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Definition Of Political Development Essay

963 words - 4 pages

Defining Political Development
No consensus has been reached on the definition of political development; however most scholars agree it is multi-faceted concept. Comparative politics often promotes itself as an empirical field of study; however the categories, statistics and indicators we choose to measure a particular concept often reveal, at best a subconscious bias, and at worst an overt normative agenda. Furthermore, whichever definition and subcategories we decide are sufficient, political development often encompasses attributes that are difficult to measure numerically.

That being said, there are some criteria that are common across the many definitions of political development, one of which is modernisation. Prominent political scientist, Samuel Huntington, listed four sub-categories of modernisation: rationalisation, national integration, democratisation and mobilisation [insert citation]. He further concluded, of these four, only mobilisation (and participation) are measurable and applicable to developing world.

In addition, he asserted that institutionalisation is a more important facet of political development, citing four sub-categories: adaptability, complexity, autonomy and coherence. If institutionalisation is rapidly outpaced by modernisation, specifically mobilisation and participation, the end is result is political decay rather than political development.

Again, it is important to note the normative subtext that underlies these studies. In the case of Huntington, Przeworski & Limongi, and many studies on the subject, there is an implicit, and often explicit, assumption that democracy is the most developed form of governance. This cultural bias towards a Western model of government, and specifically a Western model of democracy, ignores the importance of finding a culturally appropriate and fitting system of government that is tailored to the state in question. This is particularly true in the case of Africa. Arthur Klinghoffer noted this in “Modernisation and Political Development in Africa ” [1965]

Klinghoffer accepts Huntington's assertion, but goes further by linking political development to the political capacity; “ A high level of political development occurs in those societies where there is both a great deal of political capacity and modernisation.”[insert citation] A corollary is that political development cannot happen without an increase in both. Political capacity encompasses the concept of institutionalisation, but also includes stability, extractive capability and state identity. As such, Klinghoffer includes factors that Huntington attributed to modernisation, but dismissed as irrelevant to developing states, within political capacity; therefore reasserting the importance of understanding the complete picture when evaluating a complex concept like political development.


An interesting case study is Egypt, specifically the Egyptian revolution of 2011. The grievances of the protesters were diverse,...

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