A viable political framework in the new states of Asia and Africa is generally considered a prerequisite for any programs of planned economic growth. In this article we propose to explore one popular notion about this problem with particular reference to India.
Perhaps the most commonly held view about ways to achieve political stability is through economic growth. This theory states that the gap between aspirations and reality, between demands and resources is at the bottom of political instability in most underdeveloped areas and that therefore the best policy is to fill the gap by the most rapid economic development possible. This notion is based on the usually unstated assumption that the basic political ills of modern Asia, its political instabilities and threats of violence, its tendencies toward totalitarianism and autocracy on the one hand, and anarchy, on the other, can be solved through economic growth. In much of Asia and also in the United States and other countries of the West this ideology of “economism” is widely held and has found many supporters. A simple correlation is established between economic well-being and stable political relations, or at least between the rate of economic progress and political stability. The logical consequence of this ideology is the proposition that in order to achieve politically more stable regimes it is important to support them in their quest for economic growth, and this ideology more than any other forms the basis of American programs for economic aid.
Yet even superficial observation will show that there is no close correlation between political stability and either economic well-being or economic growth. Historically we find some of the most stable political systems the world has ever known associated with stagnating economies: the millenial rules of Byzantium or of ancient Egypt. But if we disregard these cases, since they may be said to represent social and economic relations too different from the present, we still find that some of the most stable political systems today are associated with poorly developed, economically stagnant societies. Examples are Afghanistan and Ethiopia, or Yemen and Bhutan, which for long periods during the last half century maintained a high degree of internal political stability even though scarcely any economic growth could be witnessed. And whatever instability existed was induced from abroad, i.e., by aggressive encroachments or diplomatic action.
At the same time, some countries which have experienced a substantial economic growth have had to contend with significant political instabilities. In Kenya or the Central African Federation, in several of the states of the Middle East and in the Philippines political instability has been endemic in the last few years, even though many of these countries experienced noticeable economic growth in the same period. It is possible, of course, to find the reasons in each case for the...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $29.95 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.