POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CHANGE
Comparativists are interested not only in the causes and forms of change, but also in the various impacts that it has on the policymaking process. Profound political and economic changes have characterized the 20th and early 21st centuries, and each of the six core countries of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course illustrate this overall trend toward change. More often than not, political and economic changes occur together and influence one another. If one occurs without the other, tensions are created that have serious consequences. For example, rapid economic changes in China have strongly pressured the government to institute political changes. So far, the authoritarian government has resisted those changes, a situation that leaves us with the question of whether or not authoritarian governments can guide market economies.
TYPES OF CHANGE
Change occurs in many ways, but it may be categorized into three types:
ATTITUDES TOWARD CHANGE
The types of change that take place are usually strongly influenced by the attitudes of those that promote them. Attitudes toward change include:
In comparing political systems, it is important to take notice of overall patterns of development that affect everyone in the contemporary world. Two of these trends - democratization and the move toward market economies - indicate growing commonalities among nations, and the third represents fragmentation - the revival of ethnic or cultural politics.
Even though democracy takes many different forms, more and more nations are turning toward some form of popular government. One broad, essential requirement for democracy is the existence of competitive elections that are regular, free, and fair. In other words, the election offers a real possibility that the incumbent government may be defeated. By this standard, a number of modern states that call themselves "democracies" fall into a gray area that is neither clearly democratic nor clearly undemocratic. Examples are Russia, Nigeria, and Indonesia. In contrast, liberal democracies display other democratic characteristics beyond having competitive elections:
Countries that have regular, free, and fair competitive elections, but are missing these other qualities (civil liberties, rule of law, neutrality of the judiciary, open civil society, and civilian control of the military) are referred to as illiberal democracies.
According to political scientist Samuel Huntington, the modern world is now in a "third wave" of democratization that began during the 1970s. The "first wave" developed gradually over time; the "second wave" occurred after the Allied victory in World War II, and continued until the early 1960s. This second wave was characterized by de-colonization around the globe. The third wave is characterized by the defeat of dictatorial or totalitarian rulers from South America to Eastern Europe to some parts of Africa. The recent political turnover in Mexico may be interpreted as part of this "third wave" of democratization.
One of the greatest obstacles to democratization is poverty because it blocks citizen participation in government. Huntington gauges democratic stability by this standard: democracy may be declared when a country has had at least two successive peaceful turnovers of power.
2) Movement Toward Market Economies
Many political economists today declare that the economic competition between capitalism and socialism that dominated the 20th century is now a part of the past. The old command economies, with socialist principles of centralized planning and state ownership are fading from existence, except in combination with market economies. The issue now is what type of market economy will be most successful: one that allows for significant control from the central government - a "mixed economy" - or one that does not - a pure market economy. For example, modern Germany has a "social market economy" that is team-oriented and emphasizes cooperation between management and organized labor. In contrast, the United States economy tends to be more individualistic and anti-government control.
Marketization is the term that describes the state's re-creation of a market in which property, labor, goods, and services can all function in a competitive environment to determine their value. Privatization is the transfer of state-owned property to private ownership.
3) Revival of Ethnic or Cultural Politics
Until recently, few political scientists predicted that fragmentation - divisions based on ethnic or cultural identity - would become increasingly important in world politics. A few years ago nationalism - identities based on nationhood - seemed to be declining in favor of increasing globalization. However, nationality questions almost certainly did in Mikhail Gorbachev's attempts to resuscitate the Soviet Union, and national identities remain strong in most parts of the world. Perhaps most dramatically, the politicization of religion has dominated world politics of the early 21st century. Most Westerners have been caught off guard by this turn of events, especially in the United States, where separation of church and state has been a basic political principle since the founding of the country.
Samuel Huntington argues that our most important and dangerous future conflicts will be based on clashes of civilizations, not on socioeconomic or even ideological differences. He divides the world into several difference cultural areas that may already be poised to threaten world peace: the West, the Orthodox world (Russia), Islamic countries, Latin American, Africa, the Hindu world, the Confucian world, the Buddhist world, and Japan. Some political scientists criticize Huntington by saying that he distorts cultural divisions and that he underestimates the importance of cultural conflicts within nations. In either case - a world divided into cultural regions or a world organized into multicultural nations - the revival of ethnic or cultural politics tends to emphasize differences among nations rather than commonalities.
For quotes on nationalism and patriotism, see http://www.quotegarden.com/patriotism.html