Comparative Legislatures

Comparative Legislatures

Comparative Legislatures

Comparative Legislatures

Excerpt

After a long eclipse, the study of legislatures once more attracted the attention of political scientists at the end of the 1960s. It is no longer fashionable to argue that everything is decided by governments in the secret of Cabinets or by parties in the confines of national committees. A more realistic appraisal of the ideas of influence and power has led to the recognition that, though the constitutional rights of legislatures may be very large, their strength may vary in a whole variety of ways and through many different techniques. Indeed, this welcome development concerns not only legislatures, but also other structures of government, such as bureaucracies, local authorities, judiciaries, and the executives themselves. Too little attention had been given to such institutions in the past, for the main research effort was directed to mass electorates, interest groups, or parties. Perhaps this new interest in analyzing and understanding political power will force a more systematic analysis of the types of influence and authority that are at the root of the role played by legislatures and other governmental structures in all political systems.

This book is intended to be a contribution to the revival of studies of legislatures. Because legislatures had been ignored for so long, much is still unknown about the activities and effect of representative assemblies. For most of the new countries, data are hard to find and patchy in the extreme; even for older countries, studies of outcomes of legislatures, of their influence in both important and routine matters, of the attitudes and desires of their members are merely beginning to emerge. A truly worldwide comparative study is, therefore, difficult to undertake. Yet only by looking at legislatures comparatively, by trying to rank their achievements and examine the impact of various types of political and socioeconomic systems on their development and effectiveness, can we come to a comprehensive assessment of their role and their potential. In the last analysis, we need to be able to know what assemblies can do and cannot do, what they can do best, and under what condi-

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