CLIFFORD GEERTZ

 

The Judging of Nations

Some comments on the assessment of regimes in the New States

 

 

LIKE PROPHECIES, revolutions restart time, and the distance between l' An I and l' An X is greater than any other decade in history. After that, or a little bit more, things seem to slow down, not because less happens but because less happens for the first time. The 'infinite grandeur of beginnings' fades, a certain possibility disappears from things. Attempts may be made to prolong the excitements of setting out. Pillars are erected in squares, purification movements launched in schools, guerilla styles imitated in offices. But all this soon becomes parody, the sort of thing V.S. Naipaul memorializes, as the ordinariness of life reasserts itself. This is where the New States are now, and their study as well, and it is an awkward point for both.

 

The readiest reaction, in the countries themselves and in the world observing them, is cynicism and despair. Too much having been expected at the start, too little is expected later, and a chorus of disappointment dressed up as realism appears. Within, this takes the form of careerism, a resignation to the private politics of everyday; without, it takes that of the flourishing of a bitter pragmatism, hard to distinguish from pique, and harder yet from selfishness. As independence has not transformed the New States, or not in the directions anticipated, the suspicion, derided earlier as reactionary, that it is but a prelude to regression, reappears in a more analytical guise. It is no longer Nehru who is taken for the Third World's augur, but Amin.

 

All this is not wholly to be condemned. Calling tyranny by its rightful name has much to be said for it, and anything that lessens the sentimental cant that has so often surrounded the excesses and worse of New State governments -- 'they are still young' -- can only be to the advantage of everybody save those who live from it. There has been too much apologizing in terms of imagined necessities or past oppressions already, and reading backward steps as devious routes to progress, as a kind of cunning of tradition, is wearing thinner as the progress fails to materialize. But however that may be, the new disenchantment has not much more to offer the understanding than did the old enchantment. The replacement of the best case view of the New States by a worst case one is a mere change of emotional sign. The central obstacle to assessing developments in the post-colonial world from a perspective more than arbitrary -- namely, the enormous difficulty in determining what can reasonably be expected -- is left wholly untouched by it.

 

This issue, constructing a norm of behavior against which to measure New States' actions, has haunted the study of them from the outset, no less among scholars seeking objectivity than ones frankly pressing a political case. Relativists have sought to derive such a norm from the history and culture of the states themselves; liberals, Marxists, and others have attempted to draw it from one or another strain of Western political thought; and vacillators, the majority, have tried to do a little of both and mumble past the problem. But whether discussing one-party systems, army rule, personal autocracy, ethnic infighting, religious education, or the role of traditional authorities, there has always lurked somewhere in the background (and not always in the background) the troubling question: what, in fact, may one properly hope for ? Relativism, in its degenerate form, might adopt a to- understand-is-to-forgive view, excusing Sukarno as an expression of Javanese aestheticism or Algerian fundamentalism as a return to authentic personality. Westernism, in its degenerate form, might dismiss the whole against the standard of Aristotle, Burke, Lenin, or the Federalist Papers. But generally, matters have looked too complicated for such mechanical conclusions, and judgment has consequently been equivocal to the point of evasion, a difficulty the passage of time has more deepened than assuaged. Seeing the New States steadily and whole seems even harder now than when they were founded, and as each surprise emerges (Indira Gandhi's suspension of Indian democracy, Yakubu Gowon's overthrow, Shiekh Mujib's murder, the restoration of military rule in Thailand) our inability to decide whether it is a necessity or a catastrophe, a breakthrough or a ripple in a steady current, reveals that whatever we have learned about the New States since 1945 -- and it has been a great deal -- has not yet given us a ground for maintaining a stance toward what goes on in them.

 

Nor is this concern a merely academic one; it is one the inhabitants of the New States share with the scholars of them. They too are puzzled as to what they can expect from their governments and from themselves. After early hopes for rapid social and economic improvement, 'takeoffs' of various sorts, the settling into a situation rather less dynamic, and certainly less linear, naturally leads to a malaise. But this is not so much because the millennium has failed to arrive (that was always less believed in than platform rhetoric made it seem); it is because it is difficult to assess the present in terms of any pattern of progress at all. People do not know whether to congratulate themselves for what they have achieved given the obstacles they have faced or condemn themselves for having squandered the possibilities they have had. And how can one come to a conclusion about a leadership that seems both imprisoned in circumstances beyond anyone's power to affect and the major element making of circumstances a prison? Despite the ideological screaming that still goes on, the sense for the true dimensions of social possibility is as confused within the New States as it is outside of them.

 

I tis the task of the social scientific study of the New States to provide an empirical grasp of these dimensions so that judgment will be neither baffled by the mere strangeness of things nor issue out of some arbitrary moral or ideological stance. The reaction against normative political theory of the traditional sort was not a reaction against the impulse that theory served -- the desire to formulate propositions about the rational conduct of collective life; it was a rejection of the notion that such propositions could be formulated effectively in independence of detailed knowledge of how such life was in fact conducted. Empirical investigation -- systematic, comparative, and oriented to capturing the subjects' own sense of what they were about-was not supposed to replace philosophical reflection but to provide a base for it beyond what formal reasoning and familiarity with Western classics could afford. This is what, indeed, Edward Shils promised the world on our behalf at the end of his introduction to Old Societies and New States when he saw us 'proceeding along the lines of Max Weber [to] bring to fruition what was begun by Aristotle and Cicero'. It would be pleasant to be able to say that this has happened, or even begun to happen. But, as I have said, not only has it not but the whole prospect seems less imminent now than it did then.

 

Those who never thought very much of the scientific turn in political analysis in the first place would say this was because of a lack of acquaintance with approved writings and a positivist approach to reality, and they are back preaching high culture, first principles, and the history of ideas. But the real cause has lain in the difficulty of distinguishing the accidental from the characteristic in states just in the process of putting themselves together. So much effort has had to be expended determining what was going on that not much time has been left for reflecting upon it; and until some more stable image of what was going on could be constructed such general reflection seemed unlikely to be profitable. The years since our book was published have been the years of the monograph -- country-oriented books concerned to trace out particular processes, supplemented with the development of concepts (of which 'modernization' is only the most famous) designed to characterize those processes and compare their dynamics -- plus now and then a treatise devoted to an anatomization of the concepts. The struggle to get a descriptive and analytical hold on social and political systems in which the generic and the ephemeral looked very much alike has proved so difficult that meditative thought has hardly known where to begin.

 

Yet, now that the period when almost everything seemed unprecedented has passed and the New States are starting to have a history properly their own, it should be possible to find a few points upon which such ruminative reflection might fasten. If it is true that the end of the heroic period in the New States has left them even less easily summed up than before, it is also true that time has now had time enough to accomplish what analysis has been unable to: the beginning of a sorting of the abiding from the transient. Some features of the New States are now beginning to emerge as more than accidental characteristics of them, as products of the sort of thing they are rather than of the immediate circumstances in which they find themselves. Pondering these, as scattered and still unsubstantial as they are, some progress might now be made toward -- to quote Shils' promissory note again -- 'the schooling of judgment', the ability to come to evaluative conclusions about developments in this or that New State, or in the body of them as a whole, which are more than facts turned into apologies or civics lessons into denunciations.

 

There are three such characteristics of the New States, collectively and separately, that look to me settled enough to be taken  as objects for such discriminative thought: nationalism, autocracy, and what, to have a suitably ugly name for it and because it has none of its own, I will call Singaporization. I shall discuss each in turn, not to come to any firm conclusions -- the point is to start debate, not to pre-empt it -- but to suggest that they are suitable matters for reflective consideration, that they have for the most part not gotten it, and that together they form a useful place to begin to construct a conception of the New States within which the assessment of events, neither evaded nor abandoned to the vagaries of sentiment, can proceed rationally.

 

 II

 

Nationalism, commonly a radical, intransigent nationalism, was, of course, the most prominent feature of the New State phenomenon from the start. Indeed, at the start, it was almost the whole of it. Indonesia, India, or Nigeria were ideas as Germany, Italy, or Hungary once had been. One would have expected that scholars from a civilization, 'the West', which had very nearly been destroyed by such ideas over a half century or so would be at best ambivalent in their reaction to the appearance of them across most of the rest of the globe. But the desire to see the end of colonial domination inhibited, as it did among New State intellectuals themselves, any consideration of what the wildfire spread of what Elie Kedourie once called 'The European Desease' might mean for the societies in which it appeared, or for general political order. The desire was reasonable and the inhibition understandable; but its continuance, now that Independence has been gained and autonomous regimes established, is neither , whatever overhangs of past domination -- and they are considerable -- remain. The uneasy attitude toward intense assertions of national identity, that should naturally have arisen as the Independence movements did, needs finally to emerge now that those movements have turned into powers.

 

The role of nationalism, as well as the impetus for it, was to give a definable personality to projected political entities which had little else to give them one. Whether the problem was severe, as in Nigeria or Pakistan, or relatively mild, as in the Philippines or Morocco, the invention of new polities implied the invention of new peoples. (The sudden appearance of a nationality called 'Sehaoui' -- i.e., 'Seharawi' -- in the Spanish Sahara as it becomes a candidate for de-, or perhaps only re-, colonization, shows the process is even now not wholly completed). By scholars this was sometimes called 'nation-building', a term which, like 'bodybuilding', had a virtuous and optimistic tone; but what really got built was a theory of political legitimacy -- viz., authority rests on a cultural congeneracy of ruler and ruled -- whose implications for the sort of States the successors to His Majesty's Possessions or France d'Outre-Mer are going to be have yet to be systematically considered.

 

One thing blocking such consideration has been the confusion between this principle -- 'like over like', as indirect rule theorists had more bluntly put it -- and one more familiar to Western scholars, the consent of the governed. New State nationalism spoke, and still speaks, in democratic and populist accents, quoting Jefferson or Thomas Paine; but it has had a great deal more to say about the intolerability of being governed by foreigners for foreigners' interests than the intolerability of being governed without being consulted. What was illegitimate about colonial regimes was less that they were arbitrary than that their loyalties lay outside the field of their operations. Decolonization was a matter of domesticating authority, not-despite a certain amount of rhetoric about the people's will being heard-democratizing it. The rhetoric indeed blurred the distinction for all but a few of the more Western-oriented New State politicians, who in any case were quickly elbowed from the scene, and it blurred it for the bulk of foreign scholars as well. Replacing foreign elites with local ones and replacing oligarchies with representational elites came to look like very much the same thing. 'Better to be ruled like hell by Filipinos than like heaven by Americans', Osmena is supposed once to have said. It is a hard sentiment to argue with, but a hard one, too, to live with over any extended length of time.

 

It is for this reason -- that nationalism has mainly functioned to legitimize domestic elites -- that some of the things that, given the European experience, might have been feared from its advent have not much occurred. The Pakistan-India conflicts and Sukarno's short-lived confrontation with Malaysia aside, hegemonic ambitions have not appeared, and not one of the New States can really be said, so far at least, to be expansionist. Nor, though internal nationalisms have been troublesome to the point of civil war in Nigeria, and separatist, or quasi-separatist, conflicts continue elsewhere, only with Bangladesh, a rather special case because of the lack of a colonial precedent for Pakistan's existence, have they led to significant redrawings of the boundaries of established I states. Both these accompaniments of nationalism elsewhere, expansionism and balkanization, may still occur, especially as some I countries and parts of countries develop more rapidly than others. But until now and for what seems like the foreseeable future, the energies of nationalism are mainly being directed toward providing an answer to that most immediate of political questions: who are you that I should obey you?

 

Its importance in this connection is only the greater given the progressive elimination of competing answers: hereditary right, constitutionalism, and historicist notions of a revolutionary vanguard. The right to rule is justified almost everywhere in the New States, whatever poor remnants of these alternative conceptions manage to persist, in terms of a particular fidelity to national traditions, national sentiments, and national interests. Morocco still has a king, Malaysia a functioning parliament, and Vietnam a Leninist cadre, but there too (as the tensions between Vietnam and Cambodia, or Hassan's nativism, only demonstrate) the real basis for the regime's legitimacy is its ability to represent itself as the authentic expression of Moroccan, Malaysian, or Vietnamese culture. Nor does the imposition of military rule change this; the colonels claim to be more efficient or more honest, but hardly -- Burma, Libya, Uganda, Indonesia, Zaire -- more cosmopolitan. The governments of the New States are representative in the sense that symbols represent, not in the sense that delegates do; they stand for the idea that their peoples are distinctive, a category of man appropriately set off in a frame of borders. If they fail to do this, or fail to seem to do it, they don't persist, however properly born, properly chosen, properly ideological, or even properly armed they may be.

All this has some fairly familiar, but not always accurately understood, results. One is the intense sensitivity to foreign and especially Western influence, or as it is more commonly, and even vaguely put, 'interference'. This sensitivity has, if anything, and to some minds paradoxically, increased since the revolutionary period. India is only the most striking case of the failure of the expectation that it would moderate as the state became more firmly established and self-confident, and the colonial period receded; the phenomenon, if perhaps not universal (Tunisia seems to be one exception, Singapore another), is quite general. The anti-Japanese riots in Jakarta in January of 1974, the expulsion of Indians from Uganda in 1972, and the tremendous growth  of the C.I.A. as an all-purpose explanation for untoward political developments (a status the Agency has, indeed, done more than a little to earn) are all witness to the fact that age has not withered nor custom staled the belief that external influences are threats not just to national well-being but national existence. Such influences of course exist and are growing stronger as the New States become integrated into the post-colonial world economy (a point I will return to). But it is less mere realism that prompts the deepened nationalism -- some of those who most encourage the influence most encourage the nationalism -- than the increasing difficulty in maintaining a culturalist legitimacy in an acculturating world.

 

Or rather, a partially acculturating world. For as the elites of the New States become fixed in place they enter into a closer connection with the modern world, become in fact part of it, at the same time as the mass of the people do not, and in fact in many cases re-traditionalize. The gap, there from the beginning, but now widening, between dominant groups projected, or projecting themselves, more and more into an emerging political and economic world order and the separate populations of peasants, traders, laborers, craftsmen and so on .enclosed in local life, produces an intensification of nationalist ideologizing to bridge it. The causes of the cultural estrangement of the rulers from the ruled may indeed come in good part from without, but (as the passionate reaction, hard to account for in terms of power realities, of 'essentialist' movements -- Hindu in India, Muslim in Indonesia, tribal in Uganda -- demonstrates) its impact is mainly felt within. The difficulty with a like-over-like theory of legitimacy is that as society differentiates its self-conception may not.

 

 III

 

Fifteen years ago, scholarly writings on the New States, including our own, were full of discussions of parties, parliaments, and elections. A great deal seemed to turn on whether these institutions were viable in the Third World and what adjustments in them -- single party systems, tiered elections, quota parliaments -- might prove necessary to make them so. Today, nothing in those writings seems more pass», relic of a different time. Marcos, Suharto, Ne Win, al-Bakr, Sadat, Gaddafi, Boumedienne, Hassan, Houphouet, Amin, Mobutu may be doing their countries good or harm, promoting their peoples' advantage or oppressing them, but they are not guiding them to democracy. They are autocrats, and it is as autocrats, and not as preludes to liberalism (or, for that matter, to totalitarianism), that they, and the governments they dominate, must be judged and understood.

 

Western scholars, and American ones especially, have had a particular reluctance to do this, partly because their own preference for popular democracy has made sorting between various forms of authoritarian government seem like abandoning principle and consigning the New States to a lesser order of political possibility; partly because a conscious or unconscious evolutionism has led them to see New State autocracy as a stage on the way to something else, whether Sweden, Switzerland, or the Soviet Union; and partly because their own intellectual background has provided them with precious little means for doing so. If Balewa was preferable to Nkrumah, Lee Kwan Yu to Sukarno, U Nu to Bandaranaike, or Bourguiba to Nasser, then it must be because they were less autocratic, though on the fact of it this would be a very difficult thing to have to prove. And now that the few figures who seem to have had a more than tactical belief in liberal government -- Sjahrir, Nehru, Busia -- have disappeared from the scene, comparisons on such a scale seem academic altogether. One would do better with quiet and noisy, wary and impetuous, or ascetic and self-indulgent.

 

The reluctance is anyway unnecessary; recognizing the simple fact that New State governments are virtually all authoritarian and look to remain so for some time to come is not to applaud the situation, nor for that matter to curse it. It is but to acknowledge the existence of what, if one is going to do any discriminative applauding or cursing at all (as opposed to philosophical outbursts of enthusiasm or rage), one is going to have to do it about. It probably never was entirely legitimate to lump the New States into a single category -- the Third World, the Underdeveloped Countries, the New States -- toward which to have a single response; but whatever justification it had in the years immediately following Independence it has now lost. And if that necessitates making distinctions between various forms of autocracy -- as empirically it does -- and doing so in terms other than their relative promise for democratic evolution or susceptibility to totalitarianism -- as conceptually it does -- then political pieties will have to be put aside. The Whig view of history, or its reciprocal, whatever the one held by Karl Wittfogel, P. T .Bauer, and Barrington Moore should be called -- the Leviathan? -- are as distorting applied to the present as they are to the past.

 

The main dimension upon which the autocracies of the Third World seem to vary -- other, that is, than the personal characteristics of the autocrats -- is the degree to which they reduce the country's elite to a collection of individuals separately dependent upon its leader, a personal entourage, or allow it to preserve a sense of being, however dependent, a social entity. Even fairly high-handed styles of government -- Bourguiba's or Hussein Onn's for example -- can maintain a degree of responsiveness if the relation between the central authority and those who serve it is that of a prince to notables; even fairly undemanding ones -- Ne Win's and Hassan's for example -- can harden into rigidity, if it is that of a prince to courtiers. It is not the power of the dominant figure, which can be as great in the one case as in the other , that is the critical factor; it is the extent to which he confronts any thoughts not his own. The degree of political solipsism -- 'all tongue and no ears', as used to be said of Sukarno -- distinguishes one New State authoritarianism from the next: whatever difference Sadat's Egypt shows from Nasser's, Nyerere's Tanzania from Mobutu's Zaire, or even Mrs. Gandhi's India of 1976 from Mrs. Gandhi's India of 1976 lies far more in that than in the comparative democracy of their rule.

 

Estimating the degree to which the various New State regimes have, to use another image, imploded, fallen in upon themselves to become dissociated from the society they ostensibly govern, and seeking for the factors that encourage or impede their doing so, is not a task to lift the spirits. But it seems a more practical activity than trying to describe the qualifications and determine the conditions for a settled republicanism that never comes to be. Especially now, a couple of decades into Independence, the varying element seems not to be the intensity with which various regimes are attempting to bring their populations into the political process but the skill with which they are manreuvering to keep them out of it. From the Philippines and Indonesia, to Egypt and India, to Kenya and Nigeria, the watchword is not the mobilization of the populace but its depoliticization. Where a dozen years ago the New States seemed to be classifiable according to the energy with which their governments were trying to rouse their people to collective assaults on historic tasks -- 'development', 'modernization', 'nation-building', 'The Alburmalian Road to Socialism' or whatever -- they seem to be classifiable now according to the deliberateness with which those governments ( some of them the same governments) are trying to contain their people within the boundaries of local concerns.

 

The left-wing foreign policy of so many of the New States is not in contradiction to this but in support of it. 'Epochalist' radicalism, and especially unremitting attacks on countries, such as the United States, regarded as working to continue imperialist domination, shifts the hope for revolutionary change, as well as the forces impeding it, to the wider world, leaving the domestic scene, once represented as almost infinitely dynamic but now as decelerated by forces external to itself, in a kind of ideological limbo. African states, both northern and sub-saharan -- Algeria and Zaire -- are the classical instances of this neutralization at home through polarization abroad; but it is quite general (though, again, variable in force), and has given rise to the rhetorical Jacobinism of the General Assembly that Western observers have been better at deploring than they have at comprehending. The radical idiom in foreign affairs does not arise out of an upsurge of Marxian populism in the New States nor, an even stranger idea, the power there of Fabian theories of social paternalism, but out of the privatization of government, the depoliticization of the populace, and the drawing in (I shall come to this in a moment) of modernizing ambitions to a small sector of the society. The idea of revolution is projected ideologically outward in an effort to account for its weakening inward, an effort to make a perplexing situation -- the progressive implosion of public life -- a natural effect of a general situation. It may, of course, in fact be such an effect. But it is the idea's convenience that recommends it to a Boumedienne, a Mobutu, or an Indira Gandhi -- and will shortly to an Ahmad or a Marcos -- not its accuracy.

 

The degree to which New State elites have or have not been reduced to courtiers, the degree to which New State leaders have or have not sealed themselves into a prison of self-regard, and the degree to which New State ideologies have or have not married internal immobilism to external radicalism are thus interconnected and are at the core of any attempt to evaluate New State autocracy as opposed to merely decrying it or apologizing for it. Differential assessment is no less possible here than with regular governments, nor does it demand a theory of benevolent despotism. There are one and two (well, one-and-a-half)-cheer autocracies as there are one and two-cheer democracies, even if the cheers are hollower, uneasier, and marked with a certain despair.

 

 

 IV

 

The battle cry for the fifties and sixties, the one that replaced independence after that was won, was of course development: the sixties were even supposed to be the 'Development decade'. Take-off, balanced and unbalanced growth, import replacement, incremental capital output ratios, backward and forward linkages, factor proportions, absorptive capacity, sectoral planning, backward bending supply curves, entrepreneurship were the common coin of discussion. Since then, though not very much as a result of the discussion, a fair amount of economic advance has indeed occurred (and in some places -- Libya, Singapore -- a striking amount), at least if per capita income is taken as the measure. And even where per capita income has not much increased there has been, a few especially hard cases (Chad, Bangladesh) aside, at least a gross expansion. Jakarta looks like Tokyo now, down to the smog, and Casablanca like Marseilles, complete to the yacht clubs. But what was not foreseen then, or not very clearly, was the degree to which development could take place without involving the mass of the population in the countries where it occurred, the degree to which it could produce modern islands in unmodern seas.

 

The mistake was in assuming that because the industrial revolution had convulsed the whole social order of northern and western Europe and the United States, and had done so in, as historical change goes, a startlingly short time, it would do the same in the New States. As all but a few peripheral groups in Europe had been caught up, at one level or another -- turned into businessmen, turned into workers, turned into farmers or turned into clerks connecting the three -- in the great sweep of mechanization after 1850, so all but a few of the more remote or traditional would be transformed by the introduction of modern techniques of production, organization, marketing, and calculation into countries as yet unconscious of them. There was fear on the Left that this would lead to exploitation, in the center to destabilization, and on the Right to dirigisme, but that significant economic growth could occur which would leave just about everything beyond its immediate confines just about as it was is not something that much occurred to anyone. Yet, unless one equates mass disturbance with mass change or treading water with movement, that to a very large degree is what has happened. The Third World is dotted with free-working city states, enclave economies busily disengaging from their stranded hinterlands.

 

It is perhaps unfair to call this phenomenon 'Singaporization' simply because history, geography, and the Chinese capacity to focus effort have conspired to make that island a peculiarly clear example of the set-apart growth pattern. But despite its empirical specialness, and indeed to some degree because of it, Singapore provides a useful image of the way things are pointing elsewhere: toward a detachment of the dynamics of modern commercial and industrial life from local contexts and its integration into an international structure of trade and production. That Singapore has actually managed to do what is a practical impossibility for Manila, Jakarta, Delhi-Bombay, Algiers, Rabat-Casablanca, Dakar, Lagos-Ibadan, Kinshasa, Nairobi or, most tragically, Beirut -- politically remove itself from any wider social entity at all -- only brings out into full view a process that, through other devices and less openly and completely, is taking place generally. Development has turned out to be a far more encapsulatable process than 'the Great Transformation' of agrarian Europe led us to expect.

 

The main reasons why this has been so seem to me to be three: modern modes of production tend by-and-large to make less of an employment impact than their early-modern predecessors; much of the income growth in the New States has been occasioned more by alterations in world market conditions than by economic innovations; insofar as there have been economic innovations-- technical, managerial, or financial -- they have largely come from abroad, that is, the U.S., Japan, and (some inputs from Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Soviet Union aside) Western Europe. The relative importance of these factors varies from place to place as does their collective impact; Niger is not Nigeria. But together they add up to the pattern we are seeing more and more: a restricted group of nationals of each New State rather thoroughly integrated into the most advanced sectors of the modern world economy, and becoming more so all the time, while the mass of the people are even less directly touched by it than they were in the Colonial Period when labor-intensive plantations, mines, and infrastructural constructions were the main product of contact between the developed world and the undeveloped. It is at least arguable that the impact of the West upon the foundations of social existence of the mass of the people in the New States was more profound and extensive in the two decades or so that culminated in Independence than it has been in the two decades or so that have issued from it, and that the shift from direct exploitation to selective incorporation has a good deal to do with the change.

 

However that may be, the economic differentiation of the Third World (now advanced enough to lead to the spinning out of new distinctions, between the third and fourth worlds, or between the less developed countries and the least developed, which reflect the event without doing anything to clarify it) is taking place less in terms of the emergence of Marxist classes -- a bourgeoisie, a proletariat, a rabble, and a peasantry -- than in terms of a separation between a small group -- managerial, laboring, and lumpen alike -- caught up into a modern form of life and a much larger group thrashing about, sometimes violently, more often dispiritedly, in a half-traditional, half-detraditionalized steady state. There are no names for these two groups, except perhaps the encapsulated and the unencapsulated, and their relative size and sharpness of separation varies from place to place. But almost everywhere, the relation between them is an increasingly critical issue, the true center of domestic (and sometimes, as in the Gulf States, extra-domestic) politics. Like nationalism and autocracy, Singaporization is the name of a question the New States raise, not a pit into which they have fallen.

 

Looked at this way, the dramatic developments in the oil producing countries -- some of which, like Saudi Arabia, have relatively manageable hinterlands (unless Egypt contrives to make itself part of them), others, like Nigeria, relatively unmanageable ones -- are thus but the most extreme examples of a quite general process: a narrow-focus prosperity built on a labor-economizing technology, favorable changes in the international price structure, and integration into a world-wide system of corporate organization -- OPEC, the various state monopolies which comprise it, the oil multinationals, many of which are quasi-state enterprises themselves. Elsewhere, with less peculiar commodities, less special technologies, and less comprehensive organization, the situation is less advanced, but whether it is phosphates in Morocco, tourism in Tunisia, rubber in Malaysia, sugar in the Philippines, transit processing in Singapore, or multinational manufacturing allover the place, it takes the same sort of form and poses the same sort of problem: what to do with the rest of the population -- the overwhelming bulk of it -- which is not occupationally connected to such modern, semi-modern, or hyper-modern activity. J .H. Boeke, trying in the thirties to imagine an industrialized Egypt, asked: if ninety percent of her income were generated by ten percent of her people, what would happen to the ninety percent of her people who produced :he ten percent of the income? Things have not quite come to that yet; but it is the way, in the New States as a body, and in nost of them individually, they are moving.

 

How this problem is handled, how the relationship between :he two parts of the bifurcated economy is managed is thus also i variable across the New States with respect to which differential udgment may be exercised. In some cases, where the governnent is particularly repressive (Uganda), where it is particularly weak (Bangladesh), or where the problem has not yet become acute (Mauritania) it may simply be ignored at the cost of ascending governmental terror, a cacaphony of unfocused mass disorder, or the loss of irreplaceable time. More commonly, it is dealt with by a varying mix of military force, 'welfare' type income transfers, appeals to national unity, promises of a better future and more or less serious efforts to broaden the base of development and involve the mass population in it. From a Tunisia or Malaysia, where enclave development is at Ieast confronted as an issue and policies to ameliorate it projected, through Morocco or Indonesia, where it is accepted as a fact of life and the situation stabilized through a combination of police activities and trickle down expenditures ('even the peasants now wear sun glasses'), through Zaire or Thailand, where elite corruption and popular disorder interact to generate arising spiral of tension, there is obviously a scale along which discriminations can be made which are neither arbitrary expressions of Western ideals nor relativistic apologies for non-Western evils. Coping with the narrowed social focus of contemporary development in countries, most of which are neither Kuwait nor Singapore (and they may soon find the anomalousness of their situations catching up with them too) but have unincluded populations, usually massive, to worry about, is a critical task for virtually all New State governments. How those governments go about that task is a useful measure of their approximization to regimes toward which one can have some warmth and for which some hope.

 

 

 V

 

It is clear, a quarter century after the great wave of decoloniza.tion first began, that the New States are moving in courses quite other than those envisaged for them at the outset. To some this may seem like a betrayal of a revolution; but it is more than the correction of a mistaken idea of what sort of revolution it was. Its central aim, indeed almost its only aim, was the destruction of governmental forms which drew legitimacy from one people and exercised authority over another, and in that it has been quite successful. That this success should have set in motion organizing forces of its own, and that those forces should have produced regimes which test the limits of our capacity to evaluate them, ought not to be surprising. The categories of political judgment are not independent of its objects; when the practical world changes, the moral does also.

 

The ideals -- supranationalist, populist, developmental -- current on the post-war scene provided the necessary vocabulary of the struggle for Independence in that time and in that place; but the ethic actually animating it grew not out of them, part of the Euro-American effort to revive hope after catastrophe, but out of the intense desire of Asians and Africans to establish states whose leaders would be racially, linguistically, and culturally akin to those they led. Much was expected from this change-material advance, decreased inequality, spiritual renaissance, world respect; but above all, and as the cause of these, what was expected was a more empathic relation between mass and elite, a new consonance of outlook and sensibility between those at the center of society and those away from it. The degree to which this relation has in fact come into being, or, on the contrary, the center has redetached itself to become another sort of social island, varies enormously behind the seemingly uniform facade of Third World nationalism. Having claimed power on the principle that rule that is not inwardly connected to the life around it is not just, the elites of the New States can now be judged by it.

 

It is not whether parliaments are real or sham, elections free or rigged, or courts independent or politicized that are the best indices of what sort of polity a New State is and what sort of leadership it has got; one tends to get the same readings on these variables just about everywhere now. It is whether nationalism is a state-orchestrated mystique of cultural originality or a popular sense of self-regard; whether autocracy is a personalized, favor-of-the-sovereign, solipsism or a high-handed, interest-conscious administrationism; whether development is a name for an attempt to separate the fates of the leading and trailing edges of society or to link them. Comparing measures on such scales-- and others like them-- is an unsatisfactory business, full of part-approvals and half-damnations ('Anarchy yes, but not so much', as a sign in that most unexpected New State, Portugal, recently said). But as they are the scales that are available, they are the ones even those who hope for more must learn to use.

 

Political philosophy has always been more a response to the appearance of novel political arrangements-the Greek city state, the Roman imperium, the Renaissance principality, the Enlightenment republic -- than a free exercise of systematic reason. Reflections on government need governments to reflect on if they are not to descend into academic exercises. At a time when general questions of justice, equality, liberty, and authority are coming back into fashion in the form of deductive theories based on psycho- moral axioms, or supposed such, not the least contribution the study of the New States, as they age, diverge, and organize their ambitions, can make is to rescue such questions from scholastic answers. Whether or not anything comparable to Aristotle, Cice- ro, Machiavelli, or Madison emerges from it we shall merely have to wait and see. But in the meantime we will profit more by cultivating their sense for the actual than by imitating their claim to finality*.

 

__________

 

* This article was originally prepared for a conference held at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1975. It was sponsored by the Committee for the Comparative Study of New Nations and the Ford Foundation, and was designed to review the issues raised by the Committee's collective study, see C. Geertz (ed.), Old Societies and New States (New York, Free Press, 1973) a dozen years further on. As the conference was dedicated to the memory of one of the founders and former chairmen of the Committee, L. A. Fallers, so also is this article. I am grateful to Albert Hirschman, Francine Frankel, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso for comments on an earlier draft, although, especially since I have frequently resisted what they have said, they are in no way responsible for the views expressed.

 

 


The judging of nations: some comments on the assessment of regimes in the new states, in: Archives Europe»nnes de Sociologie (Paris/FRA: Plon), vol. 18 no. 2 (1977), pp. 245-261


 

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