The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics

By S. E. Finer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
The Levels of Intervention:

(3) Countries of Mimimal Political Culture

SARMIENTO'S great classic Don Facundo describes the turmoils in newly independent Argentina. Mrs. Mann, its translator, commented on it: 'The rural districts never made a movement which revealed a political idea. It is true that the gauchos followed certain partisans of that epoch, but it was because those partisans were the immediate authority which they recognized: they followed them from personal affection and from the habit of obedience, but from no political conviction nor from any desire to make any system prevail for their interest as a class.'1

Mrs. Mann's distinction is altogether valid; and it points to the existence of a fourth and lowest level of political culture - to societies, usually ones in transition from a static and traditional culture, where the public with views on what is or is not legitimate in politics is utterly negligible and hardly exists at all. In such countries questions as to legitimacy and consensus are irrelevant. One group of these countries are indeed deeply divided - but 'by cultural and ethnic pluralism, by provincialism, regionalism, localism, and casteism',2 as Carnell says of the new states of South-East Asia, but to which we may with equal justice add many others. Another group, like Thailand, are placid, coherent and still predominantly traditionalist societies which indulge their ruling élites in their struggle for power without feeling at all involved in it. In both cases, what Carnell states of the South-East Asian countries 3 is true of all such states:

____________________
1
D. F. Sarmiento: Civilisation and Barbarism, trs. Mrs. Horace Mann, 1868 ( New York, 1960), p. xx, my italics.
2
F. G. Carnell, Political Ideas and Ideologies in South and South-East Asia (unpublished paper delivered at the U.K. Political Studies Association, 1960).
3
With the exceptions of India, the Philippines and North Vietnam.

-129-

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