restricted access 6. The Measurement of National Political Capacity
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CHAPTER 6 The Measurement of National Political Capacity It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. -Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Second Stain My discussion of organizational age and political legitimacy in the preceding two chapters has been couched in terms that have clear implications for measurement. The task that remains is to address those measurement issues directly. As will become clear in this chapter , the fact that political concepts are designed with measurement in mind does not mean that all possible empirical ambiguity has been resolved. Quite the contrary. For example, the notion that political orders should be dated from the period oftheir establishment does not in itself identify that date. In many cases, reasonable people will disagree over the exact date despite the clarity of the measurement principle involved. Similarly, asserting the importance of the generational age of the national political leadership sounds relatively straightforward, but the argument leaves unresolved the identity of the real (as opposed to titular) leaders. The problems are amplified when we tum our attention to the measurement of legitimacy. One tactic commonly employed by regimes to maximize their legitimacy is to conceal information about the use of physical force to repress challenges, along with details about the extensiveness of the challenges themselves. For obvious reasons, this tactic hampers the collection of systematic data on legitimacy . It is important to acknowledge that these are real problemsindeed , they are quite familiar to students of political conflict. However , it is equally important that we not allow ourselves to become paralyzed by these obstacles. The fact that relevant information is sometimes obscured (and typically in an active way) means that measurement may not be as precise as we would like. But this does not imply that efforts to gauge phenomena like political legitimacy should be abandoned. Indeed, to endorse such a conclusion would be tanta123 [To view this We[W, refer to the print version of this title.] 124 Power without Force mount to conceding that the phenomena are inconsequential simply because there are measurement challenges. Since one would expect these difficulties to increase directly with the political sensitivity of the material, this is ultimately an intellectually indefensible position. Even with inexact measurement, much valuable information is available about the political capacity of modern nation-states. Although it is subject to error, I will suggest in this chapter that such material can usefully be employed to make comparisons across states of institutional capacity and political legitimacy. These comparisons will involve general orders of magnitude for each case, but, as I have emphasized throughout, national political capacity is always a matter of degree. Institutional Age I concluded in chapter 4 that age impinges directly on political capacity and that two components of age are critical in this regard. The first refers to the chronological age of institutions, and the second centers on the generational age of leaders. I address these in turn. The Chronological Age of Institutions Longevity has often been linked to stability and political performance (e.g., Black 1966; Rustow 1967; Huntington 1968; Eckstein 1971). Even so, different solutions have been proposed to the problem of how to identify the most appropriate start-up date for national institutions. Two prominent treatments help to define the issues. For Black, the critical period is that time in which there is a "consolidation of modernizing leadership" (1966, chap. 3), by which is meant that time when traditional leaders lose their power in struggles with newer elites. These struggles have three distinctive attributes. First, they include an assertion of a "determination to modernize," often manifested in violent revolution, and emanating either from disaffected elements of the traditional leadership or from those representing new political interests. Second, there is a decisive break with institutions representing agrarian interests in favor of industrial economic forms. Third, there is an expansion of political authority and organization. All three elements of this consolidation take time (at least a generation) and all are conflictual. 1 Further, this is a political consolidation that predates economic and social transformation. 1. Black placed considerable emphasis on !he conflictual nature of these changes. Consider the following: "'Transfer of power' is perhaps too colorless a phrase to describe Measurement ofNational Political Capacity 125 TABLE 6.1. Organizational Age of Selected Nation States as Estimated by Black and Rustow Consolidating Independence Period (Black) Year (Rustow) Argentina 1853-1946 1816 Brazil 1850-1930 1822 China 1905-49 before 1775 Cuba 1898-1959 1901 Egypt 1922-52 1922...


Subject Headings

  • Legitimacy of governments.
  • Power (Social sciences).
  • Political development.
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