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Concepts and Problems of Comparative Politics


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Title: Concepts and Problems of Comparative Politics

Concepts and Problems of Comparative Politics
  • Focuses on human decisions
  • Power
  • Who gets what, when, where and why?
  • The authoritative allocation of values for a
  • Political science the study of human decisions

Why Governments?
  • What are the functions of government?
  • Enhance security, community, nation building
  • Secure order
  • Protect property
  • Promote economic efficiency and growth
  • Addresses problems of market failure
    (electricity, water, sewer)
  • Public good(s) issues
  • Non-excludable
  • Not rival (consumption does not detract from
    someone elses)
  • Subject to market failure
  • No incentive for private production (clean air,
    national security)

Why Government?
  • Protect the weakest members of society
  • Provide parameters of social justice
  • Formally defined
  • Governments are organizations of individuals
    legally empowered to make binding decisions on
    behalf of a community.
  • OR
  • Governments are the formal institutions that make
    decisions about public policy and the processes
    and procedures of decisionmaking.

Why Government?
  • Comparative Politics
  • is thus the comparative study of decisionmaking
    in political systems
  • Related to a given territory (national territory)
  • Backed by authority and coercion (self-defense or

Nature of Man in Social Groups
  • Thought
  • Hobbes and Weber Rousseau and Locke
  • Weber
  • The defining characteristic of government is its
    monopoly over the use of force
  • Hobbes
  • State of nature inhospitable (condition of man
    without government)
  • Man in conflict against all
  • Nature is barbaric and fear filled
  • Government is the only solution to inevitable
  • Concerned with internal and external security

Nature of Man in Social Groups
  • Rousseau
  • State of nature brutish without law, morality
  • Men ally to form society
  • The Social Contract agreement on membership
  • Government is a source of power and inequality
    and thus human alienation and corruption
  • Questioned assumption that majority will always
  • Government should act morally. Should ensure
  • Locke
  • State of nature not in conflict until the
    creation of property
  • Property is the source of conflict (Its mine!)
  • Government with a limited role (protecting
    property) is good
  • Must have an agreed upon social contract
  • Establish and enforce property rights and rules
    of economic exchange.

Government as the Problem?
  • Critics Anarchists and Libertarians
  • Anarchists
  • Communitarians who see societies as communities
    of people who in their natural condition are
  • Governments lead to corruption in these
    communities which leads to oppression and
  • Alternative is voluntary cooperation

Government as the Problem?
  • Libertarians
  • Individualists who see society as composed of
    human beings with some fundamental rights
    (property, freedom of speech)
  • The more government gets involved, the more prone
    it is to violate basic rights e.g. law
  • Alternative is a society of unfettered
  • Ayn Rand

Government as the Problem?
  • Destruction of Community
  • Does government build or destroy communities?
  • Violations of Basic Rights
  • Define basic rights?
  • Does the power held by governments allow them to
    violate rights?
  • Economic Inefficiency
  • Surplus? Deficit?

Government as the Problem?
  • Government for Private Gain
  • Rent Seeking benefits created through
    government intervention in the economy
  • Tax revenue or profits created because government
    restricted competition
  • Food subsidies
  • Gas/oil/energy subsidies
  • Influence trading? (insider information)
  • One persons gain is anothers (or societys)
  • Vested interest and inertia
  • Once rents are created, difficult to abolish
  • House of Lords in Great Britain

Alternatives to Government?
  • Markets and Voluntary coordination
  • Very small government
  • Extreme decentralization
  • Free market, individual property rights
  • Thoughts????

Political Systems Properties of
  • Two Elements
  • Independent parts with environmental boundaries
  • A set of institutions that formulate and
    implement the collective goals of a society or
    groups within it?
  • Defined A particular type of social system
    involved in making authoritative public decisions
    that has sovereignty.
  • Decisions are backed by legitimate coercion and
    compellance (power)
  • Legitimacy those who are ruled believe that
    their rulers have a right (by law or custom) to
    implement their decisions by force if necessary
  • The right to rule
  • May ebb and flow over time

  • Internal and External Sovereignty
  • Old and New States
  • Classification by Developmental Status
  • Classification by Size
  • Classification by Governmental or Political
    System Type
  • A particular type of political system that has

Internal and External Sovereignty
  • Sovereignty
  • Independent legal authority over a population in
    a particular territory based on the recognized
    right to self-determination
  • Kuwait
  • Internal Sovereignty
  • Right to determine matters regarding ones own
    citizens without intervention
  • External Sovereignty
  • Right to conclude binding agreements with other

Sovereignty Today
  • Traditional forms joined by new forms
  • Supranational organizations
  • European Union
  • North American Free Trade Agreement
  • United Nations
  • Eg 1994 17 peacekeeping missions, 100,000
  • United Nations subunits or related orgs
  • FAO, WHO, UNESCO, IMF, World Bank

Old and New States
  • 1945 - 68 states increased by 117 by 1999
  • 1999 185 member states in the U.N.
  • 1990s - 20 new states
  • Taiwan, Switzerland, Vatican not members of the
  • First, Second and Third World
  • Advanced industrial democracies, Communist bloc,
    underdeveloped/developing nations
  • Still useful as a categorization?

Does Size Matter in Politics?
  • Big and Small States
  • Russia 17 million square kms
  • Vatican City gt ½ sq km and gt1,000 residents
  • China 1.2 billion population
  • Does size determine politics?
  • Does area and population determine economic
    development, foreign policy and defense issues?
  • Geographic location important to defense central
    location means you need a large army to do this
    you need high level of resource extraction
    gtauthoritarian regime?
  • Population growth rates and implications for
    economic development
  • Economies need to keep pace with population

Building Community
  • Common identity and sense of community among
    citizens important
  • Without a unifying factor cleavage can dominate
  • Japan example of a population that is ethnically
    homogeneous with shared language, little
    religious diversity and strong political history
    in addition, enjoys relative geographic isolation
    from neighbors
  • Nigeria extremely large and diverse population
    no common pre-colonial history sharp religious
    divisions 250 ethnic groups language diversity

Nations, states, nation-states?
  • Nation a group of people with a common identity
    (how people identify themselves)
  • Nations do not necessarily have government or
  • Some nations have close correspondence with state
    e.g. Japan, France, Sweden
  • Nationhood as culture?
  • State political system with sovereignty
  • Nation-state cases in which the scope of legal
    authority and national identification coincide
  • What about multinational states?
  • U.S.S.R, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia

Nationality and Ethnicity
  • Ethnicity Weber humans who entertain a
    subjective belief in their common descent because
    of similarities of physical type or of customs or
  • Croats, Serbs and Muslim Bosnians groups which
    differ by religious custom, marriage and
    historical memories but are physically similar
    may believe themselves to be descended from
    different ancestors and thus genetically
  • Jewish population of Israel today heterogeneous
    from a homogeneous start culture endures but
    not genetic homogeneity

Other sources of division
  • Language
  • Religious differences and fundamentalism
  • What happens when divisions persist?
  • How do these sources of difference impact

Cross-Cutting Cleavage
  • Political cleavage
  • When national, ethnic, linguistic and other
    divisions systematically affect political
    allegiances and policies
  • Cross-cutting cleavage
  • Groups that share a common interest on one issue
    are likely to be on opposite sides of different
  • Eg Netherlands class and religion cross-cut
  • Catholics and Protestants are equally likely to
    be rich or poor and discrimination does not focus
    solely on Catholics

Cumulative Cleavage
  • Cumulative cleavages the same people are pitted
    against one another over and over again on a wide
    variety of issues.
  • Eg Northern Ireland Catholicism and poverty and
    history of discrimination Protestantism and
    wealth and no history of discrimination