Comparative Political Systems: Policy Performance and Social Change

By Charles F. Andrain | Go to book overview
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the basis of political networks. Under these conditions, effective opposition leaders can secure high solidarity. They persuade individuals to link their self-interests with the fate of the opposition movement. Participants expect that individual benefits depend on cooperative behavior, that consensual procedures promote collective action, and that personal improvements will result from systemic transformation. 9

Mass participation and competent leadership within an opposition movement lead to fundamental systemic changes only when behavioral crises affect structural conditions and cultural beliefs. If ineffective policy performance combines with a disintegration of the enforcement coalition and declining legitimacy, the opposition can threaten the regime's stability. As the established leaders lose administrative control over their society, they can less easily formulate and implement policies that deter the opposition. When incumbent government officials produce ineffective policies, belief in the system's legitimacy usually declines, thereby weakening its structural power. Pragmatic opposition leaders arise to supply concrete benefits. They recruit followers, coordinate activities, promote cooperation, pool resources, and link local concerns to national ones. The more ideological dissidents--the purists--sketch a moral vision that justifies the need for present sacrifice and inspires hope for eventual victory. Growing mass participation against established authorities increases the prospects for a systemic breakdown and the change from one type of system to another. 10


As this chapter has indicated, we assume that changes between political systems derive from the incongruence among cultural values, sociopolitical structures, and individual behaviors. This incongruence produces structural, cultural, and behavioral crises. Systemic transformations occur when the three crises interact and mutually reinforce each other.

Structural crises affect the relationships between individual behavior and such sociopolitical organizations as the central government, parties, domestic social groups, and foreign institutions. Wars, foreign invasions, economic collapse, natural disasters, and rapid demographic changes (expanded urbanization, education, population growth, social mobility) disturb the equilibrium among these organizations. They cannot easily enforce government decisions through coercive or consensual power. As the enforcement coalition disintegrates, behavioral compliance declines. Opposition movements gain greater behavioral support.

Cultural crises involve the incongruence between general values on the one hand, and structures and behavior on the other. Declining legitimacy occurs when individual--both elites and masses--no longer accept the justifications of the incumbent government's right to make morally binding decisions over them. Alienation results because individuals find elite communications unpersuasive. Refusing to accept government interpretations of basic values, they show the


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