Comparative Political Systems: Policy Performance and Social Change

By Charles F. Andrain | Go to book overview

Part II
Transformations in Political Systems

Transformations in political systems took place all over the world during the twentieth century. By the early 1900s, European colonial powers had conquered folk societies in Asia and Africa. After World War II, newly independent states supplanted colonial bureaucratic-authoritarian systems. Military coups often dislodged civilian leaders from formal power not only in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa but also in Latin America. Across Eastern Europe, bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes consolidated their control when elitist mobilization systems disintegrated after the death of Stalin in 1953. During the early 1990s, even more profound political changes occurred in Eastern Europe with the movement toward greater pluralism. Reconciliation features rose to prominence as the power of the communist party bureaucracy, the secret police, and the state administration waned. The Communist Party abandoned its monopoly of power and its constitutionally guaranteed vanguard role in society. Several political parties competed in elections. Coalition governments emerged. The legislature gained increasing policymaking authority, particularly the rights to freely discuss political issues, modify government proposals, and question government ministers about their policy performance. Social groups won greater autonomy from tight state control. Private enterprises supported the movement toward a market-based capitalist economy. Although the military continued to wield veto power over elected civilian politicians in Latin America, the armed forces did relinquish formal decision-making authority. A reconciliation framework competed for dominance with the bureaucratic-authoritarian regime. With the defeat of Nazi- Fascist mobilization systems in Germany and Italy and the long-term stability of democratic governments throughout nearly all West European societies, reconciliation systems seemed to be thriving after the Second World War. Capitalism appeared ascendant throughout the world.

The twentieth century, however, has also witnessed the conquest of state power by dictatorial mobilization movements. Shiite clergy in Iran established an elitist mobilization system based on theocratic Islamic principles. The more

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