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Paperback Political Order in Changing Societies (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series) Book

ISBN: 0300011717

ISBN13: 9780300011715

Political Order in Changing Societies (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series)

(Part of the The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series Series)

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Book Overview

This now-classic examination of the development of viable political institutions in emerging nations is a major and enduring contribution to modern political analysis. In a new Foreword, Francis Fukuyama assesses Huntington's achievement, examining the context of the book's original publication as well as its lasting importance."This pioneering volume, examining as it does the relation between development and stability, is an interesting and exciting...

Customer Reviews

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How to Modernize, Without Tears...

Reading this book was like opening a window in a stuffy room to get a breath of fresh air. The stuffy room is the current public discourse surrounding "democracy" and "civil society." The fresh air is Huntington's discussion of the phenomena of political modernization around the globe in the face of revolution and terror (not a new phenomenon). Although dating from the 1960s, the insights are still fresh. Basically, Huntington argues that order is essential to modernization, that reforms can catalyze revolutions and civil war if applied in the wrong way to the wrong people (Urban Elites), and that there is nothing inevitable about people's love for democracy or progress. Leaders have to lead, that's what they are for. Ataturk comes our very well in this book, as does Lenin, somewhat surprisingly to this reader, because political organization is a the center of Huntington's prescription for modernization and change. As an analyst, Huntington is unbiased. He may get some details wrong, although he seems to have a photographic memory, but his overall analysis has withstood the test of time. Order is required for changing societies. That's something President Bush and his followers didn't seem to understand, and one reason that America has seen a (hopefully temporary) slip in its prestige. I would ask that any foreign policy political appointee in any administration be required to read this book--and pass a Mandarin-style exam to be sure they understand Huntington's main point, namely: Political order is required for changing societies.

Modernization May not Lead to Democracy

Huntington takes issue with Lipset's argument regarding modernization, arguing instead taht the process of modernization may lead to instability rather than democracy. Huntington aruges that the process of modernization - urbanization, industrialization, increased literacy, and rising wealth - expands political conscioussness which broadens political participation, thus multiplying political demands. In a state where political institutions are weak, these increased demands can lead to political disorder and instability. In other words, where Lipset argues taht modernization will bring in lower-class, potenitally disillusioned groups into a more coesive state culture, Huntington would argue that this will occur only if institutions are in place to provide a medium of voice for those lower classes. Additionally, Huntington calls for a strong state structure during the modernization process. Modernization destroys traditional authority structures which must be replaced by one central authoritative body. This parallels the Weberian idea that as political freedoms expand in modern society, strong bureaucratic structures for social institutions are imperative. When discussing modernization, Huntington argues that during the process it may be necessary to constrain some human rights in order to ensure political stability. This illustrates that modernization may not lead to total democracy. Donnelly (1984) referred to these human rights versus development conundrums as needs tradeoffs, equality tradeoffs, and liberty tradeoffs. For example, Huntington argues that economic development (modernization) may require that the central authority limit "consumption-oriented" human rights during the economic development process. Huntington also sees the potential of an equality tradeoff. This idea holds that a society in transition to a modern economy will experience high levels of income inequality, but over time, this inequality will recede to a more moderate level. Where Huntington sees the equality tradeoff as temporary, Donelly argues that the problem may be more long lasting. Lastly, Huntington argues that when modernization weakens traditional authority structures, other associational groups may arise, which may lead to political decay, i.e. these groups may rise up in opposition to the central political authority. As such, the civil and political rights of these groups may need to be suspended during the early stages of economic development. Huntington would argue that the long-term interests of modernization must take precedence over the short-term interests of various groups.

A Harbinger of the New Institutionalism

I find it slightly incredible that a book of this caliber and renown remains basically unreviewed, in the sense that no previous reviewer has deigned to even touch upon Huntington's argument. They have chosen merely to register their opinions on his argument. But to someone who has not yet read the book, how could those opinions be of any guidance when the grounds for those opinions are not laid out? I write this review for those who believe that the integrity of an opinion depends upon the reasons given to support it. I came to this book highly skeptical that I would learn anything important. In college, I read Huntington's The Third Wave, a text of canonical status in the field of democratization studies, which at the time nonetheless (or perhaps for that very reason) struck me as insipid. Here is not the place to discuss whether and how my views on that later book have changed. Suffice it to say that Political Order in Changing Societies surprised me pleasantly with its fresh insights, wide learning, and clarity of argument. Its reputation as one of most important books in political development is well-deserved. If I were to describe this book in one sentence, I would say that it is Hobbesian in outlook and Hegelian in method. That the book is Hobbesian in outlook is indicated by the justly famous opening sentence: "The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government." It is confirmed beyond doubt by Huntington's elaboration of that statement: "The function of government is to govern. A weak government, a government which lacks authority, fails to perform its function and is immoral in the same sense in which a corrupt judge, a cowardly soldier, or an ignorant teacher is immoral" (28). One might wish to count all the times Huntington uses "Hobbessian" as an adjective. To say that the book is Hegelian in method is to stress the movement of Huntington's argument. He is concerned primarily with political modernization or political development. That is to say, he is concerned primarily with transitions, whether from a traditional to modern polity, or from a praetorian to civic polity. The causes of those transitions are certain contradictions or tensions within the socio-political system. As Huntington will later suggest, this book highlights "developmental contradictions and crises," e.g., rapid political modernization coupled with slow political development, or the conflict b/t short-run and long-run interests (the "King's Dilemma" that he describes in ch.3 is a variation on this latter theme). One might wish to count all the times he uses the words "dialectic" or "dialectical." For the student of contemporary political science, this book will be of interest in that it presages the currently fashionable interest in institutions. Political institutions are at the heart of this book. As Huntington tells us, "The primary thesis of this book is that [the v

Ahead of his times - even now

I read this book while I was in the university, and it still has things to say ten years later. I am an Asian, so I feel qualified to say that Huntington's ideas were not racist. If anything, he saw things very clearly. He has a good grasp of how politics work in non-western societies. He also clearly understood the needs of under developed Asian societies. He understood better than writers supposedly sympathetic to Asians (i.e. Naom Chomsky and his intellectual cronies)how political stability is the most important political issue of the day. (Just a note on the Clash of Civilisation. It was widely mocked when it first came out in the early 1990's, but after 9/11 it was proved that what he wrote was right and - as usual - perscient.)

30 years on

this is still Huntington's best work. The bredth of his erudition is astounding, the clarity of his analysis second to none. Too bad he had to soil his reputation with all that later nonsense about clashing civilizations.
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