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

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300116205
ISBN-10: 0300116209
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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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Product Details

  • Series: The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series edition (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300116209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300116205
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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).
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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.
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This book is difficult to rate. Samuel Huntington was a former Harvard professor of political science. One of Huntington's key points is that strong democracies have more in common with dictatorships than they do with weak democracies or monarchies precisely because each provides strong governance whereas a weak democracy provides weak governance. In the US strong governance is taken for granted whereas many nations do not have strong political institutions. Democracy, democracy, democracy - rah, rah, rah! is the attitude of many US politicians and the US State Department which is why many US policy makers are uncomfortable with this book. On the other hand readers of the book will gain some insight into US foreign policy alternatives.

In my opinion there is a lot of material in the book that could be eliminated in favor of a more concise presentation.
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By A Customer on June 24, 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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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.)
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