The effects of political participation on political and socioeconomic development : a cross-national analysis of developing countries

Haworth, Steven Albert, Department of Foreign Affairs , University of Virginia
Wood, Robert S., University of Virginia
Rose, Lawrence E., University of Virginia

 Influenced by several dominant trends in American political science--namely, behavioralism, general systems theory, and contemporary "elitist" democratic theory--the study of political development has tended to focus on the ability of the political system to respond to, and channel what are seen to be persistent challenges emerging from the system's socioeconomic environment. Stability and representative democracy are widely held to be the goals of the political development process. To most students of development, political violence is seen to be the antithesis of both stability and representative democracy, and manifests the failure of the political system to react to socioeconomic modernization pressures. Widespread· evidence of political violence in the developing countries, therefore, casts a pessimistic light over the prospects for development.

 I begin with a different view of the nature of socioeconomic change. I agree with Robert Nisbet that, while socioeconomic change may be persistent at the level of whole civilizations, at the more meaningful level of individual societies "change is…not 'natural,' not normal, much less ubiquitous and constant. Fixity is.”1 Therefore, the role of the political system cannot merely be to react to and channel change, but must be the more activist role ·of creating socioeconomic change.

 After examining two representative development theorists, Gabriel Almond and Samuel Huntington, I suggest a different view of development and political violence. In the face of a frozen sociopolitical order, and due to the widespread absence of meaningful channels for democratic political participation, political violence may be less a pathological symptom of an excessive rate of change, than it is a healthy, instrumental form of political participation for creating needed changes in the frozen order.

 There is an admittedly circular relationship among socioeconomic modernization, political development, and political violence (some forms of the latter are argued here to be forms of political participation). I choose to analyze the effects of political violence on both political development and socioeconomic modernization, and the effects of political development on socioeconomic modernization,

Note: See diagrams in abstract page 2

 rather than the reverse causal paths postulated in the predominant models of development.

 To operationalize these complex; multifaceted phenomena, I perform three separate factor analyses of aggregate data from 76 developing countries.1 Three dimensions of the dependent variable, socioeconomic modernization in 1965, emerge: (1) the level of Western-style industrial development; (2) perceived, or subjective equity; and (3) objective equity. I likewise operationalize the intervening variable, political development in 1965, and extract four factors: (1) military and general government capacity; (2) democratic development; (3) unstable, interventionist military systems; and (4) institutionalized, mobilized systems. Third, I analyze the independent variable, violent political participation over the period 1961-1965, extracting two dimensions: (1) moderately violent mass political participation; and (2) extremely violent political participation.

 A partial correlation analysis indicated which of the relationships between the dimensions of violent participation from 1961-1965, political development in 1965, and socioeconomic modernization in 1965 are statistically significant. ·path analyses of these relationships support the following conclusions:

 (1) the military and general government capacity of a political system relates positively with all three dimensions of socioeconomic modernization;

(2) democratic development relates positively only with the level of Western-style industrialization, while having negative impacts   on both subjective and objective equity;

(3) political systems with interventionist militaries have a negative effect on the creation of the perception of equity;

(4) moderately violent political participation appears to have some notable positive developmental effects on the capacity of government, on the extent of democratic development, on the level of Western-type industrialization, and on the level of objective equity;

(5) at the same time, moderately violent political participation also has detrimental effects by apparently encouraging military intervention, and by lowering the perception of equity; and

(6) extremely violent political participation has noticeable negative impacts on all dimensions of political and socioeconomic development.

 My purpose in conducting this research is to present evidence against the status quo orthodoxy which, paradoxically, dominates the supposedly dynamic theory of political development. I contend, and my results fail to disaffirm, that there must often be a. rather severe jolt to the system if the blockages to development are to be dislodged. Development has neither a pre-determined direction, nor even inherent movement. On the contrary, the less-developed countries are often trapped in a vicious circle of socioeconomic stagnation, weak political institutions, and largely passive populations. It is upon the decision of political actors to forcefully intercede in this vicious circle that development ultimately depends.    

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Developing countries -- Political activity, Developing countries -- Economic conditions
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