Politics Discussion-Harvard University .

POLITICS THE BASICS 4TH EDITION This highly successful introduction to the world of politics has been fully revised and updated in collaboration with a new co-author, Nigel Jackson of the University of Plymouth. The new edition builds on the reputation for clarity and comprehensive coverage of the previous editions. It explores the varieties of political systems, the main political movements and key issues at the beginning of the twenty-first century. New to the fourth edition: • • • • • • comparison of quantitative and qualitative methods more international examples greater discussion of non-Western concepts of politics the problem of voter apathy and lack of trust in politicians more discussion of the ‘war on terrorism’ extended analysis of the role of the Internet in politics including blogs, search engine censorship and e-democracy • analysis of further key concepts such as genocide and policy networks • more links to web pages including case studies, further questions to explore and additional learning activities. Accessible in style and topical in content, this book assumes no prior knowledge of politics. These features make it ideal reading for general readers as well as for those who are just beginning to study politics at undergraduate level. Stephen D. Tansey has taught Politics at the universities of Ife (Nigeria), Exeter and Bournemouth, for the Open University and the WEA. He is the author of Business, Information Technology and Society (also published by Routledge). Nigel Jackson has worked as a parliamentary agent for a UK political party, for an MP and as a parliamentary lobbyist. Teaching at the University of Plymouth, his research interests are in political communication and political marketing, especially online. Also available from Routledge THE ROUTLEDGE DICTIONARY OF POLITICS DAVID ROBERTSON FIFTY MAJOR POLITICAL THINKERS (SECOND EDITION) IAN ADAMS AND R.W. DYSON FIFTY KEY FIGURES IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY BRITISH POLITICS KEITH LAYBOURN FIFTY KEY THINKERS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS MARTIN GRIFFITHS INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: THE KEY CONCEPTS MARTIN GRIFFITHS AND TERRY O’CALLAGHAN THE ROUTLEDGE COMPANION TO FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT PETER DAVIES AND DEREK LYNCH INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: THE BASICS PETER SUTCH AND JUANITA ELIAS POLITICS THE BASICS 4TH EDITION stephen d. tansey and nigel jackson First edition published 1995 Second edition published 2000 Third edition published 2004 Fourth edition, 2008 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.” Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa © 1995, 2000, 2004 Stephen D. Tansey; 2008 Stephen D. Tansey and Nigel Jackson We, Stephen Douglas Tansey and Nigel Jackson, hereby assert and give notice to our right under section 77 of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the authors of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Tansey, Stephen D., 1942– Politics : the basics / Stephen D. Tansey and Nigel Jackson. — 4th ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Political science. I. Jackson, Nigel A. II. Title. JA66.T35 2008 320—dc22 2007038803 ISBN 0-203-92919-5 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 10: 0–415–42243–4 (hbk) ISBN 10: 0–415–42244–2 (pbk) ISBN 10: 0–203–92919–5 (ebk) ISBN 13: 978–0–415–42243–7 (hbk) ISBN 13: 978–0–415–42244–4 (pbk) ISBN 13: 978–0–203–92919–3 (ebk) TO THE NEXT GENERATION – ESPECIALLY ELIOT, TOBY, FREYA AND JAKE CONTENTS List of illustrations Preface Acknowledgements xi xiii xix 1 Politics This chapter . . . Politics in everyday life What is politics? Approaches to the study of politics Traditional scholarship Social science and politics Schools of political science Theories, models, paradigms Radical and postmodernist criticism Conclusion Recommended reading Websites 1 1 1 3 7 9 12 15 18 19 23 23 24 2 Systems This chapter . . . States and societies Politics without the state: tribal societies Feudalism States without nations: kingdoms States without nations: empires Nations and states The nation state and sovereignty 26 26 26 27 31 33 36 38 39 viii CONTENTS Politics between states Politics beyond the state: international institutions Multinational enterprises and ‘globalisation’ Politics as a universal activity Recommended reading Websites 40 41 42 47 48 48 3 Concepts This chapter . . . Human nature and politics Is the state necessary? Why should i obey the state? The nature of authority What is justice? Individualism versus collectivism Rights: natural, human, legal Equality Positive and negative freedom Analysing political concepts Recommended reading Websites 50 50 50 52 54 56 57 60 61 62 64 65 67 68 4 Ideologies This chapter . . . Ideology ‘Right’ versus ‘left’ The old right: monarchism The radical right: Nazism and fascism Marxism Leninism and Stalinism Other Marxisms Radicalism Radical theism – Catholic, Protestant and Islamic Ecology as political radicalism Feminism as political radicalism Liberalism Conservatism Thatcherism and neo-conservatism Christian democracy Socialism and social democracy Communitarianism and the ‘third way’ Recommended reading Websites 69 69 69 71 72 74 76 77 79 81 81 84 86 89 92 94 95 97 99 101 102 CONTENTS 5 Processes This chapter . . . Political identity Political socialisation and political culture Localism, nationalism, religion and ethnicity Racial and ethnic conflict Dominance, assimilation and social pluralism Elites, classes and political pluralism Political change Coups d’état and revolutions Terror and terrorism Class conflict in the twenty-first century Post-industrial politics: the information polity? ‘North’ versus ‘South’? Conclusion Recommended reading Websites 103 103 103 104 107 110 112 114 117 120 121 123 125 129 133 134 134 6 States This chapter . . . Types of state Democracy, the welfare state and the market Forms of representative democracy Military autocracy Civil autocracy Totalitarian governments Nazi government Soviet government Islamic government – breaking the mould? Multi-level government European political institutions Local government Conclusion Recommended reading Websites 136 136 136 139 142 146 148 150 151 152 153 155 159 164 168 168 169 7 Democracy This chapter . . . How can government be ‘democratic’? Participation and direct democracy Choosing rulers Electoral systems The executive 170 170 170 171 173 173 175 ix x CONTENTS 8 The legislature The judiciary Constitutions and constitutionalism Rights and constitutions Pluralist policy making Corporatism Centralisation Political communication Political parties ‘Spin’ and political marketing The permanent campaign Interest groups The mass media The Internet Democracy and communication Recommended reading Websites 177 179 181 182 185 186 187 189 191 193 194 195 197 202 204 204 206 Policies This chapter . . . Public policy problems and solutions The choice of social decision-making mechanisms The case for the market Problems of market decision making Voluntary organisation Rational policy making: bureaucracy Problems with ‘rational’ policy making Incremental decision making The policy process Implementing public policy Managing local public policy Multi-level governance Evaluating public policy Monitoring performance in public policy Evaluating policy ou
tcomes: the distribution of wealth and income The political policy-making process A crisis in democratic politics? Taking political action Recommended reading Websites 209 209 209 210 212 213 215 217 220 222 224 225 228 229 231 232 234 236 237 238 239 240 Appendix: sources on politics References Index 241 249 267 ILLUSTRATIONS FIGURES 4.1 8.1 8.2 Classifying ideologies Levels of inter-organisational bargaining Managing local public service provision 73 227 229 BOXES 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 2.3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Definitions of ‘politics’ and ‘power’ Assessing the use of methodology in politics Definition of ‘state’ Definitions of globalisation Globalisation – challenges to the nation state Definitions of anarchism Justice Concepts of equality: summary Definitions of freedom Ideology as a political concept Definitions of political socialisation Political culture Propositions from pluralist, elite and Marxist models of power North v South: a major fault line in international relations? Major political divisions Republican, autocratic and totalitarian states Capitalism The welfare state Forms of representative democracy 4 23 27 46 46 52 59 63 64 71 105 105 116 132 133 137 140 141 142 xii ILLUSTRATIONS 6.5 6.6 7.1 7.2 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 The principle of subsidiarity Relations between levels of government Political parties Pressure or interest groups Choice of social decision-making mechanism Weber’s characteristics of bureaucracy A rational–comprehensive model of decision making Why organisations are not always rational Hogwood and Gunn’s model of the policy process Ten principles for reinventing government The 3 ‘E’s: efficiency; economy; effectiveness 157 158 191 195 211 218 219 220 224 230 232 TABLES 1.1 Major contemporary approaches to politics 2.1 Multinationals and countries compared 4.1 Attitudes to gender differences 5.1(a) Typical socialisation research findings: attitudes to president 5.1(b) Typical socialisation research findings: most popularly used sources of information about foreign people 5.2 Typical research findings: political culture 5.3 Summary: critics of pluralism 5.4 From public administration to information polity 6.1 The trend to democracy, 1974–2000 6.2 Parliamentary versus presidential systems 7.1 Political marketing and New Labour 8.1 Marketable wealth in Britain 8.2 World population below international poverty line (2001) 10 43 88 106 106 107 117 129 139 143 194 234 235 PREFACE WHO THE BOOK IS FOR – AND WHAT IT IS ABOUT This book is designed as a basic introduction to twenty-first century politics. We do not claim to be able to predict with certainty the political shape of the new century. However, it is already clear that many of the old perspectives of superpower rivalry and class and ideological warfare which dominated the era of the Cold War seem to be of reduced relevance. Issues such as ecology, new technology, Islam, terrorism, feminism and the role of what used to be described as the Third World (referred to as ‘the South’ in this book) are likely to move to centre stage. An introduction to politics that takes a parochial single-country approach no longer seems sensible in an era of increased international interdependence. The readers we have in mind are without a systematic knowledge of, or rigid attitudes towards, politics. This book is intended both to enable such readers to make up their minds about politics and to understand more about the academic discipline of politics (or, as it is more grandly described in the United States, ‘political science’). In particular, pre-university students, whether or not they have studied politics at school, have found this book a useful indication of the ground covered by university courses. The book has also been found useful for undergraduates beginning courses in politics. It has also formed the basis of short subsidiary courses in politics at undergraduate, postgraduate and extra-mural level. However, we hope that open-minded and intelligent older and younger readers alike will also xiv PREFACE find much of interest in this approach. Nor would we have any objection to the occasional practising politician quarrying something useful from the work! We have not taken the view that a ‘social scientific’ approach requires the assumption of an attitude of detachment from the politics of the day. But neither have we tried to sell a short-term political programme. The approach here is to search for long-term principles that can help guide political actions. ‘Politics’ has been taken to mean the essential human activity of deciding how to live together in communities. This activity has been put in a long-term and wide geographical context. Frequent reference has been made to both Europe as a whole and the United States as well as to the United Kingdom. The focus is on the relatively prosperous industrialised countries of the ‘West’, but this cannot be detached from those of the rest of the world. In considering such an ambitious agenda we have drawn extensively on the work of many academics, whose ideas have in many cases already been borrowed (often in caricatured form) by politicians. In a book designed to help readers make up their own minds about politics, no attempt has been made to hide the authors’ liberal and socially progressive point of view. This has inevitably been reflected in such matters as the choice of topics for discussion. But it is hoped to give a fair representation of all other major points of view and to give an indication of where the reader can find accessible versions of alternative perspectives. HOW THE BOOK IS ORGANISED The book begins with a discussion of the nature of politics and the variety of academic approaches to its understanding. Chapter 2 illustrates the variety of contexts in which political activity takes place. Chapters 3 and 4 then survey competing ideas about the aims of that political activity. The final four chapters of the book consider in more detail what and how political decisions are reached. Chapter 5 covers what kinds of decisions are made and how political systems change. Chapter 6 reviews the variety of different states. Chapter 7 focuses on how modern democracies make their decisions. Finally, considering more specifically some particular areas of public policy making, the PREFACE limitations of public policy-making processes and the role of individuals in politics are discussed in Chapter 8. The book is not divided up in the same way that many politics courses are into sub-disciplinary areas. But, in these terms, Chapter 1 is about methodology, chapters 3 and 4 are mainly political theory, 2 and 5 mainly political sociology, chapters 6 and 7 are mainly political institutions/comparative government and Chapter 8 public policy and administration. To assist users of the previous editions of the book, it may be helpful to point out the major innovations in the fourth edition. These are: • explicit treatment of the need for political theories and comparison of quantitative and qualitative methods in Chapter 1; • decline in the partisan interpretation of politics is stressed in Chapter 1; • some more specific definitions of globalisation in Chapter 2; • continued emphasis on the implicit message that Western democratic politics should not be assumed to be the norm in Chapter 2; • a discussion of genocide in Chapter 3; • revision of the discussions of ideology and the Third Way in Chapter 4; • more discussion of the ‘war on terrorism’, in Chapter 5; • linking of the discussion of representative democracy to the ideas of Burke; • updated discussion of the role of the Internet to refer to blogs and e-democracy; • analysis of the permanent campaign with more on spin and international politics; • two new sections in Chapter 8 on changes in the political policy process and the crisis of modern democracy. This has been put in the context of the US/UK axis on the market economy as opposed to the French/German more statist approach; • Each chapter now ends with a list of useful websites, as well a
s recommended reading. This new edition, in addition to obvious changes following such developments as the departure as prime minister of Tony Blair in Britain and developments in the ‘war on terror’, has also been further xv xvi PREFACE amended to strengthen its international references both for the benefit of its many international readers (including readers of editions in Polish and Chinese) and to counter the parochialism of many introductory courses and books in Britain. At all times the intention is to assist readers to make up their minds about issues, rather than to argue for some predetermined conclusion. HOW TO USE THIS BOOK There are many ways to attempt to introduce students to a discipline, and in this book we have chosen to concentrate on introducing some of the major arguments within politics and the concepts associated with them. Logically we have begun with the methodology and boundaries of a discipline. Complete novices to the subject may find this introductory chapter of limited interest at first and can be forgiven for skipping through the second half of the chapter on initial reading. Students already started on a politics course should find that this broader perspective on their studies stimulates more thought than many more detailed and limited textbooks. It should prove useful especially at the beginning of such courses and by way of revision at the end. It is also intended to help those contemplating such courses to decide if politics is the appropriate subject for them. By encouraging an evaluation of the reader’s own political position and evaluating many basic political concepts as part of a sustained argument, we hope to encourage a critical and individual approach which is more valuable than a more ‘factual’ approach both in the examination room and in practice. The Appendix on ‘Sources on politics’ will be found useful in locating additional material in an academic or public library, including the use of newer electronic information sources. Many years of experience teaching at this level have shown that most students greatly underestimate the library resources they have available. References are organised on the Harvard system so that a date in curved brackets after an author’s name indicates a full entry in the References section at the end of the book. Such dates normally indicate the edition used by the author for references but the latest edition for items recommended for further reading. Readers new to PREFACE the Harvard system should note that the date of the edition used is not necessarily an indication of the date of composition – especially in the case of older and translated works. In addition to the References, each chapter is followed by some recommendations for suitable further reading. Pairs of dates in square brackets after a person’s name indicate dates of birth and death – approximate in the case of early figures. A feature of the book which readers should find particularly useful is the definition of key concepts found in boxes at intervals in the text and indexed in initials at the end. Students will quickly find that any work they submit which does not clearly define its terms will obtain an unfriendly reception, and, conversely, such definitions contribute greatly to clear analysis and communication. xvii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Finally a word of thanks to students on various politics and public sector management and public relations courses at Plymouth, Exeter and Bournemouth universities, and with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), for their comments and suggestions on this material. In addition to the help from colleagues and friends acknowledged in earlier editions, this latest edition has also benefited from useful comments and suggestions from a number of readers, and the work of our editor at Routledge, Craig Fowlie and production editor Abigail Humphries has been much appreciated. The blame for infelicities and errors remains, of course, with us. 1 POLITICS THIS CHAPTER . . . discusses what politics is and the ways in which scholars have attempted to understand it. The first serious professional students and teachers (Greeks such as Plato [427–347 BC] and Aristotle [384–322 BC]) made politics the centre of the curriculum. In the twenty-first century academics are still seeking to explain politics ‘scientifically’. This chapter discusses the meaning, importance and problems of such an enterprise. POLITICS IN EVERYDAY LIFE Is the study of politics a sensible activity? Any watcher of television news can see that democracies vary in apparent effectiveness, equality and longevity, from peaceful and egalitarian regimes as in Switzerland and Sweden, through the controversial case of the United States of America, to apparently fragile new democracies in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Dictatorships seem to thrive at one time like the former Soviet Union, sending the first satellite into space and dominating half the world, only to crumble away as the result of forces which few seemed able to predict. There are times when it is difficult not to sympathise with the view that such matters 2 POLITICS are both out of the control and beyond the understanding of ordinary people. Yet we have seen ordinary people bravely dismantling regimes which seemed immovable, and dying for abstract ideas about politics: thousands of Bosnians and Albanians ‘ethnically cleansed’ in the name of Serbian national identity in the former Yugoslavia; tens of thousands of ordinary citizens protesting in the Ukraine which led to the Orange Revolution. It seems wrong in the face of such evidence of the capacity of ordinary people to effect, and be affected by, political change not to consider both the nature of political institutions and what action we should take in relation to them. Leaving aside the dramatic examples of political action and change in faraway places, it is worth examining our own lives and the impact of politics upon them. Suppose you are an 18-year-old living in the United Kingdom, working at a McDonald’s, and hoping for a university place in the autumn. Waking up you may realise that the government (strictly Parliament) has legislated to convert what was a local time of 6:33 or so (depending on the latitude) to 7:30. Turning on the local radio station (whose franchise was granted by a QUANGO (quasi autonomous national (or non-) governmental organisation) you may hear the weather forecast from the government-financed Meteorological Office. After hearing several CD tracks (payment of royalties to the authors and performers must be made by law by the radio station), you drag yourself out of bed (legally mattress materials must be nonflammable), down to your cornflakes (ingredients listed on packet in due form by another law). If you unwisely reach for a cigarette, the government (/European Union) has both insisted on a health warning on the packet and taken a large rake-off in the form of tax. Without going through every minute of your day, it is clear that government is likely to be affecting almost every one of them in similar ways (air quality, traffic regulations, employment law – fill out the story yourself). The bigger issues are, of course, affected in the same way. Can you afford to go to university? What bursaries and loans are available, or fees payable, as a result of government policy? How many places has the government financed in universities? How many other students have been educated by the state educational system to university entry level? If, on the other hand, you are unable to make it to POLITICS university, then your prospects for permanent employment will depend upon the government’s management of the economy. Prospects for continued employment with McDonald’s are dependent on, among other things, government policy towards foreign companies and the extent and effectiveness of health education campaigns! So far we have only considered you and the government. Suppose on reaching the kitchen your father snaps at you: ‘Can’t you clear up the beer glasses and pizza cartons you and your friends littered th
e place with last night?’ Arguably this is a political situation too. Within the family, fathers are sometimes thought to have ‘authority’ – some sort of legitimate power over children. As an 18-year-old, you might react to the speech as an assertion of authority and react back negatively on the grounds that you are no longer a child to be given orders. Conversely, your father may merely feel that in a community all should play their part and clear up their own mess. But in any case if he wants you to clear up and you do not, this can be seen as a clash of wills in which only one can prevail. Similarly when you arrive at McDonald’s it may well be you have discovered that the assistant manager (who is in charge in the absence of the manager on holiday) is busy establishing in the eyes of the area manager that he can do a better job than his boss. Here we have a struggle for power in which people within the organisation may take sides (form factions as political scientists might say) – in short, organisational politics is being practised. It soon becomes clear that ‘politics’ is used in at least two senses, both of which are immediately relevant to everyone’s everyday experience. In the narrowest conventional (dictionary) usage – what governments do – politics is affecting us intimately, day by day, and hour by hour. In the wider sense – people exercising power over others – it is part of all sorts of social relationships, be they kinship, occupational, religious or cultural. WHAT IS POLITICS? If we try to define ‘politics’ more formally and precisely, we run into the sort of problems which will be found to recur again and again in this book. It is actually quite tricky to define concepts in scientific disciplines like physics and chemistry, but if you do so, you are not so likely to be accused immediately of failing to understand the problem, 3 4 POLITICS of lacking scientific objectivity or of making unwarranted assumptions, as is a writer on politics. One of the problems is associated with whether we are talking about politics as a human activity or politics as an academic activity – or, in American terminology, politics or political science. The search for truth about how human beings exercise power might be thought to be completely separate from actually seeking to exercise that power. But in practice, as we shall see, political ideas are some of the most important weapons in the politician’s armoury. Attempts to ignore this are either naive or, quite frequently, a deliberate attempt to present a controversial political ideology as an indisputable political fact. In this light it is worth considering rather critically the implications of some of the standard academic definitions of politics and of power (Box 1.1). BOX 1.1 DEFINITIONS OF ‘POLITICS’ AND ‘POWER’ Politics The science and art of government; the science dealing with the form, organisation and administration of a state or a part of one, and with the regulation of its relations with other states. (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary) . . . a way of ruling divided societies by a process of free discussion and without undue violence. (Bernard Crick, 2000) . . . who gets what, when, how. (H. Lasswell, 1936) . . . man moving man. (Bertrand de Jouvenal, 1963) . . . the authoritative allocation of value. (David Easton, 1979) POLITICS Power . . . the production of intended effects. (Bertrand Russell, 1938) . . . the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance regardless of the basis on which the probability arises. (Max Weber, in Gerth and Mills, 1948) . . . the capacity to mobilize the resources of society for the attainment of goals for which a general public commitment . . . may be made. (Talcott Parsons, 1957) . . . the capacity of a social class to realise its specific objective interests. (Nicos Poulantzas, 1973) The definitions in Box 1.1 show very considerable differences, reflecting the viewpoint of the author. Most political scientists’ definitions of politics are much broader in scope than the first, dictionary, definition which focuses on the state (although admittedly ‘part of a state’ could be interpreted widely). In effect they largely endorse the view suggested above: that politics is about the social exercise of power, rather than just the state. However, this may reflect the natural ‘imperialism’ of academics on behalf of their own discipline. Sociologists might argue that ‘man moving man’ would be more appropriate as a definition of their concerns. Consider also, though, the unit of analysis, in terms of which these definitions are couched. Weber, Lasswell and de Jouvenal appear to be thinking primarily in terms of individuals exercising power, Crick and Parsons focus upon whole societies, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary talks about governments, whilst Poulantzas views classes as the primary political ‘actor’. This reflects a split between individualistic and collectivist theories which will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3. 5 6 POLITICS Another contrast in these definitions is that between what has been described as ‘zero-sum’ and ‘non-zero-sum’ theories of politics. This terminology is derived from the mathematical theory of games. A zero-sum game is the usual sort of game, such as chess, in which a win by one player is, by definition, a loss on the part of the opposing player or players. There is a fixed amount of ‘winnings’ which means that the gains of one side are, by definition, losses to the other. Obviously many politicians, and political scientists, see politics this way. Thus Weber and (implicitly) Lasswell both seem to suggest that the political success of one individual may well be at the expense of others who oppose them. It is also a feature of Marxist theories, like that of Poulantzas, that the interests of classes are opposed and are gained at the expense of each other. However, not all games are of this sort – for instance in collective make-believe children’s games, new themes introduced by one player can enrich the enjoyment of the game for everyone – in a game of Cowboys versus Indians, the introduction of Aliens may lead to everyone having a better time. There is not a fixed amount of ‘winnings’, but by co-operation both sides can achieve more. In a similar way, Parsons explicitly argues that, by co-operation, different groups in society can each obtain greater benefits than would be the case if they work in competition. This view seems to fit well with contemporary emphasis in many parts of the Western world on the practice of mainstream politicians seeking to build coalitions, which involves compromise. Thus different theories place radically different emphasis on consensus (agreement) and conflict in their theories of politics. There is a growing sense that politics in the established Western democracies is struggling. This unease has been referred to as a democratic deficit, political alienation or civic disillusionment. The possible explanations for such changes are examined by Gerry Stoker (2006), but the argument is that citizens have been increasingly ‘turned off’ by traditional political behaviour, such as voting in elections. This has manifested itself in a decline in partisanship, or a lessening sense of identifying with key political actors and structures. It has been suggested that increasingly politically active citizens have ignored the coalitions and compromises offered by the existing political elite, and have instead turned to single-issue pressure group activity. But does this apparent decline in traditional partisan POLITICS electoral politics in some countries necessarily indicate a decline in the importance of politics? The authors’ sympathies lie with Maurice Duverger (1972: 19) who argues, ‘The two-faced god, Janus, is the true image of power’. In other words, both conflict and consensus are essential elements to the creation of a political situation. The imposition of one person’s or group’s interests on
another by force and without any element of consent seems far from what most people understand by ‘politics’, as Crick (2000) argues. On the other hand, a situation (perhaps unlikely) in which a group in total agreement (as to goals and methods), proceeds to achieve more and more of its objectives does not sounds like a political process either. Thus ‘politics’ encompasses a broad range of situations in which people’s objectives vary, but in which they work together to achieve those aims they have in common as well as competing where aims conflict. Both co-operation and competition may involve bargaining, argument and coercion. Politics may often be more an art than a science, and the art of politics may often be to see the potential for alliances rather than antagonisms amongst differing groups. APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF POLITICS One of the joys, and also one of the frustrations, of the study of politics lies in the variety of approaches adopted by academic writers to the subject. This is a joy in the sense that within one course of study you will be introduced to a rich spectrum of writing ranging from classic philosophers like Plato (1866) and Aristotle (1946), through radical sociologists such as C. Wright Mills (1956) and Pareto (1976), to dedicated modern social scientists wielding statistical tests of significance to analyse huge volumes of computerised data, e.g. Robert Dahl (1971). It is frustrating in that the conclusions of such writers cannot be simply accumulated to form a certain body of knowledge representing the political scientist’s view of politics. Students of politics must be ready to live with uncertainty, to sift through varied sources and accept what seems to them to be relevant and valid. The remainder of this chapter attempts to provide tools to enable students to do their own ‘sifting’, and to recognise why writers on politics differ so radically. We shall look at three main approaches to 7 8 POLITICS the study of politics, and within these various schools of thought. These should be thought of only as a sort of preliminary crude map of the terrain to be covered, not as a rigorous analysis of what kinds of writing on politics is possible, or as a series of watertight divisions. However, it will be found that two writers within a ‘school’ generally have more in common, and are more likely to agree on what has already been established, and perhaps to refer to each other, than two writers in different schools. The three main contemporary academic approaches to the study of politics can be described as ‘traditional scholarship’, ‘social science’ and ‘radical criticism’. With an element of exaggeration they might also be thought of as the British, the American and the French approaches (although the ‘American’ approach has gained much ground in Britain and internationally in recent years). ‘Traditional scholars’ often approach matters on a rather piecemeal basis looking at one specific country, political institution, theoretical concept or writer in depth, often with the tools and preconceptions of another academic discipline – especially history or philosophy. Thus the core of the politics curriculum in Britain, at least until recently, has been the study of individual British political institutions in their historical context; the great political philosophers; and what was misleadingly titled ‘comparative government’. The latter was, in practice, largely the study of American, French and Soviet government and politics separately. Often British courses have been part of a humanities-oriented programme such as the Oxford PPE (Philosophy, Politics, Economics) programme. A comparison of the leading UK and US journals showed that the leading UK journal, Political Studies, had 91 per cent of its articles focusing on institutional, descriptive, conceptual or philosophical topics (including history of political thought), whilst the American Political Science Review had 74 per cent of its articles in the behavioural/empirical or deductive/ rational choice categories (Norris, 1994: 15). In continental Europe politics has often been a subsidiary part of departments of faculties of law, sociology or history. ‘Social scientists’ would denounce the traditional approach as ‘idiographic’ (a word derived from ‘ideogram’ – a personal mark or signature), espousing instead a ‘nomothetic’ or generalising approach in which the endeavour of scholars of politics must be ultimately to derive general theories or laws about the nature of political behavi- POLITICS our. Thus a typical American-style curriculum presents political science as one of a group of related social science disciplines, including sociology and economics, all using modern quantitative/computeroriented methods of ‘analysing data’ scientifically. ‘Radical critics’, whilst not denying the need to produce useful generalisations from the study of politics, have denounced the conservative bias of US-dominated political science. Often their primary allegiance has appeared not be to an academic discipline but to a general doctrine calling for the radical change of existing (Western) societies – most frequently some variety of Marxism, but similar criticism can be produced from an ecological, theological or feminist perspective. The basis of the distinction being drawn is mainly in terms of what writers see their task to be, the methods they employ, the level and type of their analysis, and the values they espouse, rather than the details of specific theories advanced. In addition, though, a comparison of the specific theories advanced by different schools and approaches does show a concentration on different areas of human experience, broad patterns of difference in their content, and a tendency to draw upon similar models and to use the same concepts within schools. On examination it will often be found that where writers from different approaches and schools deal with what is apparently the same topic (e.g. ‘democracy’, ‘elections’, ‘society’) their concerns and assumptions are often so different that no real dialogue can be said to have occurred. Table 1.1 offers an overview of these major approaches and schools. TRADITIONAL SCHOLARSHIP The first academic writers on politics – Plato and Aristotle – whose works are still studied in detail in most British universities – were unaccustomed to the modern practice of compartmentalising knowledge into separate disciplines. Hence they combined insights from history and current affairs with discussions on the big moral issues such as ‘What is the best form of government?’ or ‘What is justice?’ This somewhat ‘eclectic’ approach (combining insights from various different sources) was also adopted by some of the more readable classic writers in the nineteenth century such as John Stuart Mill [1806–1873], Bryce [1838–1922] and De Tocqueville [1805–1859]. 9 10 POLITICS Table 1.1 Major contemporary approaches to politics Traditional Social science Radical Task Piecemeal explanation Science of politics Radical social change Methods Descriptive, historical, philosophical analysis Quantitative or theorising illustrated Ideological criticism Values Liberal democratic Pro-US democracy and ‘development’ Anti-establishment Level of analysis Political, philosophical, psychological Political and social Multi-level Scope Individual institutions or countries USA or area studies Global and historical Content Constitutional consensus disturbed by cataclysmic events Pluralism Class/gender/species conflict Schools (a) Liberalinstitutional (b) Historical (c) Philosophical (a) Functionalist (b) Economic (c) Systems (a) (b) (c) (d) Marxist Feminist Ecologist Religious fundamentalist (e) Postmodernist Political culture, market, feedback Contradiction, patriarchy, jihad Typical concepts Constitutional convention, great man Source: Adapted from Tansey (1973) These writers saw the rise of democracy as the major political development of their time and sought to analyse not only the idea, but also its contemporary manifestations in different
countries, and to suggest improvements and accommodations with the emerging reality of democratic government. Serious writers on politics now tend to be university lecturers, who have to have specialist interests and lists of articles in professional journals and/or monographs published by respectable academic publishers. They tend now to adopt a much more limited conception POLITICS of their role, with philosophically trained writers exploring concepts and the history of ideas, historians limiting themselves frequently to small periods of time and limited geographical areas, and students of political institutions specialising in electoral systems, UK parliamentary select committees or the politics of privatisation. There is no doubt that such academic specialisation may reap benefits in terms of specific discoveries (and in terms of obtaining rapid publication in academic journals). But this gain is also undoubtedly at the cost of some loss of perspective and the loss of a non-academic audience – who often fail to see the relevance of much of this work to current policy issues. Within British university politics departments much admirable scholarly work continues to be produced on political theory and ‘political institutions’ without any systematic attempt to relate findings to general theories of political behaviour or ‘social science’. A few holders of professorial chairs may still describe themselves as historians or philosophers rather than ‘political scientists’. Students of ‘political theory’ in this mode have tended to divide roughly into two main camps. One group are the philosophers who see their main task as the elucidation of political concepts (such as justice and democracy) with at least an eye to their relevance to contemporary concerns. A second group are the historians of ideas who have been concerned to trace the evolution of writings on politics, the intent of the writers of these texts and their influence on events. Those who have written on ‘political institutions’ have often been less explicit in their theoretical intent, but writers such as Ridley (1975) and Rhodes (1997) have articulated the rationale and assumptions of much of this writing. In established and relatively stable democracies like Britain and the United States, it is evident that much of what we call politics centres around important governmental institutions like parliaments, elections, government departments, local authorities and the like. The study of how these institutions have evolved, the rules and practices surrounding them, and consideration of how they may be improved, is clearly of the utmost importance. As citizens, and possibly future public employees or even politicians, we may feel that such activities scarcely need elaborate justification. However, the sceptical and the ambitious may combine to throw doubt upon the academic credentials of such activities. Is the result 11 12 POLITICS really ‘knowledge’ which can legitimately be examined in universities – or merely pragmatic common sense which can be used by those who agree with its (conservative and liberal?) assumptions? To meet such objections there has been a development of more methodologically aware ‘new institutionalism’ of which Peters (1999) discerns no fewer than seven varieties. The sceptical will continue to argue that the operations of representative institutions are merely a deceptive mask for the real politics of exploitation below (see the section on Radical criticism, p. 19), whilst the ambitious see only scientifically established theories as the acceptable basis of knowledge in the twenty-first century. SOCIAL SCIENCE AND POLITICS The proposition that our knowledge of politics should be scientifically derived seems, at first sight, undeniable. The application of scientific method in many other spheres (e.g. physics, biochemistry, astronomy) has yielded not only a broad consensus on the truth of various scientific ‘laws’, but also practical results in the shape of space travel and ‘miracle’ drugs. If the application of systematic observation, computerised analysis of data, the testing of hypotheses through experiment and the painstaking building of small bricks of fact into enormous edifices of knowledge can work in one sphere, why not in another? Since human beings are currently at such loggerheads over the nature of politics, it might be thought, indeed, that the construction of a science of politics is the most urgent intellectual task of our time. The problems of creating a valid science of politics seem, however, to be so enormous as to place the whole project in some doubt. They include problems of value conflict, of complexity, of method and of philosophy. It is tempting to dismiss conflicts of value as irrelevant to scientific investigation. The conventional argument is that science is morally neutral (‘value-free’), but can be used for good or evil. Thus the structure of the atom is the same everywhere, whether our knowledge of this structure is used to destroy civilisations, to fuel them or merely to understand their most basic constituents. It is easier to apply a knowledge of biochemistry to creating individual health than it is to use a knowledge of politics to create a POLITICS healthy society. But that is because there is more agreement on what an ill person looks like than on what is an ill society. However, such ethical problems of objectives are seen as separate from scientific problems as to how things work. In principle the authors would accept this proposition, although this then drastically reduces the likelihood of increasing social consensus by creating a science of politics because scientific analysis cannot resolve the problem of conflicting human objectives. In social analysis, however, it has been impractical to create a ‘value-free’ vocabulary acceptable alike to social democrats, neoconservative free-marketeers, Marxists and feminists. Suppose we try to describe a university staff meeting. A social democrat might observe academic democracy at work. A neo-conservative may see only a series of individuals asserting their interests. A Marxist may see wage-slaves ideologically dominated by the imperatives of the capitalist system. Meanwhile a feminist sees a series of males exerting patriarchal domination. Another example is the Internet, whose creators wanted information to be freely available online, a value in its own right, but now increasingly it is being challenged by a different value of those who want to control and use such access to information. Thus the concepts we use to observe social reality have values ‘built-in’ to them which make ‘objective’ analysis difficult if not impossible. An additional problem in applying scientific analysis to the social/ political arena is the complexity of the phenomena being studied. Scientific method has so far been most successfully applied to physical systems, less successfully to biological systems composed of physical systems, and with only limited success to human psychological systems composed of biological systems. So that it should be no surprise that social systems comprising a still higher and more complex level of system are most resistant to analysis. Typically science is seen as characterised by the testing of hypotheses, through experiment. The experimental method is largely closed to political scientists since they do not possess the power to dictate to whole human societies how they should behave. In any case experiments require identical control groups for comparison which, it is arguable, cannot be created. Some small-scale laboratory simulations of human power situations have been attempted with interesting results (e.g. Milgram, 1965), but the applicability of the results of 13 14 POLITICS these to whole societies is disputable. Statistical manipulation of existing sets of data about human societies may be a partial substitute for experimental techniques, but it could be argued that few convincing data sets exist. Some attempts at marshalling these include the World Handbook of Political and Social
Indicators (Taylor and Jodice, 1983), and the Country Indicators for Foreign Policy Project at Carleton University, Canada (www.carleton.ca/cifp). One very basic problem for international data sets is that many countries do not have reliable population figures, for example Nigerian census figures have been politically contested because of their influence on the ethnic balance of power. It is also difficult to compare financial values in different currencies because of artificial exchange rates and differences in purchasing power. Scholars committed to a scientific approach to politics have sought to overcome this problem by collecting quantitative data about political behaviour. Classically this has been done through social surveys which may be carried out on a large scale by market research firms, or on a smaller scale by researchers themselves. These tend to be focused upon voting behaviour and mass attitudes to political systems. However, legislative voting patterns and the texts of newspapers, political speeches, expenditures by governments and a wide variety of other observations can also be treated as quantitative data to be subjected to statistical analysis. Modern statistical analysis is a very sophisticated discipline which enables the researcher to make judgements on the existence, or not, of significant associations between variables. These are commonly assessed as being 95 per cent or 99 per cent unlikely to have occurred by chance. However such questions as what proposition to investigate, what variables to examine, whether to treat variables as dependent or independent require an explicit or implicit theory of what is happening to be tested. There is a logical gap between a statistical association and a causal relationship which is what such researchers generally aspire to (see John, 2002). On a philosophical level it has been argued that the sort of causal explanation that would be perfectly satisfactory in physical science would be unsatisfactory in explaining social phenomena – social explanations need to explain the motives of the persons involved, not just predict successfully what will happen (Runciman, 1969). Additionally, if we accept that human knowledge and motivation are POLITICS an important part of every political system, every advance in political knowledge is potentially available to the members of the systems we study. The knowledge we produce by analysing political systems becomes potentially a part of those systems and may, of course, upset any predictions we make about them (Popper, 1960, and see Chapter 5). Such considerations often lead to an emphasis on more qualitative methods of investigation, for example participant observation, indepth interviews, case studies, textual deconstruction and focus groups. The emphasis in such investigations is often on contextualising and understanding the meaning of events to participants (see Devine, 2002). Such methods are more frequently applied by traditional or radical scholars – especially postmodernists. SCHOOLS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Some of the problems of establishing a social science of politics become evident if we examine the writings of some of those most committed to the enterprise. It quickly becomes evident that there is no consensus on the concepts and methods to be employed, or the theories which can be assumed to have been already established. Perhaps the most influential group of ‘political scientists’ are those stemming from Gabriel Almond and the deliberations of the Committee on Comparative Politics of the American Political Science Association in the 1960s. Although much criticised on theoretical grounds, the terminology and approach adopted by these ‘functionalist’ writers is still widely prevalent in empirical studies of American, British and comparative politics. In a vastly influential early work, Almond and Coleman (1960) argued that we should speak of: ‘Political System’ instead of ‘State’ ‘Functions’ instead of ‘Powers’ ‘Roles’ instead of ‘Offices’ ‘Structures’ instead of ‘Institutions’ ‘Political Culture’ instead of ‘Public Opinion’ ‘Political Socialization’ instead of ‘Citizenship Structure’. Their argument was that by studying the processes necessary to maintain any political system in a variety of environments, rather 15 16 POLITICS than focusing on conventional liberal democratic institutions, they were creating the basis for a scientific approach: This is not only a matter of conceptual vocabulary [sic]; it is an intimation of a major step forward in the nature of political science as science . . . towards a probabalistic science of politics. (Almond and Coleman, 1960) This attempt has been very successful in that thousands of writers have employed the vocabulary suggested, virtually every modern country has been described in these terms, and a vocabulary separated from that of everyday political discourse has been widely adopted by professional political scientists. Unfortunately there is little evidence that the vocabulary is used any more precisely than its ‘oldfashioned’ predecessors (Sartori, 1970), or that the assumptions implicit in the approach are any less arguable than (or, indeed, very different from) the liberal institutional approach. For instance, there has been no substantial agreement on what functions are necessary to maintain a political system (Dowse, 1972) or on the desirability of understanding politics in terms of the maintenance of the stability of existing sovereign states. Luard (1990) argues for a global perspective – see Chapter 2. A good illustration of some of the problems of employing this newer vocabulary is to consider the concept of ‘political system’. This is used rather loosely by most of the functionalists to indicate that politics is not merely limited to traditional constitutional institutions but that they are influenced by social and economic conditions within a country. As Nettl (1966) has pointed out, this usage often assumes that the system is an entity that exists and carries out some defined role – such as ‘the allocation of value’. Alternatively the idea of system may be used more as a conscious analogy with engineering systems as with Deutsch (1963) who sees the political system as a steering mechanism for society – a flow of information through decision-making mechanisms which can be improved. Systematic sociological thinkers such as Talcott Parsons (1957) see that ‘functions’ are highly theoretical processes analytically distinguished from a messy empirical reality. The problem then becomes to see what predictions such a theory is making. The ‘emptiness’ of system theory is perhaps most clearly seen if the writings of David POLITICS Easton (1979) are considered. He states that ‘political system’ is a purely analytical concept which can be applied to any collection of entities the theorist finds convenient. He then suggests the possibility of the system responding to ‘input’ from the outside ‘environment’ by ‘outputs’ which in turn may affect the environment so as to stabilise it. In such a case a stable ‘homeostatic’ system has been achieved. However, such an outcome is by no means inevitable – the problem then is to know when such an analysis is appropriate, and when a breakdown of the system might occur. Thus many writers now claim to be adopting a ‘system’ approach, but it is often unclear whether they believe that political systems are observable entities, analytical frameworks, useful analogies or a problem-solving device. By way of contrast, let us consider a more recent and perhaps trendier group of political scientists – the ‘rational choice’ theorists (or as we will usually refer to them, the ‘economists’). They have adopted an alternative approach which, instead of starting with the behaviour of whole societies, focuses on the behaviour of individual political ‘actors’. Mainstream economists have analysed markets starting with the behaviour of individual consumers and entrepreneurs who are assumed to rationally pursue their own inte
rests (maximise utility or profit). The behaviour of individual voters, bureaucrats or legislators can be considered in the same way (Downs, 1957; Tullock, 1965; Himmelweit et al., 1985). As with economics, it is not asserted that all actors are rational. The assumption is only that the system functions on the basis that most actors will be rational, and that irrational actors will cancel each other out/go ‘bankrupt’, etc. (Nor does maximising utility exclude the proposition that some actors will derive utility from altruistic actions.) As an example of this approach, the behaviour of bureaucrats is not seen in constitutional terms as giving impartial policy advice to minister’s, or in functional terms as part of both the interestaggregation and rule-enforcement functions. Their behaviour is described as seeking to maximise their agency budgets in order to maximise their own power, salary and prestige. An alternative example is voters who vote in their own self-interest, rather than what they might objectively think is best for the country as a whole. Both examples stress the importance of ‘economics’. 17 18 POLITICS THEORIES, MODELS, PARADIGMS Faced with a thicket of rival approaches and theories, readers may be tempted to demand who is right and who is wrong, or despairingly conclude that they will return to the subject in thirty years’ time when the ‘experts’ have made up their minds. Alas neither tactic is likely to succeed, since no omniscient oracle is available to answer the question and thirty years of waiting will probably increase the complexity of the choice. What perhaps may help to clarify matters is to try to separate out a number of activities that are frequently confused in the effort to generate a science of politics. To do so, we need to consider how scientists normally work. Popper (1960) has convincingly argued that scientific laws are useful general predictive propositions, which have been extensively tested and not disproved. Few of the propositions advanced by political scientists seem to meet this test. As we have already seen, many of the propositions advanced by ‘empirical political theorists’ are difficult to apply to the real world of politics, do not make unequivocal predictions, and certainly have not yet been extensively tested. Some more limited propositions might be regarded as testable hypotheses, the production of which constitutes a preliminary to the creation of usable theories. It used to be thought that scientists derived their hypotheses for testing from the observation of as many ‘facts’ as possible (the ‘positivist’ view of science). More recent historians of science have observed that in fact most innovative hypotheses come from a combination of acute observation and the application of ‘models’ of reality often derived from another area of science. Observers need to have an idea of what they are looking for! A ‘model’ is a simplification of reality that enables us to suggest relationships between the things we observe. In politics numerous different models have been, and still are, applied. For instance, as we shall discuss at greater length later on, one of the dominating models in early modern (liberal) thought was the legal model of a contract applied to relationships between citizens and rulers or the state. Medieval thinkers tended to prefer an organic model of the state – e.g. seeing the parts of a state as being like the parts of the human anatomy. Easton/Deutsch’s application of a cybernetic (information system) model in the age of the computer thus becomes unsurprising in the ‘postmodern’ age. POLITICS Clearly, as Deutsch (1963) points out, models are not in themselves right or wrong, merely, helpful or unhelpful. Choice of models will depend on their relevance, economy and predictive power – the latter encompassing ideas of rigour (do theories based upon it give unique answers?), combinatorial richness (the number of patterns that can be generated from it) and organising power (can a model be applied in many different circumstances?). Really successful models can be at the heart of what Kuhn (1970) terms a scientific paradigm. Thus the Newtonian model of matter as a series of particles whose relationships could be described in terms of a series of simple mathematical equations dominated physics for several centuries. Evolutionary development proposed by Darwin continues as the dominant paradigm in modern biology. Despite the positivist view of scientific development referred to above, Kuhn argues that most scientific endeavour (‘normal science’) consists in the further application of existing models to new areas, or the explanation of apparent deviations from the dominant model in terms derived from it. Nor should this be despised; a great deal of modern technological and scientific progress has rested upon this process of ‘pygmies standing on the shoulders of giants’ – ordinary knowledge workers amassing detailed information within the dominant paradigm. In these terms, political studies can be seen as an academic discipline in the pre-scientific stage in which no dominant paradigm has yet emerged. What are described here as ‘schools’ can be seen as aspirant paradigms. The main question that has to be asked is how useful a source they are of models applicable to new situations, of testable hypotheses and of concepts for helpfully describing and analysing events. Absolute truths cannot be found. RADICAL AND POSTMODERNIST CRITICISM One characteristic of a scientific theory is that it should be value-free – there is no left-wing physics and right-wing physics, just good physics and bad physics. It is not that ‘ideological’ (see section on Ideology in Chapter 4) distortions are impossible or unlikely – theological and political considerations have hindered the acceptance of the Darwinian paradigm in biology for instance. But, in the long term, the insistence on observational, statistical, and above all 19 20 POLITICS experimental verification of theories, and probably the existence of a relatively united world professional organisation of scholars in particular subject areas, has enabled a consensus on paradigms, theories and concepts to emerge. Consideration of many approaches put forward by political scientists reveals that the models upon which they are based, the concepts they employ and the theories they espouse frequently imply a clear set of values which others might well wish to dispute. If we consider Almond’s functionalist model for instance, it seems clearly to view politics as a matter of maintaining political stability by enabling political interests in a system to be conciliated (‘interest articulation and aggregation’). This is done by a state that functions through a traditional liberal pattern of legal rules (‘rule making, rule enforcement and rule adjudication’). This model then stresses values of ‘pluralism’ (see section on Elites, classes and political pluralism in Chapter 5) and consensus which may be uncontroversial in the United States (where most political scientists live) but were clearly not acceptable in the old Soviet Union, amongst left-wing thinkers in Paris or in Tehran. Moreover, it creates a set of interesting challenges for China’s political elite. Similarly, a glance at the individualistic model put forward by the ‘economists’ reminds one of the famous Margaret Thatcher remark that ‘there is no such thing as society – only individuals’. Such theories clearly imply a fashionable suspicion of big government and stress on the ‘profit motive’ in the broad sense. The obvious rival approach to political analysis stressing individualism and consensus is to consider the collectivist and conflictoriented view of politics put forward by Marxists. There are, in fact, as we shall see later in Chapter 4, as many varieties of Marxism as there are of political science. But the basic model, stemming back to Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto (1848), is of a society divided into large collectivities (classes) whose interests are in basic conflict. The on
ly long-term resolution of such conflicts which stem from the basic relationship of exploitation between the capitalist bourgeoisie (the owners of the ‘means of production’) and the proletariat (‘wage-slaves’) is through a socialist revolution. Although to readers in the Western world such an approach seems biased, is this judgement any more than taking-for-granted the values of our own society? Many Soviet citizens took these assumptions for granted in the same way that most British or American POLITICS citizens assume that ‘democracy’ means a society in which everyone can vote at periodic elections where the rich can buy unlimited media exposure for their views. A number of writers (Milliband, 1969; Gramsci, 1969) have approached the analysis of modern politics through a variety of Marxist models with, in some cases, enlightening results. Conventional assumptions have been questioned, and further economic and political dimensions to problems exposed. In the Western world, for instance, the cultural and media influence of capitalism has been emphasised, whilst in the ‘third’ world the Marxist emphasis on the international economic environmental influences (Williams, 1976) seems much more realistic than analysis of political parties that are liable to disappear overnight in a military coup (Sklar, 1963; Weiner, 1962). As with conventional political scientists, the work of Marxist writers is of variable quality and interest to the ordinary reader. Here too a tendency to mistake assumptions for conclusions, or to jump to conclusions favourable to the initial model adopted can be discerned. In addition, perhaps, there may be a greater tendency to engage in ‘theological’ disputes within the school about the proper use of concepts and to take explicit policy positions. It is not always clear how academic (in accord with the canons of conventional scholarship) some books are intended to be. Conversely, of course, some Marxist works – particularly the Communist Manifesto itself – have been subjected to an orgy of academic criticism despite their explicitly polemical role. More recently a number of radical feminist writers have emerged, who have questioned the assumptions implicit in conventional political analysis. They too have seen society primarily in terms of an exploitative relationship (‘patriarchy’) between collectivities (adult heterosexual males versus the rest). (It should be emphasised that this is a discussion of radical feminist writers – many feminists adopt a more liberal, moderate, stance.) Like later Marxists they have stressed cultural and media aspects of political relationships, but also stressed the political aspects of personal relationships. Whereas conventional analysis has looked at explicit political conflicts reflected in conventional party divisions, these writers have seen potential (seismic) splits repressed by conventional politics. Some writers on animal liberation and ecology could also be seen in the same 21 22 POLITICS methodological light as the Marxist and feminist critics discussed here. However, for convenience, they are discussed in a later chapter. Lest the idea of repressed political divisions be dismissed out of hand it is worth considering the case of African-Americans in the United States. As recently as the 1950s in many parts of the USA, they were deprived of basic human rights and discriminated against. Living in a ‘democracy’ and resenting their condition, sometimes even in a majority in their local community, African-American concerns still did not even feature on the political agenda. Starting from this situation, Bachrach and Baratz (1970) put forward an interesting model of political activity, combining insights from both the pluralist and Marxist models. They suggest that an apparently free play of political interests in a ‘democratic’ system may coexist with suppressed conflicts in which the interests of certain groups often fail to reach the political agenda. Policies favouring suppressed groups, even if nominally adopted by governments, will not be fully implemented by the machinery of government. In short, what Schattschneider (1960: 71) calls a ‘mobilization of bias’ is built into the system against them. Whilst Bachrach and Baratz are mainly concerned with racial biases, clearly these biases can equally well be those of gender, ethnicity, religion or economy. The radical writers discussed do not necessarily dismiss the enterprise of a science of politics – old-style Marxists frequently claimed that ‘scientific’ socialism gave them a superior insight into contemporary economy and society. They merely question the assumptions upon which contemporary analysts work. Postmodernist critics, influenced by philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Foucault, however, throw doubt upon the possibility of an impartial analysis of political behaviour. They stress that the very language used to describe political events is the product of struggles between different users of language and is ‘internally complex, open, appraisive and fought over’ (Gibbins and Reiner, 1999: 7). A good illustration of this is the contemporary concept of ‘a war on terrorism’. There are no absolute foundations for morality and knowledge so that knowledge and judgements are inevitably subjective. Traditionally political science uses a vocabulary that assumes the primacy of the nation state and political conflicts based upon producer interests. Postmodernist critics often stress the impact of globalisation and consumerism in undermining these assumptions (Gibbins and Reiner, 1999: 120–133). POLITICS Finally, it has been argued that modernist writing on politics (‘political science’) has been dominated by a male North American professional elite committed to predominantly quantitative methods. A postmodern approach would abandon the idea of a unitary study with a consensus on methods and encourage greater use of writing by a global network of excluded and non-professional groups (Gibbins and Reiner, 1999: 167–178). CONCLUSION In looking at work by writers on politics, the important question is not so much if they employ some methodological orthodoxy, but whether their methodology is appropriate, consistently applied and helpful (Box 1.2). BOX 1.2 ASSESSING THE USE OF METHODOLOGY IN POLITICS Is the approach employed appropriate to the problem in hand? Are theories, concepts and models clearly defined and consistently applied? Are theoretical assumptions distinguished from empirically established conclusions? Is ALL the evidence on the issues examined? There is good work published by writers of all persuasions. Conversely some authors seem only to look for evidence supportive of their theoretical assumptions. In the present state of knowledge, it will often be found that a combination of insights derived from different approaches often throws the most light on an issue. RECOMMENDED READING Crick, Bernard, 2000, In Defence of Politics, 5th edn, London, Continuum International. 23 24 POLITICS A stimulating and readable essay that defends Crick’s own concept of politics against totalitarians, experts, nationalists and other false friends. Leftwich, Adrian, 1983, Redefining Politics, London, Methuen Interesting for the breadth of examples employed from the Aztecs to the World Bank. Marsh, David and Stoker, Gerry (eds), 2002, Theory and Methods in Political Science, 2nd edn, Basingstoke, Palgrave A useful, more advanced collection of contributions which cover approaches to politics, methodological differences (quantitative, qualitative, comparative methods, etc.) and theories of the state. Stoker, Gerry, 2006, Why Politics Matters, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan Considers the causes of contemporary disenchantment with politics and makes the case for democratic politics. Zuckerman, Alan S., 1991, Doing Political Science: An Introduction to Political Analysis, Oxford, Westview Press A US view which stresses the study of politics as an academic social science. WEBSITES (See Appendix for more on websites as a resource for students of politics.) http://www.vts.r
dn.ac.uk/tutorial/politician Internet Politician: online tutorial with many useful links. http://www.HaveYourSayOnline.net UK political system for citizenship education. http://www.apsanet.org American Political Science Association, includes an explanation of what is political science. http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk Richard Kimber’s excellent Political Science Resources web page. http://www.psa.ac.uk/www/default.htm Political Studies Association (UK) WWW gateway. POLITICS http://ipsaportal.unina.it International Political Science Association portal gives access to, describes and assesses for accessibility and usefulness ‘the top 300’ international sources on politics. 25 2 SYSTEMS THIS CHAPTER . . . elaborates upon a point raised in the introduction: that politics is not an activity confined to modern liberal democratic national governments. Chapter 1 argued that politics can be seen in personal and organisational activity – a point to be developed further in relation to our later discussions of feminism, anarchism and ecology. This chapter analyses the politics of societies without formal governments and the systems of government in kingdoms and empires before considering the focus of modern politics: the nation state. It considers the extent to which developments at a supranational level constitute a threat to the dominance of such states. Political ‘system’ is being used here in a loose sense to denote a complex of interconnecting political activities in a society or societies – it does not imply the adoption of any particular system model. STATES AND SOCIETIES For a graphic illustration of the thesis that politics is not just about how states are run, let us consider the case of societies without a state and see if we can identify anything resembling what we would normally think of as ‘politics’. SYSTEMS This raises the issue of what is meant by a state. At this stage, let us ignore some complicated academic arguments and settle upon a working definition (Box 2.1) from Max Weber [1864–1920], a liberal German sociologist. BOX 2.1 DEFINITION OF ‘STATE’ Power An organisation ‘that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory’. (Weber, in Gerth and Mills, 1948: 78) This reflects the way most people probably see the world today. The globe is seen as divided into a series of exclusive geographical areas (countries or nations), each of which has a government whose people recognise its authority to maintain order amongst them, by force in the last resort if necessary. This government may, of course, be divided into central, regional and local levels and executive, legislative and judicial arms, but all these bodies are seen as a system for taking decisions on behalf of the nation (or society) and maintaining law and order. POLITICS WITHOUT THE STATE: TRIBAL SOCIETIES This is a picture we shall be questioning later. For now let us point out that until very recently ‘tribal’ groups have been ‘discovered’ in the forests of Papua New Guinea and Brazil living apparently undisturbed by the governments which purport to represent them at the United Nations. Of course such tribal groups may be thought of merely as traditional ‘mini-states’ and as only a minor deviation from Weber’s model. However, social anthropologists who study such groups in detail have shown convincingly that tribal societies may differ radically from the state model of government. Social anthropologists often avoid the use of ‘tribal’ in this context as implying a condescending view of the peoples concerned as 27 28 SYSTEMS primitive – this is not the authors’ intention. Many of the groups concerned have sophisticated cultures, high levels of artistic achievement and admirable ways of life. ‘Tribal’ is used here as an easily intelligible synonym for what anthropologists frequently term ‘simple societies’ – those having common cultures (e.g. one religion and language), undifferentiated role structures (most people do a small range of similar jobs), with strong emphasis on kinship and custom (Mitchell, 1959). Following Weber, the defining characteristic of such societies may be taken to be a claim to common ancestry. One way in which these groups differ from the state model of government is in terms of territory. Whilst many such groups do have what they regard as their own territory, some are so nomadic that they can make no such claim. Groups like the Fulani of northern Nigeria herd cattle through lands partially cultivated by others. The Kalahari Bushmen and similar groups range broadly over deserts or forests which may also be used by other groups. Such groups think of government as a property of what sociologists describe as the kin group – all those people descended from a common ancestor or married to such persons. Hence the idea of the ‘blood brother’ – to become a member of the group it is necessary either to marry into it or to be adopted as a member of a particular small family group. Still more startling to the modern Western citizen than such groups’ relative indifference to the idea of a territory being subject to a particular code of law, is the absence in some of them of anything resembling a fixed governmental organisation. Whilst the absence of a chief or council might not be regarded as so strange in tiny groups such as the !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari desert (Marshall, 1961), it seems almost incredible in groups numbering as many as a million or more such as the pre-colonial Tiv of Nigeria (Bohannan, 1965). How can centralised political institutions be avoided in such societies? One explanation lies in the attitude to law found in most tribal societies. Western societies (following the nineteenth-century English jurist, Austin) tend to see law as the creation of a sovereign representative legislature. Tribal societies see law as a part of the way of life inherited from their ancestors. Thus living human beings only interpret and enforce the authority of the ancestors and no legislature is necessary. Such a view is clearly only tenable in relatively stable societies – although, as Gluckman (1965) points out, rebellion against those interpreting the law is perfectly possible in such a system. SYSTEMS What is unthinkable is the revolutionary process of replacing existing laws with new ones. The inflexibility of such a system can easily be exaggerated since in practice, as with English common law, old laws can be reinterpreted in new circumstances or quietly ignored as being no longer appropriate. But does not the enforcement of law and the defence of the group require centralised government? The example of the Tiv suggests one way round this problem. They operated what the social anthropologists term a ‘segmentary lineage system’. This means basically that every Tiv’s place in society is governed by the lineage to which they belong – i.e. how they are descended from the ancestor of the group, ‘Tiv’. It is not that the more closely related you are to the founder of the tribe the more important you are – there is no royal family since all are held to descend from the same source. Thus every Tiv is equal and a fierce egalitarianism reigns. Instead, in any dispute people claiming descent in the same line are expected to take sides together. Naturally should non-Tiv attack a Tiv, all members of the group would be expected to assist if need be. If fighting or quarrelling takes place between Tiv, however, support would be due to people in ‘your’ lineage. Such a system seems merely to encourage conflict and disorder. If everyone can rely on a host of supporters in a dispute with others, will not disputes be the order of the day? Especially in a situation where there are no established permanent tribal chiefs or headmen (in the sense this is usually understood). In fact, though, the system seems to have worked well in practice. One reason for this was the existence of a considerable consensus on the customs (laws) to be applied. Disputes were not automatically the subject of violence or warfare but settled through meetings
(or ‘moots’) of those concerned in the broad, Tiv, sense. After a certain amount of more or less violent posturing, the form was for all to have their say on the rights and wrongs of the dispute with relatives helping the aggrieved sides to present their case. Then a resolution of the dispute was attempted by mediation between the two lineages. If a solution could not be found the two groups would remain ‘at daggers drawn’ until a solution could be found. In such a situation a premium was placed on bargaining and reconciliation rather than mechanical law enforcement. Many of those on either side might not feel too deeply affronted by (say) an 29 30 SYSTEMS alleged case of adultery, failure to pay up on a dowry payment or words said in a drunken brawl. But everyone would be severely inconvenienced if the other lineage in the village was not prepared to co-operate in the next hunt or harvest. An additional subtlety, which modified any tendency to take disputes too far, was the consideration that your opponents in this dispute might be needed in a larger dispute with more distantly related Tiv at some time in the future! The Tiv are only one example of numerous tribal societies that have existed without centralised governmental institutions. Many have used some variation of the combination of ‘feuding’ and informal reconciliation systems practised by them. Additionally though, disputes might be settled by resort to oracles like the famous classical Greek oracle at Delphi, in which disputes were arbitrated upon using magical signs resulting from sacrifices. The ambiguity of some of these pronouncements may well have been a sensible political device on the part of the oracle, or medicine man, to avoid identification with either side and promote a negotiated settlement. Other societies practised a division of functions on an ‘age grade’ basis in which, for instance, the oldest men might collectively manage relationships with the gods, another male age group constitute the leaders of the hunt, the oldest women practise medicine, and so on. In some groups important functions connected with warfare, law and order, or magic might be vested in secret or title societies, membership of which had to be earned by giving feasts to existing members, undergoing initiation ceremonies and performing subordinate roles in a trainee grade. In such societies skill in magic or warfare might be rewarded by promotion ‘on merit’, or promotion might depend upon seniority. Authority in such societies might rest upon a variety of foundations – a reputation for wisdom in settling disputes, knowledge of traditional remedies for illness, ability as a war leader or merely being the grandparent of a very large (polygamous) family. Such authority figures might well be known by a title which translates into English as ‘chief’ – but their powers were often far from the absolute despotisms imagined by many early Western writers on these subjects. (Of course, chiefs in some tribal societies did have what we might regard as ‘despotic’ authority, e.g. Shaka the nineteenthcentury Zulu chief who ordered whole battalions of his men to commit suicide as a demonstration of his absolute authority.) SYSTEMS In these tribal ‘stateless societies’, then, there is law rather than anarchy (in the everyday sense of no guarantees of law and order); equally, collective decisions on self-defence and economic cooperation are also made – but in a decentralised fashion. Many members of these societies would also emphasise that collective activities also occur on a spiritual level. In short, life continues and even apparently prospers without the state with its accompanying mechanisms of professional armies, bureaucrats, prisons and the like. It is not surprising that, consequently, some modern thinkers – anarchists in the technical sense – have argued that the same is possible in a modern context. We shall examine their views at more length in Chapter 3. First, however, it is interesting to look at another example of what might be described as ‘politics without the state’, although this is perhaps a slightly more arguable case. FEUDALISM This second example is the feudal system – particularly as it was practised in Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries – though it has also applied in other parts of the world, such as in pre-modern Japan (Reischaur, 1956; Prawer and Eisenstadt, 1968). European feudalism is of interest as being perhaps ‘nearer to home’ for contemporary European readers, and as showing the state as we understand it to be a more recent innovation than some may have imagined. It may also suggest some lessons for the future of Europe. At first sight, feudal Europe was full of states and mini-states, rather than stateless. Did not England, France, Poland and other familiar states already exist in this period – admittedly accompanied by extra ‘players’ on the international scene like Burgundy, Saxony and Venice? The appearance of kings, dukes and doges on the scene would seem to indicate the presence of strong centralized decisionmaking institutions for these territories. The similarity of names with institutions and territories of later periods may well, however, be quite misleading. Outside of England and France, particularly, it soon becomes clear that the idea of a number of territories each with its own legal jurisdiction is quite inappropriate. This is clearest in the area round about what is now Germany in what was misleadingly called the Holy Roman Empire (accurately 31 32 SYSTEMS described as neither ‘Holy’, ‘Roman’ nor an ‘Empire’ by Voltaire [1694–1778] (1756: Ch. LXX). The empire masked a confusing array of jurisdictions. The ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ was the nominal supreme ruler of a hotchpotch of kingdoms, dukedoms, sovereign bishoprics, independent or federated cities and the like. His powers over each were different and ill-defined. The heads of some of these territories had the power to elect the emperor’s successor. The Catholic Church, in the shape of the pope, claimed powers over the emperor and his ‘vassals’ (those who had sworn allegiance to him), which in later times were felt to be ‘sovereign’ prerogatives. Equally the Church claimed exclusive jurisdiction over all the clergy and many matters of family law – as well as rights to censorship and the levying of separate clerical ‘taxes’. In some cases incumbents of independent kingdoms such as France and Spain held territory within the Empire as nominal vassals of the emperor or some other ‘ruler’. Similar confusions were to be seen in relationships between the King of England in his capacity as Duke of Normandy and the King of France. Law enforcement and defence were the subject of a patchwork of rights and privileges, the consequence of a pyramid of personal relationships between lords and vassals. Each vassal, in turn, was lord to an inferior group of aristocrats, until one descends to the level of the ordinary knight in his manor. At the aristocratic level the possession of land entailed not only something like the modern idea of ownership, but, perhaps more, the notion of government. In principle, in the early feudal period, land could only be held by those prepared to administer and, most importantly, defend it. Hence only adult fighting men could hold land. If, for instance, the king gave land to a duke, the only way the duke could hope to hold it was by subcontracting the administration and defence of much of it to a group of earls or counts. Each earl or count, in turn, would obtain the allegiance of knights to hold particular manors, or fortified villages. One consequence of this is, logically, an overlapping of jurisdictions in that the same area would be under the control of (in our example) a king, a duke, a count and a knight. Undoubtedly, also, the Church would also claim jurisdiction in some cases. For that matter it was common for hard-up lords to grant jurisdiction in commercial matters to town councils through charters – the terms of which some councils in Britain still preserve and attem
pt to enforce. SYSTEMS In practice lords were interested primarily in matters relating to their feudal dues – the equivalent of modern taxation and rents originally primarily payable in labour services. The lord might quite frequently originate from a different part of Europe, linguistically and culturally isolated from his serfs – so that they would often prefer to seek justice through informal community channels. Amongst lords, appeals to judgement by legalistic tribunals were often avoided in favour of trial by combat or through the pursuit of feuds or vendettas which could operate in very similar ways to the system described earlier in relation to the Tiv (Bloch, 1961). Thus it is clear that in the feudal period, as in tribal stateless societies, conflicts over the allocation of resources could be resolved; communities could make decisions about their defence and economic welfare; but no effective and centralised state machinery existed to carry this out. STATES WITHOUT NATIONS: KINGDOMS At a later stage in European history, some individual feudal territories evolved over several centuries into something much more like a modern state. Kingdoms emerged with distinct boundaries within which central authorities claimed exclusive jurisdiction, sophisticated judicial systems with rights of appeal from local courts up to the centre, a taxation system divorced from the rents payable to the owners of land, and, in some cases, representative legislative assemblies. Part of the attraction of the Protestant Reformation for princes was the opportunity both to assert legal control over matters such as family law which had previously been Church matters and to reassign extensive Church property holdings to themselves and their supporters. Henry VIII’s example in these matters was accompanied by similar phenomena in countries such as Sweden, whilst even Catholic monarchs such as Louis XIV began to assert control over religious orders, and to negotiate greater influence over the Church in their territory. In essence similar political institutions to these kingdoms were also found in many other parts of the world. For instance, in what is now Nigeria at about the same period it seems likely that sizeable kingdoms existed in Benin, Yorubaland (Oyo) and in Hausaland 33 34 SYSTEMS (Kano, etc.), whilst much earlier such kingdoms were to be found in India and Central America. By definition, a kingdom can be regarded an example of dynastic politics. That is, they are not so much governments by individuals as by families. In the European examples this usually meant that the state was regarded as all the possessions of a single family regardless of geographical sense or the ethnic or national origins. Thus the modern United Kingdom includes Scotland, Wales and parts of Ireland, as well as the Channel Isles, because the kings of England inherited these areas from the Duchy of Normandy, succeeded to the separate throne of Scotland, or conquered adjacent lands. The kingdom was not united by linguistic, cultural or religious similarities. Other members of the family were frequently expected to take a major role in government – queens ruling in the absence of kings, the eldest son of the Crown of England being designated Prince of Wales. Similarly, Belgium and Holland could be regarded as possessions of the Spanish royal family. Within a royal family, rival claims to the succession could arise, and conflict between young supporters of the heir to the throne and established counsellors of the king was virtually the norm. In the African examples mentioned, the family’s role took very different shapes. Within the context of polygamy, there was more scope for dispute as to succession. Such disputes taking the most drastic form were in Zululand where it was usual for the king to execute any brothers who failed to go into hasty voluntary exile (Lemarchand, 1977). In the Yoruba kingdoms a version of the succession crisis involved ‘king-makers’ selecting the heir from the ranks of a number of princely families who each provided a king in turn. These monarchic political systems shared a ‘court’ style of politics in which the administration of the royal household and its estates were inseparable from the business of the kingdom as a whole. Power in such systems might well reside primarily with those who most frequently had the ear of the monarch regardless of official position. This might include the king’s mistress, confessor or hairdresser. The politics of such a system is primarily conducted within a consensus on fundamental values (those of the tribe or ruling aristocracy). There is emphasis on individual advancement through patronage; a powerful patron rewards his supporters and followers with benefits SYSTEMS derived from his control or influence over government that might well be regarded as corruption in a contemporary democracy. The assumption may often be made that a monarchic state is a ‘despotic’ one in which the monarch’s will is final. This seems to be far from the case in practice. First the monarch’s position is usually a traditional one. The same tradition that places the king in power frequently sets distinct limits upon the exercise of it. The king may be seen as divinely sanctioned and protected, but this implies that he respects the religious feelings of his people. These may be expressed by religious authorities – archbishops, high priests or synods – who are regarded as equally legitimate within their spheres as the monarch is in his. A good example of the sort of limit that might apply is to consider the important area of taxation. In the African kingdoms mentioned, Hausa kings were traditionally entitled to levy taxes, but the Yoruba kings could only rely upon a traditional level of offerings on specified occasions. Even the strongest English monarchs required the approval of the Houses of Parliament, particularly the House of Commons, to levy taxes – although they might be able to manipulate a favourable majority by the use of patronage. The limits on the exercise of royal power also include the lack of any strongly developed administrative machinery, particularly at local level, so that the king might effectively have to persuade nobles/gentry and municipalities to co-operate. The political capacity of the occupant of the throne was also a vital consideration. When minors succeeded to the throne, such a system might, in effect, become government by a committee of prominent court members, whilst the chief minister of a foolish or lazy king might easily have effective power. In the Japanese case, the shogun or prime minister became the effective power for centuries, becoming, in turn, a hereditary office. Although kingdoms of the type described are now rare, they are not extinct (for instance Kuwait, Nepal and Saudi Arabia) and the dominance of this type of political organisation for centuries in many parts of the world is a caution against assuming contemporary state forms are inevitable. Furthermore many of the concepts we have introduced here, such as political patronage and court politics, can still be applied in contemporary political systems; consider the Reagan White House in which the chief executive’s wife’s astrologer is alleged to have been vitally influential. 35 36 SYSTEMS STATES WITHOUT NATIONS: EMPIRES Perhaps still more remote from contemporary experience is the concept of empire. Yet this is a form of rule that has dominated large parts of the globe for millennia. The most notable examples upon which we shall concentrate at first are the ancient empires of China and Rome. But similar structures were to be found in India (e.g. the Moghul Empire), in Africa (Egypt and Mali) and in Central and South America (e.g. the Aztecs). Nor should it be forgotten that, more recently, each of the European nations sought to create colonial empires in Africa, Asia and the Americas, whilst the USA and the former USSR could both be accused of having colonial possessions by other names. It is tempting, and not totally misleading, to attribute the longevity of many empires to the military advantage of
a large and powerful state surrounded by much smaller states, or tribal territories. Whilst empires may be briefly built on military advantage alone as, perhaps, was that of Alexander the Great, the longer-lasting examples can be attributed not only to size, but also to the advantages of a ‘civilised’ culture in the literal sense of a society centred upon relatively large urban centres containing specialised personnel who contributed technical and organisational advantages to the empire. The prestige and self-esteem associated with such systems may well help them to survive. Certainly the ruling groups of the Chinese, Roman and British empires were all firmly convinced of the superiority of their cultural inheritance, and successfully imparted this ideology to many of their subjects and neighbours. However this conviction did not prevent such systems from adopting and adapting to useful features of surrounding societies. The history of China is particularly noteworthy for the way in which the empire was militarily subdued on a number of occasions by warlike tribes from the periphery of the empire. However the conquerors on each occasion came to be merely a new ruling group operating a very similar political system to the one they had defeated (Eberhard, 1977). The adaptability of the Romans is well illustrated by their reactions to Greek culture in the early period and the transformation from the Classical Empire based on Rome into the Byzantine Christian Empire b…