DEFINING POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
This work arose from my conviction that earlier formulations have gone astray in ways too subtle to revise directly. I therefore began it not with previous definitions of political development, about which there is much disagreement,(1) but rather with previous challenges, which offer more unanimity. Without immediately presuming to judge earlier work as correct or incorrect, I sought to start afresh by a return to the fundamental theoretical challenges facing political development conceptions. Because these challenges presuppose no special theoretical perspective and rely on no empirical claim, I felt an honest solution to them should provide firm theoretical ground from which to assess prior efforts. We are now in a position to carry out that assessment by looking at how the present theoretical framework is related to previous and current usages of the political development concept.
Two usages we can dismiss out of hand. The first is the identification of political development with Westernization, economic growth, industrialization, modernization, and the like. As Pye (1966a:36-37) puts it, the confusion between political development and Westernization "runs into the difficulty of differentiating between what is 'Western' and what is ['developed.']"(2) Nevertheless, such confusion continues to appear, e.g., in Khalilzad (1984-5) and Bianchi (1984).
A second, clearly incorrect usage employs the term "political development" in the sense of political developmentS - mere occurrences or change,(3) even though the strong normative connotations of "development" demand its distinction from "change." For example, Plascov (1982) never defines political development, but only implies that it is whatever happens politically during social modernization. Bensel (1984), a historian, fails to define the "political development" of his book's title, appearing to regard it as "historical events and trends." Auster and Silver (1979) say merely that political structures transform themselves, but the authors do not distinguish development from mere change. The term "development" does not appear in any of these works' indexes. Ironically, this usage supports Huntington's (1971) call for "a change to [the study of] change" while simultaneously adding to the confusion surrounding the term development that Huntington cites as the primary reason to abandon it.
Having dismissed the obviously incorrect usages of the concept, we are still left with a variety of conceptions having substantial merit. How are these related to the present theoretical framework? We will examine first the related Hegelian and Marxian approaches, second the related progress theory and cultural relativist approaches, and finally, the Social Science Research Council's Committee on Comparative Politics formulation.(4) The discussions are inevitably cursory, but I think they cover the central connections.
To Hegel, history reflects human beings' progressively greater "consciousness of freedom," or "spirit," which is seen in many aspects of intellectual activity (e.g., religion; philosophy) and which is objectified in corresponding social and political institutions. Hegel's idealist conception of the origins of institutions is closely related to the present work's conception of institutions as organized through moral reasoning structures. In the present framework, Hegel's almost metaphorical (or, as Marx termed it, mystified) concepts of "spirit" and "consciousness of freedom" take more concrete meanings as cognitive structures which coordinate, more or less successfully, different moral perspectives. This framework identifies the Hegelian dialectic as the cognitive growth process arising from a single stage's ambiguities.
The present conception connects at several points with Marx's theory of development. First, its approach to development is dialectical, as Hegel's was, but is also grounded in material relations, as Marx's was. The cognitive-structural ambiguities referred to in the previous paragraph appear in their cultural manifestations as concrete contradictions between actors in different social positions. Marx criticized the idealist foundations of the Hegelian dialectic, which was drawn upward by an ideal (that is, preserving what was true in both a thesis and its negation) rather than constructed layer by layer out of real, conflicting positions. The Piagetian epistemology that underlies cognitive development also sees knowledge as constructed and, even closer to Marx's position, as constructed out of manipulations of the material environment. Such manipulations occur only at early stages of the child's development, however. They are later replaced by "operational" thought, which organizes symbolic representations of more material action. This symbolic activity is the centerpiece of Habermas' (1979:esp.pp.97-98) reconstruction of Marxian thought through the concept of communicative action. That reconstruction, and the present framework, thus preserve Marx's materialist, constructivist epistemology while still recognizing, as Hegel does, a role for purely intellectual activity. In the Piagetian epistemology, intellectual activity is a continuation of material activity by other, more interior means.
Second, the present analytic framework reveals specific mechanisms whereby a ruling class is able to maintain its dominance: partly by controlling public commonness, and partly by inhibiting reasoning beyond the existing cognitive structure. Thus, like Marx's, the present theory sees an interplay between ideas and real social forces. To draw the parallel more closely, ideas constitute the Marxian "relations of production," which underlie all aspects of society, not simply its economic aspect. The social forces aiding or inhibiting the establishment of new ways of relating are the forces of production. There is some debate among Marxian scholars over the nature of such forces (e.g., do they arise solely from technological change?); the present framework sees them as, broadly, whatever forces advance or restrict the public commonness (or potential public commonness) of any way of relating. Like Marx, the present framework sees development arising from the interaction of the relations of production and the forces of production, but it also sees a force for development arising from the internal, moral ambiguities of the relations of production.
Third, the present theory rejects the "vulgar Marxist" image of an economic base and a political-social-ideological superstructure. The differentiation of structure and content clarifies the interconnection of different facets of the social whole: a given structure can permeate all the above-mentioned aspects of a culture, with their mutual interactions dependent on specifics of institutional inventiveness and adaptability (horizontal decalage, in cognitive terms) and cultural hegemony (which has no cognitive counterpart). Marx may have argued that the means of production are the most useful for hegemonic control, being most directly important to physical survival, but that proposition is unnecessary to Marx's general theory.(5)
Fourth, the present approach reconciles Marx's claims to scientific status with political development's normative connotations. That reconciliation is embodied in the dual empirical and normative claims of Kohlberg's work.
We now turn briefly to the progress theorists, who claim a steady progress in human affairs, and to the cultural relativists, who support their philosophical claim that cultures can only be judged by the cultures' own standards with the empirical observation that different cultures have different standards and different historical patterns. The present theory reconciles somewhat restructured versions of these positions. It recasts the cultural relativists' philosophical claim as the Kantian criterion of universalizability: the normative foundation of any conception of development must respect the moral claims of all social actors. In particular, it must respect cultural integrity to the extent that any culture has a right to have it respected.(6) This formulation of the cultural relativists's claim relieves them from holding the unprovable metaethical position that nonrelativistic judgments cannot be made. The present conception of development does show that different cultures can develop along different developmental paths - of different content, that is, but not of different structure.
Progress theories are likewise somewhat restructured. Progress is not inevitable, due to problems of establishing public commonness, but there is a developmental force, arising from individual cognitive development and preference for higher stages.(7) The patterns of legal-ethical development observed by Hobhouse (1906) are therefore probably not fortuitous but a reflection of a more general developmental process. Nevertheless, the route of progress depends upon the specific culture's specific contradictions.
We turn finally to a more recent attempt to conceptualize political development: the influential work of the Committee on Comparative Politics of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC-CCP). The volume and variety of work in that tradition makes it difficult to characterize.(8) It is fair to say, however, that the entire approach uses Parsonian pattern variables to characterize and grade different political systems. In Pye's famous "development syndrome" (1966a:45-48), the pattern variables of development are "equality," "differentiation," and "capacity." Rightly refusing to become mired in problems of operationalization or of tradeoffs among the variables, Pye argues that these three broadly understood variables characterize political development. Later research in the SSRC-CCP tradition adds various operationalizations and combinations of these variables and produces many specific findings, but it seems fair to say that Pye's basic perspective continues to inform the tradition.
The present conception of development closely resembles Pye's, if we interpret equality, differentiation, and capacity as criteria of moral reasoning rather than as pattern variables. First, equality is readily interpreted as the ethical criterion of universalizability. This becomes plain in Pye's (1966a:45-46) discussion of the various facets of equality. The first facet - popular participation - follows from universalizability's demand that the political system be fair from the perspective of the people as well as government officials. The second facet - a universalistic, impersonal legal system - follows from universalizability's elimination of invidious distinctions, as does the third facet - achievement rather than ascriptive standards. Pye's various facets of equality all seem to derive from the broader criterion of universalizability. Use of that criterion avoids the more specific, content-laden (and thus potentially ethnocentric) formulations that Pye employs.
The demand for equality arises from our basic ethical belief that morally similar cases be treated similarly. Pye's second pattern variable, differentiation, can be interpreted as the ethical demand that morally different cases be treated differently. Pye calls attention to two facets of the term. The first facet - differentiation as division of labor or of legal function - seems unrelated to development. Division of labor or legal function may be a good idea in many circumstances, but it has no inherent normative significance. The second facet - differentiation as a finer mesh in a coherent net of political arrangements(9) - seems much closer to development. The complexity of moral considerations in society requires a differentiation of moral cases within a coherent, just way of relating. Such a differentiation may involve actual specialization of political functions, as in a complex bureaucracy, or it might simply mean that the culture's way of relating must contain relevant complexity. Differentiation thus can be a criterion of development, not for its own sake, but only to the extent that it reflects the complexity of actual ethical considerations. To seek differentiation without such guidance is, again, to run the risk of ethnocentrism.
Pye's third pattern variable is capacity. He uses the term in two senses, one denoting "the sheer magnitude, scope, and scale of political and governmental performance" (1966a:46), the second denoting the secular rationality, effectiveness, and efficiency of governmental performance, regardless of its extent. The present conception views these two senses as quite distinct. First, the extent or scope of politics or government has no inherent virtue, so theorists cannot regard it as a criterion of development but only as a contingent byproduct.(10) Nevertheless, this sense of capacity has theoretical meaning in the present conception, where capacity is seen as another term for public commonness. From Pye's viewpoint, capacity breaks down in states like, say, Niger or Chad, where nomadic, "parochial" tribes have no sense of citizenship and wander freely across international borders. In the present conception, such tribes merely illustrate that the Western way of relating (in terms of states, boundaries, laws, and so on) is not publicly common. What is publicly common is the use of force, or bribery, or whatever means the central government finds it must employ. Thus, taken as a whole, Niger, Chad, and other "low-capacity" states are indeed not developed.(11) In other words, Pye is concerned about capacity-as-scope for the same reasons as the present conception is concerned about culture-as-publicly-common.
Pye's second sense of capacity is of government's rational connection between means and ends, resulting in greater political effectiveness and efficiency. The connection between this and moral reasoning development can be seen most easily if we ask: What general characteristics of interpersonal relationships create effectiveness and efficiency? Those characteristics turn out to be precisely those of the different cognitive stages: an organization can be more effective and efficient when people can coordinate each other's perspectives (Stage 3), when such mutual relationships are coordinated with one another (Stage 4), and when such coordinated structures are "based on [Stage 5] rational calculation of overall utility" (Kohlberg, 1981c:412).
In sum, the present theoretical framework has close links with several major, earlier traditions of development, including traditions usually seen as opposed to one another (Hegel's and Marx's) and even a tradition apparently unalterably opposed to any concept of development (cultural relativism). Despite the very disparate nature of these traditions, the linkages drawn are not strained but are, rather, quite natural. In some cases they appear to clarify the earlier tradition; in no case do they appear to distort it.
The perspective presented in this work has certain implications, or consequences, or advantages, which do not pertain directly to (narrowly construed) political development, but which deserve mention because of their theoretical, ethical, or practical importance.
Social-scientific theories get into trouble when they depend on a specific view of human nature. Such views reflect the cultural origins of both the theorists and their subjects, so that: subjects "naturally" express culturally conditioned behavior; this behavior is understood by researchers in the culture's context (as subjects intend it to be); and then it is cited as empirical proof of theories that people are innately like the culture requires them to be. There thus arises a circularity of theory and proof: cultural behavior supports theories of innate character, and these theories justify the culture. This circularity inhibits any critical/emancipatory theory of human nature as it is and might be: cultural deviants become "error variance" or "outliers" instead of small but important indicators of cultural possibility.
Any assumption that human beings are inherently a certain way denies that people can see, evaluate, and change the way they relate to one another. That is to say, such perspectives deny the possibility of raising (or answering, if raised) the open question: "Is it right?" The present theoretical framework admits that humans are molded by the cultural ways of relating, but it also shows that such ways of relating are subject to the open question. People who daily experience one way of relating will obviously be hard put to question it or, if they do, to answer the questions raised, but the possibility remains. Theories assuming one form of human nature will only work until the next cultural transformation.(12)
The consequence of this perspective is that social science must itself be a developing organism.(13) If culture changes, then rules of behavior will also change, and the "laws" of social science will have to change with them. Even before such changes occur, however, it would be well for social science to recognize in its basic theory the possibility of such change. The framework presented in this work recognizes that possibility.
I argued earlier that normative theory cannot be divorced from empirical description. It should be no surprise, then, that the perspective given in this work has normative as well as empirical implications. In this section, we will sketch those implications and apply them to a critique of U.S. society. I make no claim to the novelty of the critique; I advance it first because the reader may wish to see the implication of this work's perspective, and second because the critique might be more comprehensible for some when viewed from this perspective.
The phrase "ways of relating" implies more than such alternative phrases as, say, "plans of action" or "systems of strategic behavior." The phrase implies action in a mutual relationship, and thereby acknowledges that culture is created by all of us relating in the cultural way. Whether such relating is born of fear, or mere passivity, or enthusiastic support, the same culture is created.
When we collectively create the cultural conditions of a society, we bear the responsibility for how it affects each of us. Undoubtedly there are impersonal constraints on us: of existing knowledge, of the physical world. Within such constraints, however, it is we who create cultures. Individually we may feel powerless to change a culture, but collectively we are responsible for our creation.
How are we to relate to one another? Currently, we have created a system in which certain human characteristics (e.g., brains) usually are rewarded and certain others (e.g., brawn) usually are not, or not as much. Even if we assume a procedurally fair system, where education or other training is open to all and discrimination does not exist except on the basis of job capacity, extreme differences of wealth and poverty can arise from accidents of intelligence, parental guidance, and life history. Moreover, such social extremes can arise regardless of personal virtue. Arguments like "if she had worked harder (or smarter), she'd have been better off" are beside the point, because in our current political-social-economic system, even if we were all workaholic geniuses our society would still have its rich and poor according to the impersonal market forces we collectively create and submit to. The contention that failure is the sign of bad judgment (or other personal flaw) is a tautology. How do we know who has bad judgment? - by who fails. Why do people fail? - because they have bad judgment. Such a tautology cannot be a principle of moral evaluation.
What we have done as a culture is to turn over our moral decisions about how we are to relate to one another to an impersonal, arbitrary mechanism called "market efficiency," and we pretend to ourselves that we have no obligations to one another beyond the maintenance of that culture. But in any culture, including ours, members should be able to face one another and be able to say: "You and I created our culture this way; we are doing it together; and we can look at each other as sisters and brothers." Our culture's dirty little secret is that we cannot say this; its stability rests on our having convinced ourselves and our society's failures that they deserve to fail.
As all political development theorists know, the "decade of development" did not produce much development. Economies did not grow, or else populations grew faster; democracies fell, or never arrived at all. From the perspective of the present work, this lack of development is understandable; quite simply, development is difficult. Cognitive development is difficult enough, even in a society that encourages it, and the establishment of public commonness is even more difficult - a new way of relating must be widely learned, in the absence of examples, and must become a common focus, despite all hegemonic forces arrayed against it. That cultures change at all seems amazing.
This perspective has implications for our development policy and, more generally, our foreign policy. First, it implies that we should be more reasonable in our expectations of other societies. Stage X cultures will not become Stage X+3, or even X+1, overnight. We are certainly free to criticize or even to act to prevent practices that are wrong according to universalizable principles of justice, but it is foolish to blame or condemn other societies for them.
Second, a development policy is best targeted at developing moral reasoning, not at eliciting pro-American attitudes, trade concessions, or military bases. Our ability to maintain an effective development policy may depend on these attitudes, concessions, and bases, but the danger is always that the tail winds up wagging the dog.
Third, even if cultures are at different levels of development, the theory does not imply that the less-developed culture must become like the more developed. Development policy is best targeted at fostering indigenous developmental resolutions to a culture's indigenous problems, not at imposing Western institutions. Cognitive development only occurs when the reasoner finds and resolves ambiguities and contradictions within her own cognitive structure. Social development therefore depends on a nation's widespread recognition of its own culture's ambiguities and contradictions. Western institutions may in some cases provide appropriate solutions to such problems, but we must recognize that the primary criterion of a development policy must be cultural appropriateness. Any other criterion simply reflects our exercise of hegemonic control.
As a consequence, fourth, our policy should aid indigenous and progressive movements, not alien, regressive, or repressive movements. We must take ideologies more seriously as reflecting the emergence into consciousness of certain cultural contradictions. This consciousness cannot be suppressed without moral (possibly physical) violence; it would appear that the best we can do is stay out of the gears while they turn. Our support of reactionary, repressive regimes (e.g., the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua) against strong, popular movements pointing out real problems has been short-sighted. We gain a decade or so of stable repression in the country, enabling U.S. businesses briefly to make money, but we lose our international reputation and, ultimately, our self-respect as an agent of development. The issue is not whether we should ally ourselves with backward governments: clearly there are many such whose alliance is desirable. The true issue is rather our unwillingness to abandon these alliances when popular opposition to the government crystalizes. Like bad politicians, we find ourselves backing losers over and over again. The public justifications for our policies are given as proving America's "will," "determination," or "commitment to its allies," but the real effect seems only to be to make the United States look foolish.
Finally, this perspective shows that our moral concerns cannot stop "at the water's edge": our way of relating to people in other countries is, like relations within our society, constructed and mutual. We cannot evade sharing the collective responsibility for the way all people in the world relate to one another.
1. See, for example, the variety of definitions cited in Pye (1966), Jaguaribe (1973), Riggs (1981), and Park (1984).
2. Pye goes on to note that "additional criteria seem to be necessary if such a distinction is to be made." The only such criteria evident to me are the structural ones discussed in Chapters 3 and 4.
3. In some cases the term will appear only in a book or article's title: an intellectual orchid lending decoration to its surroundings but no strength to its host. For example, the concept "development" vanishes after Burg's (1984) title, "Muslim Cadres and Soviet Political Development."
4. We will not specifically discuss the dependency theory approach. The discussion of Marxian approaches in general should indicate the links between the present conception and dependency theory. I apologize in advance to adherents of theoretical approaches not discussed here.
5. Similarly, Lukacs (1971:1) argues that the validity of Marxism does not hang on the verification of even one of Marx's theses.
6. Clearly the right to have one's culture's integrity respected is not absolute. The German culture had no right to exterminate its Jews, Gypsies, and so on. No culture has a right to human sacrifice. Judgments concerning cultural integrity cannot be made casually, running the clear risk of cultural imperialism, but we must recognize that they can be made.
7. Social-scientific theories of why development occurs or does not occur can be constructed, but they cannot reconceptualize development itself.
8. See, for example, the varying approaches taken by Binder et al. (1971); Grew (1978); Pye (1966a); Almond and Coleman (1960); and Almond and Powell (1966). Holt and Turner (1975) review the corpus of CCP work through Binder et al. (1971).
9. Pye (1966a:47): ". . . differentiation is not fragmentation and the isolation of the different parts of the political system but specialization based on an ultimate sense of integration."
10. This goes back to Chapter 1's argument that the line between the political and nonpolitical is difficult to draw. The line we now draw is, in my estimation, only a culturally conditioned optical illusion. At least currently, the only defensible position is to see all aspects of ways of relating as ethically significant and thus political.
11. It may be that these states have a quite developed political culture if one considers only those groups around the capital cities.
12. This explains an important aspect of John Rawls's (1971) theory of justice. Rawls makes a determined effort not to introduce any concept of "human nature" behind his Veil of Ignorance. There may be endless discussion of how moral discourse can proceed without such a concept, but this appears to have been his basic intent. Gramsci (1957:140) similarly asserts that Marx introduced no concept of human nature into his theory, regarding it instead as determined by the economic relations characteristic of the existing mode of production.
13. As Gramsci (1957) also argues. (See note 12.)
The University of Minnesota is an
equal opportunity educator and employer.
Copyright © 1999 Stephen Chilton. All rights reserved.