chapter  2
27 Pages

'Waiting for a Text?': Comparing Third World Politics

There is some doubt now about the comparative study of politics in the Third World. Neither of the two once-favoured paradigms, one insisting on an eventually self-equilibrating 'political development' in the course of what used to be called 'modernisation', the other on the disequilibrating 'dependence' of Third World politics on extranational economic constraints, has succeeded in capturing all or even much of what we want to capture: what is distinctive about these politics, what the similarities and differences are between them, and how and why they do or do not change. The first of these two models, which came down from the eighteenth-century Scots' view of social evolution through Durkheim to North American functionalism, worked with too blandly, and as it has turned out, too optimistically liberal a telos. It also supposed, even if by default, that political 'development' was a largely internal matter. The second, a mixture of (also mainly North American) Marxism and Latin American populism (prompted by the thinking in the Economic Commission for Latin America) did not; indeed, it put most of its emphasis on the constraining and distorting effects of the Third World's economic dependence on the First. In its more radical extensions it also gestured ata future in one or another, perhaps even an autarkic, kind of 'socialism'; but that too has proved impractical. And no new view has replaced these two. Third World politics continue to escape our conceptual net.?