Political Culture and Constitutionalism: A Comparative Approach

By Daniel P. Franklin; Michael J. Baun | Go to book overview

Preface

During the 1992 meeting of the American Political Science Association in Chicago, Professor Michael Baun and I shared our experiences that led to the writing of this book. Mike and I rarely attend the same panels at professional conventions because of our differing research foci, his on Western Europe and mine on the United States. But in our discussions we discovered a common thread and a common concern. In 1992 there was great excitement among political scientists who were finally getting an opportunity to exercise their skills in an applied setting. Hundreds of them were being invited to Eastern Europe and the newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union to consult on the building of democratic institutions. I had been on such a trip to Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Mike had traveled extensively throughout Eastern Europe and, particularly, the former German Democratic Republic.

The conclusion we each arrived at, separately, as the result of our travels and attendance at the panels of the conference was that, somehow, much of this excitement over the democratization of the former Soviet bloc was missing the point. It seemed to us that in the absence of societal conditions antecedent to the establishment of democratic institutions, much of the effort spent in consulting with the governments of those countries was being wasted. Far be it from us to deny the importance of the institutional approach to state building, but such an approach seems most appropriate in the presence of conditions already conducive to the building of democratic political institutions. The more interesting question for us concerned the nature of the conditions necessary for the building of a democratic state.

In discussing this problem, we began to reflect on the different societal factors that might be crucial to the building of a democratic state. In my experience I have found that there needs to exist in a democratic state a willingness on the part of its citizens to obey the law voluntarily. That willingness is based on a sense that actions of government are legitimate, responsive to popular consent, and subject to appeal pursuant to established procedures for control. Such a system in which the rule of law rests largely on voluntary obedience could best be termed a "constitutional" state. In the constitutional state the rule of law prevails, not because the courts or police say it should, but because there exists a

-vii-

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