Concept of Political Development by Lucian Pye and Huntington

What is Political Development

Political Development has been articulated to be part of society since the time of ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.

Understanding political development helps to shape development choices, strategies, trajectories and outcomes.  Political development is a complex idea that is constantly evolving.

Political development emphasis on three things: 

  • Importance of democracy,
  • Importance of change in society,
  • The dimension of the consequences of change in society.

The concept of political development was coined by economists and sociologists. It was gradually adopted by the political scientists for the study of various political systems.

Lucian W. Pye, Almond and Powell, Samuel Huntington, Edward Shills and Fred W. Riggs are the main proponents of the Western theory of political development.

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Concept of Political Development by Lucian Pye – 

Lucian W. Pye is the first political scientist who defines the concept of political development in a clear and precise manner. He defines it as the cultural diffusion and adaptation; fusion and adjustment of old patterns of life to new demands.

He further says that the evolution of the nation-state system is the first step towards political development.
In his work on ·Aspects of Political Development’, he highlights some of the important characteristics of political development. These are:

(i) political development as the political prerequisite of economic development;
(ii) political development as the politics typical of industrial societies;
(iii)political development as political modernization;
(iv) political development as the operation of the nation-state;
(v) political development as administrative and level development;
(vi) political development as mobilization and participation;
(vii) political development as the building of democracy;
(viii) political development as stability or orderly change;
(ix) political development as mobilization and power;
(x) political development as one aspect of a multi-dimensional process of social change; and
(xi) political development as a sense of national respect in international affairs.
The above-mentioned points described by Pye generally offer us three important aspects of political development, viz., equality, capacity and differentiation.


Political development means the participation of the mass of people as a whole in the political activities of the nation which may be either democratic or totalitarian in nature.

The subjects of the system should be active citizens. Equality also denotes that “laws should be of a universalistic nature, applicable to all and more or less in their operation”.

All people are equal before the law and there should not be any distinction on the basis of rich or poor, strong or weak regarding submission to the rule of law.


Capacity deals with the outputs .of the political system. It is generally related to the performance of the government and the conditions, which affect such performance.

It also connotes the sheer magnitude, scope and the scale of political and governmental performance, which ultimately lead to effectiveness and efficiency in the execution of public policy.


Differentiation indicates diffusion and specialization of structures. There is an equal division of labor within the governmental apparatus with distinct and limited functions for offices and agencies.

It also involves the integration of complex structures and processes. Pye says, “differentiation is not fragmentation and the isolation of the different parts of the political system but specialization based on an ultimate sense of integration. ”

After analyzing three elements of political development, Pye says that those elements do not necessarily go together. There may be tensions between the demands for equality, the requirements for capacity, and the processes of greater differentiation.

Demand for equality can pose a challenge to the capacity of the system and differentiation cannot ensure equality when the system needs people on the basis of specialized knowledge.

Besides, the development is neither unilinear nor determined by sharp and distinct stages, but marked by a set of problems, which occur separately or concurrently.

Here, the study of political development indicates that the problem of equality is related to ‘the political culture and sentiments about legitimacy and commitment at the system’; the problems of capacity are related to the ‘performance of the authoritative structures of government; and the problems of differentiation are related to “the performance of the non-authoritative structures and the general political process in society at large.

Concept of Political Development by Huntington

Huntington’s concept of ‘Political Development and Political Decay’ is an important contribution to the theories of political development. Huntington defines political development as “the institutionalization of political organizations and procedures”.

He argues political development as a process linked with the issue of political stability of institutions. It is linked with adaptability and change.

According to him, when a system cannot change but society is changing, what we find is political decay rather than political development.

Marxist Theory of Political Development 

Marxists tend to theorize ‘Political Development’ within the ideological matrix created by Marxian socialism. It emerges as an alternative to the capitalistic model of development. Marx, Lenin and Stalin are the main theorist of this form of political development.

The Marxist theory of political development advocates classless and stateless society wherein the principles of equality reigns supreme. It believes in the creation of a people’s democracy controlled by peasants and the industrial proletariats.

The theory of development is based on the materialistic interpretation of history, wherein the forces of production (tools of production and technology) determine the relations of production.

The above-mentioned concepts are the mainstream approach of political development but they are criticized for copying the west. They are seen as parochial. This is why alternative concepts came in the form of “underdevelopment”.

The foremost contributions to underdevelopment theory come from Furtado. In his book “Development and underdevelopment”, he argues why the west able to develop, why capitalist structure works in the west but not in third world countries.

According to him the problem of the third world is the issue of autonomy. Most of the third world countries face certain structural problems link with societal and economic conditions.

Another major contribution in terms of political underdevelopment comes from the center-periphery model propounded by Andre Gunder Frank. In his book ”capitalism and underdevelopment in Latin America” (1967), Frank argues that the center is metropole and periphery is satellite.

According to him, third world countries are underdeveloped because of its linkage with past or its colonial master. In spite of getting independence, third world countries are still following old kinds of mechanisms created by their colonial masters.

Thus Frank argues that the underdevelopment of 3rd world countries is linked with dependency, which is a situation of unequal relation and symbol of domination.

Lenin in his book “imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism” talks about the role of monopoly capital. He argues third world countries not able to develop because of monopoly capitalism which means certain company holds absolute control over our society which leads to exploitation.

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