Stable and Unstable Political Systems
The simplest definition of a stable political system is one that survives through crisis without internal warfare. Several types of political systems have done so, including despotic monarchies, military regimes, and other authoritarian and totalitarian systems. The key to their success is their ability to control social
development, to manage and prevent change, and to bring under governmental direction all the forces that may result in innovations that are threatening to the system.
In some systems, survival does not depend on the detailed management of the society or close governmental control over social processes. It is the result of sensitive political response to the forces of change and of open political processes that allow gradual and orderly development. Much of the western democratic world has achieved peaceful progress in this way, despite new political philosophies, population increases, industrial and technological innovations, and many other social and economic stresses.
In modern times the great majority of the world’s political systems have experienced one form or another of internal warfare leading to violent collapse of the governments in power. Many factors in such a situation, including the cheapening of human life, the ready availability of arms, the discrediting of the national leadership, material scarcities, and a sense of wounded national pride, contribute to the creation of an atmosphere in which radical political change and violent mass action are acceptable to large
numbers of people. Economic crisis are another common stimulus to revolutionary outbreaks, for they produce a threat to the individual’s social position, a sense of insecurity and uncertainty as to the future, and an aggravation of the relationships among social lasses. Crisis situations test the stability of political systems, for they place extraordinary demands on the political leadership and the structure and processes of the system.
Unstable political systems are those that prove vulnerable to crisis pressures and that break down into various forms of internal warfare. The fundamental cause of such failures is the absence of some general agreement on appropriate forms of political action. Governments suffer their gravest handicap when they must govern without consent or when the legitimacy of the regime is widely questioned. This is often the case in systems that have experienced prolonged civil war, that are torn by tensions among different
national or ethnic group, in which there are divisions along sharply drawn ideological or class lines.
Scan Text 11.2 and answer the questions:
a) What types of political systems are mentioned in the text?
b) What factors contribute to radical political change?
B Read the text and answer these questions:
1. What political systems have proved stable political
2. What does internal warfare lead to?
3. What is one of the stimulus to revolutionary outbreaks?
4. What tests the stability of political system?
5. What is the main cause of failures of unstable political
A Answer the questions:
a) In what way can a stable political system be characterized?
b) In what way can an unstable political system be characterized?
B Choose the most suitable word in each sentence.
1. A stable political system is one that surrounds / survives /
supplies through crisis without internal warfare.
2. In some systems, survival / support / source does not
depend on governmental control over social processes.
3. Many political systems have experienced external /
internal / important warfare that led to collapse of the
government in power.
4. Crisis situations examine / control / test the stability of
5. The main / great / different cause of failures of unstable
political systems is the absence of agreement on political
A Read the words and guess their meaning. Mind the stress.
B Match these verbs with an appropriate preposition down,
on, to, by:
depend, lead, contribute, break, be torn
C Give the Russian equivalents for the following words and
to survive; to depend on; an internal warfare; wounded
national pride; to produce a threat; to test the stability; to
prove vulnerable; to be torn by.
D Find the equivalents from Exercise C in the text, read and
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