Political Development in Eastern Europe

By Gabriel Almond; Jan F. Triska et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Jan F. Triska Paul M. Cocks

The need for new thinking on East European politics has become more and more apparent. Old theories and traditional approaches have proved inadequate in describing and explaining changing realities and the variety of political phenomena that have come to dominate our attention. At the same time, there is a growing need to integrate Communist studies more closely within a broader comparative politics framework. Past experience shows that separate paths of intellectual development tend to produce among both Communist specialists and general comparativists a narrow ethnocentric outlook and deficient culturebound vision. This book is an attempt to respond to both these needs. Moreover, it is our belief that concepts and analytical tools of the social sciences offer useful insights and perspectives by which we can advance and restructure our knowledge of East European political systems. In short, more effective integration can facilitate and sharpen the style and substance of our rethinking.

To be sure, many models, methods, and metaphors of the social sciences have in recent years been incorporated into and are transforming the whole of our scholarship on Communist systems. Nonetheless, the behavioral revolution in Communist studies is still an "unfinished revolution," uneven in its results and problematical in its course. "A large part of the attempt at theory building has been undertaken primarily with the Soviet system in mind; until recently it had little visible impact on the East European field," notes one authority.1 MoreU+0AD over, "the methods and techniques standard to behavioralism are a long way from becoming accepted tools of the field."2 Indeed, it is the underdevelopment of East European studies in general-the lack of empirical research as well as the absence of theory-that prompted Vernon Aspaturian to declare, "What the field needs is more data and information, not new theories and models."3

In many respects, the basic building blocks still do not exist for even modest theory building, let alone for grand designs of comparative analysis. For that matter, glaring evidence also exists of the failings of our general schemes in comparative politics. At a time when comparativists themselves are reexamining the validity and universality of their assumptions and approaches, it would be indeed a sign of cultural lag for Communist specialists to emulate and borrow indiscriminately contemporary social science concepts.4 Using modern frameworks "does not advance our theoretical knowledge very far," adds Joseph LaPalombara. "It may seriously impede our understanding of how Communist systems work...and may even lead us backward in the sense of impeding our ever learning what these systems really are."5

Yet even a cursory review of traditional Communist studies shows that a search for more data and information without theories and models is neither

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