Political Learning and Political Change: Understanding Development Across Time
LAWRENCE C. DODD
A new political science is needed for a world itself quite new. -- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America1
We live in a time of great systemic change in the world. Political reality as we have known it during our lifetime is being restructured in fundamental ways, illustrated most dramatically by the collapse of the Soviet state and the demise of the Cold War. Such periods of change are sobering, and force us to consider why it is that reality, which seems so permanent, can collapse so unexpectedly. Such periods also pose for us what is perhaps the most difficult issue in political inquiry -- how it is that societies confronted with systemic change reconstruct their understanding of reality and develop governing arrangements appropriate to a new world ( Munitz, 1990).
These issues are of pressing concern today to scholars of comparative politics and international relations, confronting as they do extraordinary alterations in global politics that only a decade ago would have seemed inconceivable ( Rosenau, 1991; Ferguson and Mansbach, 1991). The issues are no less important, however, to students of American politics.
When one looks back across American history, one sees periods of upheaval and change that altered American political reality just as dramatically as contemporary international upheavals are altering world politics today ( Ackerman, 1991; Burnham, 1970; Dodd, 1981; Greenberg, 1985; Huntington, 1981; Jillson, chap. 2, this vol.). Thus American history brought us the founding period, when the apparent permanence of colonial status gave way to revolution and national independence. There was the Civil War and Reconstruction, when the preeminence of a plantation oligarchy collapsed and the nation embraced capitalist democracy. And