Political Mobilization: A Sociological Analysis of Methods and Concepts

By J. P. Nettl | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN

The Problem of Developing Countries

SUMMARY

In this chapter we move from the discussion of developed societies, with occasional reference to developing countries by way of obvious contrast, to a central focus on the latter. Initially the proposition is put forward that in discussing the difficulties of adapting the political processes and institutions of the West to the needs of developing countries, especially competitive democratic elections and parties, we must look as much at the innate assumptions and problems of Western processes as at any alleged failures or shortcomings in developing countries. These assumptions and problems have been highlighted in the previous discussion; a brief survey is now sketched out of the methodological approaches of Western social and political scientists to the study of developing countries which suggests that these approaches often assume that developing countries are infant or deviant examples of the Western experience and can be studied in terms of shortfall from a norm. The possible benefit of the system‐ function approach, developed earlier for studying problems of development, is pointed up, with one or two examples of societies where the conventional method creates particular heuristic difficulties.

Two basic problems concerning authority relationships and the institutionalization of political authority in developing countries are then adumbrated: first the newness of national existence and hence of national authority; secondly the conflict between association with the demands of legitimacy imposed by an often colonial past, and the renunciation of this past in connection with the establishment and maintenance of a new legitimacy of dissociation. The implications of these problems on the political process are examined, with particular reference to the functional or dysfunctional nature of imported Western processes, institutions and ideas. The Western desire to impart its political experience is discussed as an ideological phenomenon; by imposing or offering its own means of interest articulation

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