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Political Order in Changing Societies (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures) Paperback – 26 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Printing edition (26 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300116209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300116205
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.8 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This pioneering volume, examining as it does the relation between development and stability, is an interesting and exciting addition to the literature." American Political Science Review "'Must' reading for all those interested in comparative politics or in the study of development." Dankwart A. Rustow, Journal of International Affairs"

About the Author

Samuel P. Huntington, one of America's most influential political thinkers, is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University and the author of many books including The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and Who Are We?

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The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
While not a scorching read, Political Order in Changing Societies is a must read for those looking to learn more about the corner stones of modern governments and the effects of changing societies on those political systems. It is an excellent tool for looking at the forces that shape the modern polity.
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Amazon.com: 17 reviews
77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
A Harbinger of the New Institutionalism 7 Jun. 2005
By socraticfury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I find it slightly incredible that a book of this caliber and renown remains basically unreviewed, in the sense that no previous reviewer has deigned to even touch upon Huntington's argument. They have chosen merely to register their opinions on his argument. But to someone who has not yet read the book, how could those opinions be of any guidance when the grounds for those opinions are not laid out? I write this review for those who believe that the integrity of an opinion depends upon the reasons given to support it.

I came to this book highly skeptical that I would learn anything important. In college, I read Huntington's The Third Wave, a text of canonical status in the field of democratization studies, which at the time nonetheless (or perhaps for that very reason) struck me as insipid. Here is not the place to discuss whether and how my views on that later book have changed. Suffice it to say that Political Order in Changing Societies surprised me pleasantly with its fresh insights, wide learning, and clarity of argument. Its reputation as one of most important books in political development is well-deserved.

If I were to describe this book in one sentence, I would say that it is Hobbesian in outlook and Hegelian in method. That the book is Hobbesian in outlook is indicated by the justly famous opening sentence: "The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government." It is confirmed beyond doubt by Huntington's elaboration of that statement: "The function of government is to govern. A weak government, a government which lacks authority, fails to perform its function and is immoral in the same sense in which a corrupt judge, a cowardly soldier, or an ignorant teacher is immoral" (28). One might wish to count all the times Huntington uses "Hobbessian" as an adjective. To say that the book is Hegelian in method is to stress the movement of Huntington's argument. He is concerned primarily with political modernization or political development. That is to say, he is concerned primarily with transitions, whether from a traditional to modern polity, or from a praetorian to civic polity. The causes of those transitions are certain contradictions or tensions within the socio-political system. As Huntington will later suggest, this book highlights "developmental contradictions and crises," e.g., rapid political modernization coupled with slow political development, or the conflict b/t short-run and long-run interests (the "King's Dilemma" that he describes in ch.3 is a variation on this latter theme). One might wish to count all the times he uses the words "dialectic" or "dialectical."

For the student of contemporary political science, this book will be of interest in that it presages the currently fashionable interest in institutions. Political institutions are at the heart of this book. As Huntington tells us, "The primary thesis of this book is that [the violence and instability characteristic of the post-WWII era] was in large part the product of rapid social change and the rapid mobilization of new groups into politics coupled with the slow development of political institutions" (4). "The primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change" (5).

I give this book four stars rather than five because in his later chapters, where he is elaborating upon the basic argument laid out in ch.1 and filling in details, he is not always convincing and he sometimes glides over tough problems. Also, some of his passing statements stand in considerable tension with his broader argument, e.g., his statement, "Institutionalization of power means the limitation of power" (238), and his general argument, "Authority has to exist before it can be limited" (8). Incidentally, this example should suffice to show that statements that seem plausible and even insightful when taken alone can nevertheless be highly misleading.

Still, this book was a pioneering work in its time and remains an excellent introduction to the primary issues of political development. One cannot say that it has yet been surpassed, and it therefore remains essential reading for political scientists.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Modernization May not Lead to Democracy 26 Nov. 2007
By Matthew P. Arsenault - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Huntington takes issue with Lipset's argument regarding modernization, arguing instead taht the process of modernization may lead to instability rather than democracy. Huntington aruges that the process of modernization - urbanization, industrialization, increased literacy, and rising wealth - expands political conscioussness which broadens political participation, thus multiplying political demands. In a state where political institutions are weak, these increased demands can lead to political disorder and instability. In other words, where Lipset argues taht modernization will bring in lower-class, potenitally disillusioned groups into a more coesive state culture, Huntington would argue that this will occur only if institutions are in place to provide a medium of voice for those lower classes.

Additionally, Huntington calls for a strong state structure during the modernization process. Modernization destroys traditional authority structures which must be replaced by one central authoritative body. This parallels the Weberian idea that as political freedoms expand in modern society, strong bureaucratic structures for social institutions are imperative.

When discussing modernization, Huntington argues that during the process it may be necessary to constrain some human rights in order to ensure political stability. This illustrates that modernization may not lead to total democracy. Donnelly (1984) referred to these human rights versus development conundrums as needs tradeoffs, equality tradeoffs, and liberty tradeoffs. For example, Huntington argues that economic development (modernization) may require that the central authority limit "consumption-oriented" human rights during the economic development process.

Huntington also sees the potential of an equality tradeoff. This idea holds that a society in transition to a modern economy will experience high levels of income inequality, but over time, this inequality will recede to a more moderate level. Where Huntington sees the equality tradeoff as temporary, Donelly argues that the problem may be more long lasting.

Lastly, Huntington argues that when modernization weakens traditional authority structures, other associational groups may arise, which may lead to political decay, i.e. these groups may rise up in opposition to the central political authority. As such, the civil and political rights of these groups may need to be suspended during the early stages of economic development. Huntington would argue that the long-term interests of modernization must take precedence over the short-term interests of various groups.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 24 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While not a scorching read, Political Order in Changing Societies is a must read for those looking to learn more about the corner stones of modern governments and the effects of changing societies on those political systems. It is an excellent tool for looking at the forces that shape the modern polity.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Ahead of his times - even now 18 Mar. 2004
By Philip Sim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book while I was in the university, and it still has things to say ten years later. I am an Asian, so I feel qualified to say that Huntington's ideas were not racist. If anything, he saw things very clearly. He has a good grasp of how politics work in non-western societies. He also clearly understood the needs of under developed Asian societies. He understood better than writers supposedly sympathetic to Asians (i.e. Naom Chomsky and his intellectual cronies)how political stability is the most important political issue of the day.
(Just a note on the Clash of Civilisation. It was widely mocked when it first came out in the early 1990's, but after 9/11 it was proved that what he wrote was right and - as usual - perscient.)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
How to Modernize, Without Tears... 5 May 2008
By Laurence Jarvik - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reading this book was like opening a window in a stuffy room to get a breath of fresh air. The stuffy room is the current public discourse surrounding "democracy" and "civil society." The fresh air is Huntington's discussion of the phenomena of political modernization around the globe in the face of revolution and terror (not a new phenomenon). Although dating from the 1960s, the insights are still fresh. Basically, Huntington argues that order is essential to modernization, that reforms can catalyze revolutions and civil war if applied in the wrong way to the wrong people (Urban Elites), and that there is nothing inevitable about people's love for democracy or progress. Leaders have to lead, that's what they are for. Ataturk comes our very well in this book, as does Lenin, somewhat surprisingly to this reader, because political organization is a the center of Huntington's prescription for modernization and change. As an analyst, Huntington is unbiased. He may get some details wrong, although he seems to have a photographic memory, but his overall analysis has withstood the test of time. Order is required for changing societies. That's something President Bush and his followers didn't seem to understand, and one reason that America has seen a (hopefully temporary) slip in its prestige. I would ask that any foreign policy political appointee in any administration be required to read this book--and pass a Mandarin-style exam to be sure they understand Huntington's main point, namely: Political order is required for changing societies.
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