Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Understanding Third World Politics gives a comprehensive and critical introduction to the main theories that have been used to understand political change in developing countries.

It examines the variety of political institutions and processes in the Third World and critical evaluates the major explanatory frameworks used by political scientists to understand them. The discussion is supported throughout by a wide range of topical case studies from around the world – including features on class in Brazil and democracy in India. The book concludes by considering the political instability that so frequently plagues poor countries and by identifying the conditions required to establish democratic stability.

The fourth edition has been revised and updated throughout to take account of key political developments, including foreign interventions in the Middle East, state repression in North Africa, and the secession of South Sudan. Engagingly written, this text offers a clear and theoretically rigorous introduction to the politics of the Third World.

Table of Contents

1. The Idea of a ‘Third World’

Abstract
Gunnar Myrdal, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974, once said that in the relationship between rich and poor countries there has been diplomacy by language, meaning that in the developed, and to a lesser extent the underdeveloped, countries there has been a constant search for an acceptable name for this latter group. Consequently, no one has come up with a label that claims universal acceptance. The search is fraught with difficulties, not least ideological ones. The terminology of comparative politics, particularly as far as post-colonial countries are concerned, is largely expressive of attitudes rather than precise analytical concepts (Goulbourne, 1979). Given this, and the fact that economic changes throughout the world since 1945 have called into question any simple categorization, it seems appropriate to begin by explaining why continuing with the label ‘Third World’ remains defensible.
B. C. Smith

2. The Developing Political System

Abstract
The independence won by former colonies in the 1950s and 1960s meant that a large number of new states appeared in the international political arena. It was felt by some political scientists that existing tools of political analysis were inadequate for the task of including these new states within a single comparative framework. Western political science up to this point had been based on the comparison of institutions and, even more restrictedly, institutions found in Western industrialized societies. The need for a theoretical framework that could cope with a variety of exotic political systems led a group of mainly American political scientists to formulate a functionalist theory of political change, drawing on structural-functionalist social anthropology. Structural-functionalism appeared to provide a comparative framework of concepts that could be used to explain how, in non-Western and pre-industrial societies, unfamiliar social structures could perform the functions needed in all political systems (Almond and Coleman, 1960; Almond, 1965).
B. C. Smith

3. The Politics of Neo-Colonialism and Dependency

Abstract
The two decades following the Second World War saw the final and most dramatic wave of independence sweep across the European empires in Asia, the Middle East and Africa — either as a result of more or less peaceful negotiations between the leaders of the nationalist movements and the European powers, or as the outcome of wars of liberation. There followed ‘one of the great transformations in modern history’, when all but a few million of the 780 million people living in the colonial possessions of the imperial powers ‘freed themselves from subject status’ (Barratt Brown, 1963, pp. 189–90).
B. C. Smith

4. The State and Politics in the Third World

Abstract
The different attempts to explain the nature of Third World politics in terms of encounters with richer countries make reference to the form of the state and the configuration of political interests sometimes articulated by the state and sometimes suppressed by it. There are contrasting theoretical perspectives to assist understanding of the state in the Third World. The nature of the state — the institutions through which legitimate power (political authority) is exercised and enforced — is central to the study of politics in any country. Third World conditions produce additional reasons why the analysis of the state is necessary for an understanding of politics in developing countries.
B. C. Smith

5. Political Parties and Party Systems

Abstract
Political parties are the most important institutions of political mobilization in the context of mass politics. Whatever the nature of a civilian regime — whether based on the principles and institutions of liberal parliamentary politics, monopolistic forms of political leadership, or on some interpretation of Marxism-Leninism — political parties reflect the fact that government is no longer the prerogative of an hereditary elite or alien oligarchy, but rests to some degree on the support or mobilization of the masses. Parties emerge whenever the notion of political power comes to include the idea that ‘the mass public must participate or be controlled’ (LaPalombara and Weiner, 1966: 3).
B. C. Smith

6. Bureaucracy and Political Power

Abstract
Bureaucracies are powerful institutions in all political systems. Public officials cannot be thought of as merely the neutral implementers of the political decisions of others. In the Third World, the bureaucracy has come to be regarded in some circumstances as the most powerful political institution. We have already touched upon ways in which the bureaucracy is so regarded. Theories of the post-colonial state have employed the concept of a bureaucratic oligarchy, clearly implying that government is in the hands of the paid officials of the state.
B. C. Smith

7. Military Intervention in Politics

Abstract
Direct military intervention in the politics of Third World countries has been a depressingly regular occurrence since the high-water mark of postwar independence. Between 1960 and 1980, three quarters of Latin American states experienced coups, as did half of the Third World Asian states and over half of the African states (Clapham, 1985; Woddis, 1977). The 1980s saw the trend continue strongly. Not a year passed without there being a coup, or an attempted coup, in some part of the Third World (World Bank, 1991). Despite the wave of democratization in the 1990s, there were coups, or attempted coups, in Chad (1990), Togo (1991), Peru, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, and Haiti (1992), Guatemala and Nigeria (1993), Gambia (1994), Pakistan (1999), and Venezuela (2002). Between 1990 and 2003, 11 African states attempting to democratize experienced no fewer than 26 instances of military intervention, including successful coups, failed coup attempts, and military rebellions (Clark, 2007). The military intervened in Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea in 2008, Honduras in 2009, Niger in 2010, and Mali and Guinea-Bissau in 2012.
B. C. Smith

8. Nationalism and the Politics of Secession

Abstract
In most regions of the Third World, there are political movements campaigning, in most cases through armed struggle, for political self-determination on behalf of minority groups. In the Western Sahara, Polisario fights for liberation from Morocco. In Western Somalia, the Liberation Front aims to restore the Ethiopian Ogaden to Somalia. The Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria seek an independent and united Kurdistan. The National Resistance Council in Iran aims to establish an autonomous Baluchistan. In India, there are movements for autonomy among the Sikhs, Nagas, Mizos, and Tripuras, as well as in Kashmir. The Shanti Bahini of Bangladesh seek autonomy for the Chittagong tribes. In Burma, the programme of the Federal National Democratic Front includes a federal union based on self-determination for the Shan, Karen, Mon, Arakan, and Kachin peoples. The Karen National Union has been fighting for independence since 1948. The Tamil minority in Sri Lanka engaged in an unsuccessful civil war from 1983 to 2009 with the objective of forming a separate state in the north-east of the island. Indonesia has movements struggling for independence in West Papua and Acheh. In the Philippines, the Moro National Liberation Front seeks independence of the Muslim Moros in the south. There has been a strong ethnic revival since 1960 and a corresponding growth of interest among social scientists (Brown, 1989).
B. C. Smith

9. Instability and Revolution

Abstract
The number and social cost of military coups, civil wars, communal conflicts and other manifestations of political instability in the Third World have been too great not to attract a great deal of attention within political science. Since 1945, both inter-state and intra-state conflict (the latter far more common) moved from the industrialized to the developing countries, a trend only slowed by the outbreak of conflict in the states of the former Soviet bloc following the demise of communist regimes (Singer, 1996).
B. C. Smith

10. Democratization in the Third World

Abstract
Recent reforms in the direction of pluralist democracy and away from authoritarianism in the form of military rule, one-party systems, personal dictatorships, and racial oligarchy have revived interest in how to identify the prerequisites of stable democracy. The survival of democratic regimes has long been a preoccupation of political science, but is particularly relevant today when attempts are being made to establish or restore liberal democracy in so many parts of the world. Developing countries have been caught up in the so-called ‘third wave’ of democratization, starting in Portugal in 1974 and sweeping across southern and eastern Europe and, to varying degrees, most regions of the Third World (Huntington, 1991; Pinkney, 1993).
B. C. Smith

11. Conclusion: Democracy and Development

Abstract
The apparent globalization of political values and institutions represented by the dissolution of the communist regimes in the Second World has lent credence to the view that there is an inevitable trend towards a universal form of government on which all societies will eventually converge. Such interpretations of world history since 1990 gain encouragement from the extent to which pluralist democracy has replaced military regimes or single-party states in Latin America and Africa. History appears to end with political pluralism and free market economies. The ideas about ‘good governance’ which increasingly inform Western aid policy prescribe the separation of powers, the accountability and efficiency of public bureaucracy, the development of civil society as a counterbalance to the power of the state, and the rule of law. They revive the significance attached by modernization theory to ‘organic solidarities’, structural differentiation, and specialized political structures which strengthen the extractive, regulative, distributive, symbolic and responsive capabilities of governments. In addition, they preserve the independence of different parts of the state, thus inhibiting the concentration of power in a small and personalized executive élite which is so often the hallmark of Third World politics.
B. C. Smith
Additional information