some other scholars tend to stress conceptual breadth, which involves a larger number of defining properties intrinsic to democracy. Under this definition, the conception of democracy embraces effective and responsible government, informed and rational deliberation, honest and openness in politics, economic equality, equal participation and power, social justice, and various other civic virtues.
Three Ways of Conceptualizing Democracy 3. A middle-ground position. Still others, such as Terry Lynn Karl, choose a middle ground for defining democracy in order to avoid either an overly narrow or overly broad definition, with the concept being defined with reference to a small number of characteristics that distinguish it from other political systems. –allow the contestation over power in free and fair elections –accountability of the ruler to the ruled –checks and balances in the exercise of government –the neutrality of the armed forces –protection of civil and political liberty and rights of every citizen.
Types of Democracy Direct Democracy – rule by the many The word "democracy" is used all the time today. Strictly speaking, a democracy is a system where the people rule. Each decision that needs to be made is made by the people as a whole. Such systems can only really happen in a small population because everyone cannot participate actively in government. Democracy has its roots in Ancient Greece.
Types of Democracy Representative democracy – rule by the many. As pure or direct democracy is impossible for a country, a workable form quickly evolved. In a representative or indirect democracy, representatives of large groups of people are selected and these representatives meet to conduct the government for the people. The selection of representatives is done by election, where a selection of candidates is chosen according to rules adopted by the people. An election takes place and by majority vote, one of the candidates is chosen. A key to representative government is that the representatives are, in some way, accountable to the electorate. Many if not most countries in the world claim they are indirect or representative democracies. If the people have no say in who gets to be a candidate or did not adopt the rules for choosing a candidate, then it is not a democracy. Just being able to vote does not make a country democratic. If rulers are not accountable to the electorate, there will be no real meaning of representation. Communist countries often hold elections but candidates are chosen by the communist party and no one else can run. Cuba and China are examples though China has changed a lot.
Types of Democracy Liberal Democracy – a from of representative government in which majority rule based on competing parties, free elections and universal franchise is balanced by regard for individual and minority rights. The powers of the government are limited by institutional checks and balances, a legitimate political opposition, a free media, a pluralistic tolerance of a wide range of groups and interests and an individualistic political culture. Central to a liberal democracy is the protection of civil liberties - for example, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to dissent. These civil liberties are safeguarded by the “rule of law” and the separation of the powers. A second key element in liberal democracy is a belief in limited government, the idea that the individual should enjoy protection from arbitrary government.
Types of Democracy How can representatives know what the majority of their constituents think about a particular issue? And even if they do know, adhering only to the wishes of the majority can, on occasion, lead to tyranny for the minority (something which democracy is supposed to prevent). In other words, representative democracy raises a whole range of problems which do not arise in a direct democracy. Also democracy is dependent upon voters making an informed choice and playing an active part in the political process. It has been argued that representative democracy allows people to simply vote every five years and forget about politics in-between. Such political apathy can result in very low election turnout.
Types of Democracy Participatory democracy In order to overcome the problems described above, another model of democracy – “participatory democracy”- has been suggested as a compromise between direct democracy and representative democracy. “Participatory democracy” combines the pragmatic advantages of representative democracy with the theoretical attractions of direct democracy. It allows all citizens a greater say in policy issues through such mechanisms as public inquiries, advisory referendums, and consultative bodies. Therefore, “consultative democracy” or “deliberative democracy” is viewed as a form of it.
Types of Democracy Deliberative or Consultative Democracy – a from of participatory democracy that emphasizes consultative and deliberative participation of citizens as key contributions to modern democracy and allows individual citizens equal access to decision- making irrespective of their standing in a local community. Deliberative democracy, also sometimes called “consultative democracy” or “discursive democracy,” is a term used by some political theorists, to refer to any system of political decisions based on some tradeoff of consensus decision making and representative democracy. In contrast to the traditional theory of democracy, which emphasizes voting as the central institution in democracy, deliberative democracy theorists argue that legitimate lawmaking can only arise from the public deliberation of the citizenry. However, critics have pointed out the failure of most theories of deliberative democracy: they do not address the problems of voting.
Types of Democracy Socialist Democracy Socialist democracy includes two variants: social democracy and democratic socialism. Both believe in a form of participatory democracy and workplace democracy combined with a representative democracy. Within Marxist tradition there is a general suspicion against what is commonly called “liberal democracy,” which they simply refer to as parliamentary democracy. Because of their desire to eliminate the political elitism they see in capitalism, Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists believe in direct democracy implemented through a system of communes (which are sometimes called soviets). This system ultimately manifests itself as “council democracy” and begins with “workplace democracy.”
Types of Democracy Social democracy is a political ideology that emerged in the late 19th century out of the socialist movement. Modern social democracy advocates the formation of a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices. This is unlike socialism in the traditional sense, which aims to end the predominance of the capitalist system, or in the Marxist sense which aims to replace it entirely. Instead, social democrats aim to reform capitalism democratically through state regulation and the creation of programs and organizations which work to ameliorate or remove injustices they see in the capitalist market system. “Social democracy” is also used to refer to the particular kind of society that social democrats advocate. While some consider social democracy a moderate type of socialism, others, defining socialism in the traditional or Marxist sense, reject that designation.
Types of Democracy Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements, tendencies, and organizations, to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation. The term is sometimes used synonymously with “social democracy,” and also frequently, this definition is invoked to distinguish democratic socialism from communism or Stalinist model. Democratic socialism is difficult to define, and groups of scholars have radically different definitions for the term. Some definitions of democratic socialism simply refer to all forms of socialism that follow an electoral, reformist or evolutionary path to socialism, rather than a revolutionary one. A variant of this set of definitions is Joseph Schumpeter’s argument, set out in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1941) that liberal democracies were evolving from “liberal capitalism” into democratic socialism, with the growth of workers’ self-management, industrial democracy and regulatory institutions.
Authoritarianism 1. An authoritarian regime is an elitist rule governed by a single ruler (autocracy, tyranny, or dictator) or an elite ruling group (oligarchy, or a military junta). An authoritarian regime rules in its self-interest and places its self-interest above the interests of people.
Authoritarianism 2. Authoritarian rulers justify their self-serving rule on a combination of “myth” (e.g. religious divine right, personal charisma, heredity/royal birth) and “might” (e.g. brutal force, police terror). In contrast to totalitarian regimes, they do not claim to hold a universal truth or have utopian goals or an integrated official ideology. They do not require their subjects to believe, act and live in the same way. They do not attempt to transform human nature and society, leaving private life and personal beliefs untouched. What they want is simply to stay in power and make the society obedient to their rule.
Authoritarianism 3. Authoritarian rulers in the modern world usually come to power by force and rule by brutal force. Therefore, they must control the means by which they can maintain their monopolistic power, in particular, control the military and the police. This differs from a totalitarian rule — “totalism” in which party ideology and organizations dominate every sector of the state and penetrate almost every corner of the society in order to bring about conformity of the entire society to the party ideology and goals.
Authoritarianism 4. Authoritarian regimes also have other typical nondemocratic features: impose strict press censorship, outlaw political opposition, control the courts, suppress civil and political liberty and rights, no meaningful election, and no checks and balances in the exercise of government. All these measures are undertaken in the name of order and stability, primacy of economic development, or defending the nation from its enemies.
Type of Authoritarianism Dictatorship – rule by one. In this government system, one person controls all branches of government. In a dictatorship, one person has absolute power. Though there is typically a military and even a bureaucracy (like an administration) in such a government. Usually there are laws which people have to obey but often the dictator and people high in the bureaucracy or military do whatever they want. The dictator often becomes or tries to act like a god or a “cult of personality” so that people will fear him or worship him and do whatever he wants. Dissent (disagreement with authority) is not allowed. Examples include those countries before they made a transition to democracy. Dictatorial systems are often based on military power, and the term "military dictatorship" is used, like with Myanmar (Burma).
Type of Authoritarianism Autocracy - rule by one. In this government system, one person controls all branches of government. An autocracy is the same as a dictatorship - but the term is often used to describe a government not quite as bad as a "dictatorship" An autocrat may have less a “cult of personality” than a dictator and in some cases, such a government system may be necessary to keep peace in a country. Dissent is still not allowed but the government is not widely feared and is often praised. Such an Autocrat can be called a benevolent dictator by some. Cuba is considered an autocracy by some, though many in the United States consider it a dictatorship.
Type of Authoritarianism Monarchy - rule by one. In this government system, one person controls all branches of government. A monarchy is best described in the same way as a dictatorship: rule by one person who has absolute power but there are two key differences: dictatorship is used as a bad term, and monarchy is seen as much more benign (not so bad). Historically, however, kings and queens have been as brutal as many modern dictators. The second major difference is the transfer of power and acceptance by the people. In a dictatorship, power is often not transferred at all - the death of the dictator means the end of the dictatorship; or it is transferred to a hand- picked successor. People only accept dictatorship out of fear. Monarchies usually have hereditary systems of succession (the next ruler), such that a monarch's first-born son becomes king upon the monarch's death. (The British used to say “The king is dead, long live the king”) Past and present examples include Saudi Arabia, England, and Thailand.
Type of Authoritarianism Oligarchy - Rule by the few. An oligarchy is, literally, rule by a few. Oligarchies are often the evolution of dictatorships from rule by a single person to rule by a small group of people. There are several different types of oligarchies: –Aristocracy - Rule by the few. In an aristocracy, the upper class of citizens holds the power. Heredity, or rule by right of birth, plays a large role in continuing power and who is an aristocrat. Usually only those born into the aristocratic class can hold power and wealth. –Plutocracy - Rule by the few. A plutocracy is rule by a few, wealthy, elite group. It is like an aristocracy but there is no right of birth – you just have to be rich. –Theocracy - Rule by the few. A theocracy is rule of a few based on religion - the group is ruled by the group's spiritual leaders. Religion is a powerful human phenomenon, and religious leaders can often exert great influence over the group's actions. Examples include many modern Islamic states, such as Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban.
Totalitarianism The Origin of the Concept of “Totalitarianism” Giovanni Gentile, Italy’s most prominent philosopher and leading theorist of fascism used the term “totalitario” to refer to the structure and goals of the new state. The new state was to refer to “total representation of the nation and total guidance of national goals.” Thus was born of the original concept of “totalitarianism.” – Stanley G. Payne Fascism: Comparison and Definition (UW Press, 1980), p. 73
Totalitarianism Definition: Totalitarianism is not simply the reality of “total control” which means a complete control of everything in detail or every single aspect of social life, but refers to the “totalistic nature” or “totalism” of all major aspects of a totalitarian regime which are dominated and penetrated by the party ideology, organization, and party-state establishment.
Characteristics of Totalitarianism 1. Philosophical absolutism and utopian goal are the first distinctive features of Communist totalitarianism. It claims to be the possessor of absolute and universal truth, in command of historical destiny of human society, and therefore to be in the position of completing its course. Unlike totalitarian regimes, authoritarian regimes are rarely inspired by a utopian goal or barely have a pervasive and exclusive ideology, without having to base their legitimacy upon a strong ideological commitment.
Characteristics of Totalitarianism 2. An official, pervasive, and exclusive ideology, which is the second core feature of communist totalitarianism, serves as the legitimate source of the regime and the basis for a new political and social system and a new socialist man. Unlike totalitarian regimes, authoritarian regimes seek only to control human behavior mainly through denying individuals civil and political rights such as participation in political life or the exercise of free speech, whereas totalitarian regimes aim not only to remold behavior but also to do so through the transformation of human nature, the exercise of extensive thought control, and the interference into personal beliefs.
Characteristics of Totalitarianism 3. A highly hierarchical and centralized single elitist party is completely intertwined with the state, with an array of party organizational structures that supplement state institutions from top right down to the bottom, forming a set of party-state apparatus and replacing to a large extent the governmental functions. While a single official party may also exist in some authoritarian regimes, the party in authoritarian regimes generally does not have the political and ideological vanguard status reserved only for totalitarian parties and the authoritarian single party may have to compete with the state, military and private organizations rather than penetrating and dominating them.
Characteristics of Totalitarianism 4. The fourth features are operational features or action means and methods by which totalitarianism uses to achieve and maintain the former three fundamental and core features. These actions means and methods include repeated, massive use of state terror, mass mobilization, mass violence, control over the state, the information and media, education, culture, economy, means of production, military forces and weapons. Unlike totalitarian regimes, authoritarian regimes not only depend to a considerable extent on a variety of social forces such as monarchy, church, the army, or business, but also leave whole areas of life untouched by official influence and control, and leave in place existing allocations of wealth, status, social values, and other resources, in particular, with a relatively strong private property as their socioeconomic basis.