GROUNDING POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
(2
nd [WWW] edition)

CHAPTER 4:

OTHER SUGGESTED FUNDAMENTAL THEORETICAL REQUIREMENTS


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As I noted in Chapter 2, Section III.D, people are free to suggest their own FTRs. Two of my colleagues have done so, one (James Caporaso) by writing me to propose another FTR, the other (Han S. Park) by discussing explicitly the general form of political development in his Human Needs and Political Development (1984). I present these proposed FTRs below, arguing for most of these proposals that they should not be added to the rive existing FTRS.


I. Laws of Development?

Caporaso suggests that "ability to discover laws of development" should also be an FTR. This can be taken in two senses. In the first sense, this asks that our definition of development be operationalizable (at least ideally), so that if there are laws of development, we can (again, ideally) discover them. In the second sense, this requires that an acceptable definition of development yield law-like regularities.

The first sense is indeed an FTR. It expresses the principle that concepts that cannot be operationalized, at least ideally, cannot be the basis of a scientific theory. But while I have no objection to the inclusion of such an FTR, it seems to be implicit, and perhaps even explicit, in the first three FTRs: locus of development, recognition of development, and exact specification.

The second sense, insisting that there be laws of development, is both too strong and too weak to be an FTR: too strong, in that it makes a strong empirical assumption about development's law-like nature; too weak, because it is evaluated not on the basis of any clear evidence as to whether if] fact such laws exist but instead on whether theorists have given up the search for laws. In other words, this second sense violates both of the previous chapter's "metacriteria": FTRs should make no assumptions about empirical reality, and they should be dichotomous in nature. The statement that definitions of development should enable us to discover laws of development is certainly a common wish or expectation; it cannot be a requirement by which we are willing to have our conceptualizations stand or fall.


II. The Definition Must Be Ideal, Not Empirical?

To my knowledge, Park's (1984) is the only work except DPD to bring abstract / theoretical considerations directly to bear on the definition of political development. Park's discussion implicitly (and, in Chapter 11, explicitly) proposes several potential FTRs.'

One I accept: Park argues that development must be defined as "an ideal type in the Weberian sense ... rather than an empirically derived description of the observed society" (1984:51; see also 44). Our sense of development is far richer than any one society, so we need analysis instead of empirical description to discover its meaning. To state this in another way, no society so clearly exemplifies development that we need think only about the society and not about the concept - or at any rate, we can feel no certainly about any candidate society.

The conception of development in DPD meets the FTR, because development is defined there in cognitive-structural terms, not in terms of "reasoning found in Society X." An inquiry into the degree to which any society employs certain moral reasoning to structure its social relations - and thus into the degree to which that society is developed - becomes, then, an empirical exercise only.


C. The Definition Must Allow Development Beyond Current Societies?

Citing Holsti (1975:829), Park (1984:11-12, 43-44, 52) asserts that we must "distinguish between what is modern and what is Western" (p.11) and that "the persistence of change in so-called 'developed' societies argues against this idea [that these societies represent the zenith of development]" (p.12).

These assertions are certainly plausible. I think most people would agree that Western societies can benefit from further development and that they therefore do not define modernity (if we take modernity to mean the highest state of development). But the widespread agreement with this empirical judgment does not validate Park's assertions as FTRS. We have already agreed in the previous section that development must be defined without reference to any specific society. We have no business going beyond that "hands-off" FTR to the "hands-on" claim that Western societies cannot and do not represent the zenith of development.


D. Conceptual Universality?

Park (1984:42) argues that since societies and social change are universal and development is one type of social change, a definition of development must be universally applicable. Though the logic here is not airtight - it is conceivable that development is not universal even though change is - the conclusion certainly seems correct. Thus the new FTR would read that a definition of development must apply to all forms of society.

I certainly accept this FTR, and the definition advanced in DPD satisfies it. As I will argue in Chapter 6, every society has ways of relating, and the system used to evaluate developmental stages is equally applicable to all people.


E. Development Must Be a Teleological Process?

According to Park, development is a teleological (goal-directed) process. "Development occurs as movement over time toward the desired state of the living structure.... A movement in the process of development represents an incremental progrcssiontoward thcachievementof agoal"(Park, 1984:48-49). Later, he argues that"inorderfortheexplanationofdcvciopmentto be feasible, the developmental unit should be an entity that has inherent motivations toward the achievement of goals" (Park, 1984:5 1).

I disagree that development must proceed toward a goal. Some systems are indeed homeostatic, and many human practices and institutions are specifically goal-oriented. But this is not the only possible form of development. For example, the biological evolution of species is process-, not goal-oriented. Species have no image of what they want to become as they adapt to new conditions; they simply experiment and discover what works. Sometimes it is possible to look back at a developmental progression and reconstruct it as "seeking" its end point, but this reconstruction can only be retrospective, never predictive. Since there are senses of development both teleological and not, Park needs to eliminate all competitors to justify his FTR of development as a teleological process.


F. Humans Must Be the Locus of Development?

Park (1984) advances two reasons that human beings should be the unit of analysis in any definition of development. First, he argues that in "order for the explanation of development to be feasible, the developmental unit should be an entity that has inherent motivations toward the achievement of goals. Thus, a human, rather than an institution, might be preferred as a unit of analysis" (Park, 1984:51-52). If we change "might be preferred as a unit of analysis," which removes any bite from the argument, to "must be the unit or analysis," we have a straightforward FTR.

Park goes on to argue that the origins of the term development also require humans to be the locus of development:

The term "development" originated as a description of structural changes in living organisms, and it has commonly been applied to living systems. This suggests ... that human beings need to be the unit of analysis in a developmental theory and that, therefore, the definition of political development should be in human terms (Park, 1984:52).

Again, if we elide "This suggests . . . that," we have another straightforward argument for this proposed FTR.

However, the two arguments are both weak. The first argument arises from Park's sense of development as a teleological process, which I disputed in Section E of this chapter on the grounds that development can be process-oriented as well as goal-oriented. Piagetian development is the former, and before Park could establish his FTR, he would have to advance reasons why that form of development is not feasible. The second argument fails for a similar reason: Park's argument implicitly assumes that humans are the only entity that can develop politically as living systems do. My argument is that cultures can also do so. Granted, cultures are created by humans, but this creation is collective, not individual.


G. Conclusion

All FTRs suggested to me are either already satisfied by the definition of development advanced in DPD, or fail themselves to be adequately justified. The metacriterion that FTRs must make no empirical assumptions was especially useful in evaluating the proposals.

Of course this success in handling these suggested FTRs does not in itself prove the validity of DPD's conception of development. As always, other theorists are free to propose and justify FTRs that may invalidate DPD's approach. Until such FTRs emerge, however, this approach remains unchallenged.


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FOOTNOTES

1. Park (1984:51) argues in this first sense that a definition "needs to be made in such a way as to facilitate the formulation of explanatory-predictive laws."

2. "The following set of criteria are formed by examining the concept from the perspective of the philosophy of science and in terms of the semantics of development itself" (Park, 1984:43).

3. Park (1984:52) later summarizes his point as follows:

In order to be nomothetic, a stage theory should account for the further development of what have been inappropriately termed "developed" societies. Here, some type of cyclical theory might be suggested as a more powerful one than a linear progressive theory under the assumption that development of human society is not to be terminated.

As discussed in the text, the first sentence is plausible but probably not an FTR. The second sentence, however, strikes me as completely implausible. Park seems to feel that only two trajectories of development are possible: the terminated linear trajectory and the cyclical. There is at least one other possibility: that development is an endless linear trajectory. To establish his claim, then, Park would have to exclude this possibility as well. My guess is that Park's intent was to challenge the complacent acceptance of Western society as the terminus of development, an intention I share.

4. I argue in the previous chapter that developmental change is possible in every society. This conclusion, if correct, closes the potential hole in Park's argument and explains why I accept his conclusion.

5. In Chapter 6, two of the FTRs applied to the concept of political culture are termed "unrestricted applicability" (FTR 6) and "nonreductionism" (FTR 7).

6. I am not entirely clear how Park's "methodological individualism" (Park, 1984:47) would view "publicly common ways of relating" - my definition of culture. Such a definition appears to me to go beyond the individual, but perhaps Park would accept it on the grounds that culture would have, as he puts it, "no emergent qualities ... that the individual cannot alter" (Park, 1984:47), with "individual" here understood to include individuals collectively. If Park's methodological individualism includes culture, then we have no argument. However, I believe Park's phrasing tends to mislead the reader into thinking solely of the isolated individual, and so I must assume that Park does not view culture as meeting the conditions of methodological individualism.

7. I have observed an unaware mixing of the empirical and the theoretical in many areas of social science conceptualizing.


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Author:  Stephen Chilton [email]  |  Last Modified:  2004-11-30
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