Political Economy in Western Democracies

Political Economy in Western Democracies

Political Economy in Western Democracies

Political Economy in Western Democracies

Excerpt

Political economy is both older and younger than political science. It is older because it was the precursor to modern economics, political science, and sociology. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, "political economy" was considered the branch of moral philosophy most relevant to the everyday affairs of men. Economic and political philosophers such as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx treated social relationships holistically, showing how economic arrangements affected political life and vice versa. It was only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that economics, sociology, and eventually politics came to be viewed as distinct scientific disciplines. As theory and research became increasingly specialized and detailed, the social sciences drifted apart to the point where, after World War II, their practitioners came to speak almost different languages. The linkages among political, economic, and social phenomena were more obscure in the 1950s and 1960s than to the political economists of a century earlier.

With relatively few exceptions, economic development and even economic policy making were ignored by political scientists in this period. Economic development was relegated to the status of a Third World problem, and steady economic growth and affluence were taken for granted as stabilizing elements in the politics of advanced capitalist democracies. Much of the new "behavioral" political science was devoted to exploring the sociological and psychological roots of partisan voting and similar activities. Political outcomes were assumed to reflect these constants together with the benign interplay and competition among pluralistic interest groups representing all sectors of society. Democratic . . .

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