GROUNDING POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
(2
nd [WWW] edition)

CHAPTER 5:

TWO RECENT CONCEPTIONS OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT



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We are now in a position to apply these five FTRs to the two conceptions of political development offered by Han Park (1984) and Harry Eckstein (1982). Since these theorists attempted to conceptualize political development without starting from any explicit set of FTRs, much less the five given here, it would be unreasonable to expect their formulations to address directly these FTRs. Consequently, the analysis will focus on the degree to which the two conceptions imply in some natural way a means of satisfying the FTRs.


I. Han S. Park (1984): Human Needs and Political Development: A Dissent to Utopian Solutions

Han Park's formal definition of political development is as follows: "Political development may be defined in terms of the capacity of the political system to satisfy the changing needs of the members of the society" (Park, 1984:58). The needs Park postulates are, in order from developmentally lowest to highest, the quasi-Maslovian needs of "survival . . . belongingness . . . leisure . . . and . . . control." Institutions are therefore said to be faced with the respective tasks of "regime formation," "political integration," "resource expansion," and "conflict management" (Park, 1984: Chapter 3).

This formal definition conflicts with Park's informal definition of development as the change from institutions which satisfy a lower need to those which satisfy a higher need.(1) According to the formal definition, the following would be a developmental advance: a shift from institutions that were moderately able to satisfy people's control needs, on the one hand, to institutions that were powerfully able to satisfy people's survival needs, on the other. Because the capacity increased, so did development, even though the individual need that was satisfied retrogressed (by the informal definition) from one end of the hierarchical scale to the other.

Any subsequent discussion will obviously be conditioned on which of these two definitions of development one assumes to be Park's "real"definition. Since I wish to give the most plausible reading to the works, I will assume that Park intends what I call his informal definition, not his formal definition; I think the informal is the better definition.(2)

The informal definition satisfies the FTR of exact specification: political development is defined directly, rather than as the consequence of some cause, the cause of some consequence, the correlate of some substitute indicator, or some broader process of which only a part is named.

Park wavers between locating development in terms of the characteristics of individuals (and aggregates of those characteristics), on the one hand, and characteristics of institutions, on the other. He wants to adhere to a doctrine of "methodological individualism" (Park, 1984:46-48, 59), but in Park's definition the locus of development is institutions. This wavering produces some confusion for the reader but no real problem with the locus of development, as far as I can tell; Park simply seems to have confused his empirical theory of the origins of development, which he plausibly locates in the (aggregated) needs of individuals, with his theoretical definition of development, which he locates in institutions.

But this wavering does have negative consequences when one examines Park's work in light of the FTR of the micro-macro connection. Park tries to make the micro-macro connection by defining political development as institutional change resulting from individual change. But he thereby mixes an empirical with an analytical/definitional claim. If development is the movement toward a certain class of institutions (i.e., those with the capacity for satisfying high-level needs), then it is unclear how the mere emergence of those institutions will produce associated differences in the people who operate them. Even if social institutions are oriented to the satisfaction of certain high-level needs, why must their subjects suddenly feel those needs? If one attempts to handle this problem by locating development in the upward shift of the aggregate needs themselves (i.e., defining the individual instead of the institution as the locus of development), it is still unclear how the mere shift in those needs will in and of itself produce changes in institutions. (It may, for example, merely create greater regime repression.) Park very handily assumes that higher needs will be associated with more-developed institutions, but the connection is empirical (and assumed), not analytical/definitional.

A strength of Park's definition is its clear answer to the FTR of the recognition of development. Park lays out in successive chapters the different institutions that can satisfy the four needs. Using a variety of examples from widely different cultural traditions, he attempts to maintain a focus on the abstract problem of satisfying those needs rather than on any particular set of institutional arrangements.(3)

Despite Park's admirable determination to prevent ethnocentrism, his conception nevertheless fails to satisfy the FTR of normative grounding. Park's position vis-a-vis his normative claims is unclear. On the one hand, he uses moral terms to discuss institutions in the context of their satisfying higher-level needs. Early in his postscript, for example, he says that his vision of eventual developmental retrogression is one of "the moral decay of human society" (p.260). But he is not comfortable with this moral language. On the next page (p.261) he declares, "The incremental progression of human wants was not meant to be a normative imperative . . . . If there were to be a normative concept of development, it would be anything but the definition offered in this book." Park distinguishes what he calls base needs, like security and belongingness, from moral needs rooted in mutuality and communication. Park feels he has written, in other words, an empirical analysis of what social change has looked like (and may continue to look like), not a normative vision of what development should be.

I believe Park shortchanges himself. The different needs he cites may not represent the heights of human experience, but there still seem to be grounds to choose among them. To take the most obvious example, the human interactions arising from a preoccupation exclusively with basic survival would seem to be much less desirable than those arising from a concern for belongingness.(4) Park's formulations are at least susceptible to moral scrutiny, even if he chooses not to pursue this issue.

Unfortunately, Park's last two stages are both less believable and less susceptible to normative grounding than the first two stages. It is difficult to see what normative grounds would make the social relations stemming from a need for leisure (and, at the next stage, for control) superior to those stemming from the need for belongingness. Park himself recognizes this difficulty in his postscript, where he laments the loss of social solidarity and the rise of zero-sum institutions. He then returns to his position that the need hierarchy is an empirical fact and not a scale of moral desirability, but supplies no justification for that claim. Although Park starts by viewing the need hierarchy as an assumption, he ends by regarding it as an established fact. On page 61, the hierarchy is given merely as a "suggestion"; on page 81, people are "believed" to have an inherent need for leisure after the needs for survival and belongingness are satisfied; and on page 187, "the structure of human needs is such that . . . the need for leisure will emerge." But it is not plausible that the many complex institutions Park studies arise merely from a common need for leisure. The institutions may produce leisure as a by-product, but I cannot see leisure itself as their organizing spirit.(5)


II. Harry Eckstein (1982): "The Idea of Political Development: From Dignity to Efficiency"

Harry Eckstein defines political development as the growth that occurs "in politics as such" (p.470), and elaborates what this growth looks like and how it arises. His definition satisfies the FTR of exact specification: he defines development directly, not as the cause inferred from a more clearly identified consequence, as the consequence deduced from a more clearly identified cause, as the unseen correlate of a more clearly identified phenomenon, or as a broad process of which the identified phenomenon is but one constituent aspect. Eckstein waffles slightly between defining the growth of politics as the growth of the "princely domain," on the one hand, and defining it as the growth of all "relations that involve, say, legitimate power, or conflict management, or the regulation of social conduct, and the like," on the other.(6) But this does not strike me as a serious conceptual problem, partly because in his later analysis Eckstein sticks closely to the former conception, and partly because the distinction doesn't seem particularly important.(7)

Eckstein's definition does not specify the locus of development, because it is not clear what "politics as such" consists of.(8) He gives a number of elaborations of the term (p.470): "the political domain of society"; "political authority and competition for politically allocated values", in "Durkheim's terminology, . . . political density,' perhaps as a special aspect of a growing 'moral density . . ; political interactions [as opposed to] nonpolitical interactions"; and "the functions and activities of [the clearly defined domain] of the heads of societies, the princes, chiefs, or kings." These sound clear enough, but as one gets closer to them, their outlines blur. Is "politics as such" a characteristic of individuals - for example, the proportion or variety of their interactions affected by government? Or, on the other hand, is "politics as such" a characteristic of political institutions - for example, their size and complexity, the nature of their claims, or the mix of resources they command?

Eckstein, like Park, attempts to finesse the FTR of the micro-macro connection. His treatment of the domain of politics tries to appropriate both micro and macro aspects of society simultaneously. He is concerned about the claims made by political institutions, but he is also concerned that these claims be accepted by individuals. To put this another way, it is not clear whether politics is primarily the domain of the rulers and the political institutions through which they rule, or the domain of those who acquiesce in or support the rulers' claims.(9) Eckstein seems to regard the domain of the rulers as more important, since he includes several passages that assert that the rulers can simply overpower the others.(10) His ambiguity on this point also clouds Eckstein's functionalist discussion of why development occurs. This functionalism appears when he says, "The general motive force at work in the sequence of stages . . . is surely the drive for the direct and indirect benefit of 'efficient' primacy in and over society" (p.484), and again when he says, "it is clear that struggles for establishing an 'efficient' principal domain are only resolved when an urgent societal need for such resolution arises" (p.485). This sounds impressive, but just whose "drive" is at work? Who, exactly, is feeling the "need for such resolution"? By failing to specify the critical actors (that is, failing to clarify the locus of development), Eckstein disguises the micro-macro problem: his formulations imply that social changes arise automatically out of the society's collective recognition of its own need for, and consequent drive for, the establishment of an efficient princely domain.

Eckstein's conception does satisfy the FTR of the recognition of development, specifying both abstractly and with historical examples the developmental stages.(11)

In order to satisfy the FTR of normative grounding, Eckstein would have to argue that each successive means of satisfying the functional needs for greater efficiency was normatively better than the previous means. Such an argument would most likely have to rely on some sort of utilitarian theory of morality in order to convert a collective good into a moral imperative binding on society's members.(12) Making this argument would require Eckstein to specify what collective benefits arise from each stage and why each stage's basket of collective goods is to be preferred to the previous stage's basket. Assuming that such an argument could be made, there would appear to be two difficulties with it. The first difficulty is the validity of the utilitarian position itself, which seems to me to have been effectively criticized by Rawls. The second difficulty is that Eckstein himself seems ambivalent about the benefits attached to efficiency: in his conclusion, he mentions a desire for a return from the politics of efficiency to that of dignity. If efficiency is morally preferable to dignity, from whence arises this desire for a return to dignity, and on whit basis will he be able to dismiss it as having a lesser moral weight?


III. Conclusion

Both Park and Eckstein attempt to define political development in culture-free terms, and in particular as the result of universe] needs and forces. The universality of these needs and forces certainly avoids the theoretical pitfalls of simple theories of "Westernization" or "modernity", and the variety of these needs and forces yields a culturally diverse set of institutional forms and developmental dynamics. Both conceptions take care to specify the sequence of social stages, including the possibility of development of Western society beyond its current state. Certainly the two analysts attempt to define political development in a theoretically conscious way. Both conceptions satisfy the FTR of exact specification, which means both have the courage to make a direct statement about development. Beyond this, the theorists start not simply by asserting their definitions but instead by discussing the theoretical problems associated with development. Park in particular has attempted to examine political development as a concept independent of the research tradition bearing its name. This gives him an independence of thought that is most refreshing to a field whose intellectual heritage is increasingly problematic.(13) This independence of thought is also reflected in Park's attempt to look at development as a methodologist; the first two chapters of his book present a theoretical analysis of the development concept, culminating in a list of Park's own FTRS.(14) Development studies need more such theoretically guided analyses.

Unfortunately, both conceptions fail to satisfy the two hardest FTRs: normative grounding and the micro-macro connection. This failure is shared with most other political development theory, because both FTRs raise very touchy political issues. The touchiness of normative grounding is obvious, and the micro-macro connection raises touchy questions about the mechanisms of social power whereby people come to acquiesce in social institutions they neither like nor create. Perhaps as a result of this touchiness, mainstream political science rarely confronts these issues directly. Social scientists' common professional stance of value neutrality makes them particularly loathe to deal with normative grounding. And although the micro-macro connection has been the direct concern of symbolic interactionists, their work remains outside the mainstream of political science.

The overall conclusion we can draw from the above analysis is that the FTRs are useful in analyzing previous conceptions and helping theorists notice where and why these conceptions have difficulties. The FTRs are practical aids to theoretical discourse.



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FOOTNOTES

1. Park (1984:Chapter 3). This change presumably occurs in response to a change in the aggregate need level in the society. 

2. Choosing the formal definition would simply lead to worse theoretical difficulties around the issue of normative grounding. 

3. Park's Figure 10 (p.168), for example, includes theorists as diverse as Thomas Jefferson, Kim II-Sung, Indira Gandhi, and Syngman Rhee in an attempt to understand possible ideological means of achieving political integration to satisfy the need for belongingness. 

4. Aronoff (1967) describes how on St. Kitts, different need levels result in different social interactions. No one reading Aronoff's analysis would remain insensitive to the difference between the social world of a typical St. Kitts cane cutter and that of a fisherman. 

5. I believe that Park's difficulty with the last two needs in his hierarchy arises because they do not match the corresponding stages (or any other stages, for that matter) in Maslow's need hierarchy. Park might think of looking for inspiration to Maslow's need hierarchy, or to McClelland's work on the need for Achievement, or to Weber's work on the Protestant Ethic. I believe these would be fairly readily susceptible to normative interpretation. 

6. Eckstein goes on to say, "In that case, 'politics' may simply exist throughout society and not be located in any clearly defined social domain or institutions (p.470). 

7. Eckstein makes the distinction "to avoid confusion about what is being argued here," but ends his discussion by noting that the two phenomena "occur in conjunction" (p.470). 

8. Nancy Fraser (1989) notes that the demarcation of politics from other spheres is theoretically suspect:

I shall treat the terms "political," "economic" and "domestic" as cultural classifications and ideological labels rather than as designations of structures, spheres or things.... Let me begin by noting that the terms "politics" and "political" are highly contested and they have a number of different senses.... In general, there are no a priori constraints dictating that some matters simply are intrinsically political and others simply are intrinsically not.... However, it would be, misleading to suggest that, for any society in any period, the boundary between what is political and what is not is simply fixed or given (Fraser, 1989:7-8).
9. I should also note that Eckstein does not address the conceptual problem of identifying who the real rulers of a society are. He takes for granted that the appearance of power is the reality. If, for example, the various Marxian, elitist and neo-elitist arguments are correct, we should be looking not at governmental but at economic elites. Thus Eckstein's concept of "the political" smuggles empirical assumptions about the nature of power into what seems at first glance a merely theoretical definition of the concept. 

10. "In [power] struggles the princely domain has overwhelming resources for subduing rivals and enlarging its effective control over society. [Such resources include the leaders'] representation of societies [to themselves,] links to the supernatural, . . . a universal social need for adjudication, and, again, a 'natural' tendency to associate that necessary function with society's embodiments" (pp.474-475).

"Substantive primacy . . . is . . . a supremely valuable resource for acquiring additional resources" (p.479).

"The primacy of a social domain above other domains and, even more, the distancing' of courts from societies, inevitably lead to a conception of princely power and social order . . . as being somehow unrelated" (p.481).

"The general motive force at work in the sequence of stages . . . is surely the drive for the direct and indirect benefits of 'efficient' primacy in and over society - the direct benefit of social elevation and indirect perquisites, such as material goods" (p.484).

"Thus, while struggles for primacy propel politics throughout developmental time, at each stage they take different forms and are reinforced by special forces: forces of greed and, more important, forces generated by collective functional needs" (p.485). 

11. It is unclear how many stages Eckstein proposes, however. He speaks of "a six-stage process" (p.477), but I can only find five: the "primal polity" (described on pp.472-476, although on p.470 Eckstein also terms this the "social polity"); the "politics of primacy" (described on pp.477-479); the "prophylactic polity" (pp.479-480); the "polity of interests" (pp.481-482); and the "polity of incorporation and of incumbency" (pp.482-484). 

12. This is a standard criticism of functionalist explanations, harking back to such explanations' difficulties with the micro-macro problem. It is one thing to claim that a practice satisfies a functional need; it is quite another to claim that all members of the society, including those disadvantaged by the practice, ought therefore to support it. 

13. Be it understood that I am speaking of the conceptual foundations of the field, not the massive output of midrange theories and empirical studies. 

14. See Chapter 3.


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