You are on page 1of 15

SAMUEL PHILLIPS HUNTINGTON ON

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRACY

BY:
MARLINA HANDAYANI
G 0725084

A term paper prepared in partial fulfillment


of the requirements for the course of
Studies in Political Theory
(PSCI 6060)

Department of political science


Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences
International Islamic University Malaysia
Semester 3 2008/2009

1
SAMUEL PHILLIPS HUNTINGTON ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND

DEMOCRACY

Introduction

Political participation is very important in modern political analysis, which is lately

studied in its relation particularly to the developing countries. Political participation is

basically defined as activities of an individual or a group of people to be actively

participate in politics, such as to choose the leader directly or indirectly which influencing

public policy.1 The activities include voting in election, become a member of political

party or interest group, contacting with the government officer or Member of Parliament.

In democratic countries, the basic conception of political participation is

sovereignty of a nation is under citizens’ power, who implements it through common

activities in order to decide the purposes and the future of the society and also to decide

future leader. In other word, political participation is manifestation of legal authority

implementation by the people.

When we talk about political participation and democracy, we cannot avoid

Samuel Huntington’s theory. Whereby, he published books which are No easy choice:

Political participation in developing countries and The third wave: Democratization in

the late twentieth century. From those books, he tried to describe that political

participation is people activities which they designed to influence government decision

making either the activities do by peaceful or violence. Therefore, democracy is

1
Miriam Budiardjo, Partisipasi dan partai politik : Sebuah bunga rampai [Participation and political party:
A various flower], (Jakarta: PT Gramedia, 1981), 1.

2
interpreted as authority from people, by the people and for the people, and mostly it

influences in the developing countries.

This study divided by four parts. First, describes the epistemology of Huntington.

Second, discusses about political participation and democracy. Third, analyzes of his

theory according those topic. Lastly is conclusion of this study.

Statement of the problem

This study tries to analyze why political participation has the effect to democracy and is

the successful of democracy can only be seen from the higher level of political

participation. This study focuses with Huntington’s perspective on political participation.

From the point of view above there are two problems that this study tries to

answer, which are:

1. How does political participation affect democracy?

2. Is the successful of democracy can be seen from the higher level of political

participation?

Objective of the study

The main objectives of the study are:

1. To analyze the epistemology of Huntington toward the topic.

2. To understand the nature of political participation and democracy according

Huntington.

3. To understand the relationship between political participation and democracy.

3
4. To analyze the correlation of the level of political participation towards

democracy.

Epistemology of Huntington

Epistemology is always interesting to learn, because epistemology is the basic knowledge

or theory of knowledge that people get to be discourse. Epistemology is derived from two

Greek words, in which episteme and logos. Episteme means knowledge and logos means

systematic of knowledge. So that epistemology is systematic of knowledge which concern

to knowledge.

On the other hand, according Al-Maturidi,2 there are three types of epistemology

which are sense perception (Al-‘Iyan), reports (Al-Akhbar), and speculative thinking (Al-

Nazar). Sense perception refers to the apprehension of the sensible objects through the

senses. It divided by five types of our senses which are sighting, hearing, touching,

tasting, and smelling. When one sense has taken place, the rational being can be said to

have gained an experience. This is the first step in learning process, the most basic source

of knowledge as well.3 However, reports are correlation of facts that have been

authenticated. They have gone through investigation and verification. Mostly, all reports

are true facts, and it should be accepted without reservation. Reports consist into two

types which are historic or scientific report (concern to the daily encounter of the rational

being) and prophetic tradition (supported by miracles and divinely sanctioned, it refers to

Qur’an and Sunnah).4 Unlike sense perception and reports, speculative thinking or reason

is combination of speculation contemplation and investigation after going them research

2
Aldila Isahak, Salient features of Al-Maturidi’s theory of knowledge, in Al-Shajarah (Kuala Lumpur:
International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 2001), Vol. 6, No. 2, 261.
3
Ibid, 262-266.
4
Ibid, 267-268.

4
and explanation. Thus, it uses al-‘aql as the basic, because through al-aql, we will

appreciate revelation better. Moreover, reason can be taken as one of the means of

obtaining the truth about reality from the question itself.5

When we talk about the concept of political participation and democracy in

Huntington perspective, we cannot avoid that political participation has significant role in

the process of democratization, particularly in developing countries. Political

participation regarding Huntington is the action of people by using their sense perception.

So that we can say that his concept conducted by sense perception. Moreover, by his

sense perception, he uses historical or scientific as a basic of his study. Here, we can say

that his evidence came from the limited historical cases that he had studied and his

writing explanatory, not a theoretical work. He avoided present tense but write in the past

tense. Meanwhile to know the future we can see by the past. Moreover, he was an

educated person whereby his father was a publisher however his mother was a writer. In

other word, his idea came influenced by his parents and his historical background as a

teacher and practitioner. As a mention, he has never been influenced by revelation in his

ideas and thoughts. However, he is influenced reason as a logical his ideas and thoughts.

Political participation and democracy

Political participation, according to Samuel P.Huntington and Joan M.Nelson is “activity

by private citizens designed to influence government decision-making”.6 Here, they

mention that “participation may be individual or collective, organized or spontaneous,

5
Aldila Isahak, 269-270.
6
Samuel P.Huntington and Joan M.Nelson, No easy choice: Political participation in developing countries,
(England: Harvard University Press, 1976), 3.

5
sustained or sporadic, peaceful or violent, legal or illegal, effective or ineffective”. 7 For

them, political participation is activities, not attitudes. They are concerned with the

political activity of private citizens, or precisely, of individuals in their roles as private

citizens. Thus, they draw a distinction between the political participants and political

professionals.8 Their concept of political participation includes the activities of

government officials, party officials, political candidates and professional lobbyists.

These two scholars are also concerned with an activity that is designed to affect and

influence the decisions and the actions of the government irrespective of its impact. 9

On the other hand, political participation assumes a citizenry with a participant

political culture. Regarding Almond and Verba define “political culture as attitudes and

orientations of the citizenry toward the political system of the state and its various parts,

and attitudes toward the role of self in the system; on how they feel they can influence

and participate in the decision making process”.10 Thus, there are three ideal types of

political culture which are the parochial, the subject, and the participant. The parochial is

characterized by an absence of specialized political roles and by the comparative among

individuals that the political system will be responsive to their needs. The subject is

characterized by “a high frequency of orientations toward a differentiated political system

and toward the output aspects of the system, however, orientations toward specifically

input objects and toward the self as an active participant, approach zero”. 11 The
7
Samuel P.Huntington and Joan M.Nelson, 3.
8
Political professional refers to government’s activity; it is narrower to the government official. Political
activity of participant is not the high-level citizen’s activity; it is part time, not professional, or not
permanent activity for instance voting for election and speaking for meeting. As a result, professional
activity affects the scope and nature of political participation.
9
Ibid, 6.
10
Wan Rohila Ganti Binti Wan Abdul Ghapar, Political culture and political participation of the
electorates in Kuala Berang, Terengganu: A post-election survey, (Master thesis, IIUM, 2008), 10.
11
Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, The civic culture, (The United States: Sage Publication, 1989), 16-
18.

6
participant is one in which the members are explicitly oriented to the political system in

all its aspects.12

Political participation is closely related to democracy. Regarding to him,

democracy refers to the concept of classical democracy of Greek philosopher whereby the

will of the people as source or legitimacy of democracy and the common is as an aim. In

other words democracy is the “sources of authority for government, purposes served by

government, and procedures for constituting government”.13 The process of

democratization is the replacement of a government that was not chosen this way by one

that is selected in a free, open, and fair election. Those elements are the essence of

democracy. 14

Election has an important instrument to the process of democratization in which to

get a strong legitimacy. He also adds that democracy system is not enough with election

only. Freedom, honest, and competitive in election can be possible if there is any freedom

of speech, discussion, freedom of press, and freedom to critic the leader without fear by

candidate or opposition party.

He also correlates that political participation has positive relationship to the

definition of democracy as long as freedom and equality have already contributed by

determining the content of the democratic form. People who participate in the process of

politics, such as voting in election or other activities influence to government in which by

voting, their interests and goals will achieve and get attention to influence government

decision. In simple word, they believe that their activities have effect to government

12
Ibid.
13
Samuel P.Huntington, The third wave: Democratization in the late twentieth century, (Norman and
London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 6.
14
Ibid, 9.

7
decision either those activities are done by peaceful or violence, organized or

spontaneous, individual or groups, effective or ineffective, legal or illegal. So that it is not

controversial if we described that participation of citizens represents one of the

constituent contents definition of democracy.

This study might be interesting if we compare definition of democracy according

Robert Dahl and Samuel P.Huntington. On democracy, Dahl mentions about five

characteristics of democracy which are effective participation, voting equality,

enlightened understanding, control of the agenda, and inclusion of adults.15 Thus, he sees

that election is a basic for the democratization. Every citizen must have an equal and

effective opportunity to vote, and all votes must be counted as an equal. Election must be

free and fair. Free means citizens can go to vote without fear, and fair means all votes are

an equal. Moreover, freedom of expression is required for citizens to participate

effectively in political life. Free expression refers not only citizen has a right to be heard

but also citizen has a right to hear what others have to say. Without freedom of expression

citizens would lose their capacity to influence the agenda of government decision.

However for Huntington, the consolidation definition of democracy “based on

empirical data in where integrates four aspects, and all of them consider participation to

be a central element: universal suffrage; free elections by competitive, recurrent and fair;

a pluralistic system of political parties; and diverse and alternative sources of

information”.16 Democracy refers to freedom of individual. Freedom is liberty, far from

abuse, high of security for citizens. So there are correlation between existence freedom of

individual and existence of democracy. Moreover, democratic government is less to use


15
Robert A. Dahl, On Democracy, (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1998).
16
Daniela Ropelato, The quality of democracy. Participation and its dilemma: How to go beyond,
(Crossroad: ISSN 1825-7208, Vol 7, no.1), 58.

8
violence rather than authoritarian. Democracy also gives opportunities to change the

leader. Democracy also has effect to international relations in which expansion the peace

of the world. It means that the world is less from violence or war.17

On the other hand, he describes that The third wave was different from other

waves before, it began with an account of a military coup in 1974. It was overthrow of the

Portuguese dictator, Marcello Caetano that “unbelievably and accidentally” began a trend

toward democratization, first in Southern Europe, then in Latin America, Eastern Europe,

and eventually in several countries in Asia and Africa. The events that led to democracy

in Portugal set off a series of transitions from authoritarianism. That is why Huntington

believed that democracy at this wave should be using freedom in which avoid from

abuses of authoritarianism.

He adds that in developing countries, show the more participation makes people is

best. Meanwhile, the levels of participation show that people join and understand the

problem of their politic and want to participate to those activities. However, the lower of

participation does not make people good, in which people did not give much attention

towards the problem of their countries. If there are no more arguments, the elites will not

respect their needs and aspirations, but they tend to give services to some group interests

only.

Besides that, Huntington mentions that social class (level of education and

income), and economic development have influence to the process of democratization.

People who have higher social class tend to be more participating rather than people who

have lower social class. This is because they are believe that their vote have effect to the

17
Samuel P.Huntington, 29-30.

9
political system. The successful or not development of nation depends on people to

participate; thus, it will help to resolve the problems of the country in which emerge by

different ethnic, culture, social status, religion and so on. National integration, the shaping

of national identity and loyalty to the country hoped will support the development itself

through political participation.

Furthermore, he underlines that “more directly, economic development appears to

have promoted changes in social structure and values that, in turn, encouraged

democratization”.18 Economic development of country increases the levels of educated

people and the larger of middle class. More highly educated people tend to develop

characteristics of trust, satisfaction, and competence to go to democratization easier.

Meanwhile the higher education of people and the larger of middle class are emerging the

civic culture attitudes of people such as trust, satisfaction, and competence to the political

system. The higher education status would develop attitude individual to be more

participate in politics. Thus the most active supporters of democratization in every

country came from the urban middle class. Because they believe that their votes or

activities in politics may influence in political system. Here, the process of

democratization will be successful. As a result, their purposes will achieve when the

process of democratization successful. Meanwhile, democratization gives feedback to

them as well. In precisely can be seen in below.

More highly
educated public

Higher level of Civic culture


18
economic
Samuel P.Huntington, 67-68. attitudes-trust,
development satisfaction,
competence
10
Support for
democratization

Larger middle-
class

As an example he gives the United States as a successful democracy country

where those elements are working. However, Middle East (Iran and Iraq) as unsuccessful

democracy countries whereby they have higher level of economic development but do not

supposed to democratize system. It means people have limited to participate in politics.

Hence, the process of democratization was not working.

Lastly, economic development is creating to the democratic regimes over the

long-term, however, the rapid economic growth and economic crises might be

undermining to authoritarian regimes in the short-term. Thus, in the third wave,

combination between economic growth and economic crises are most encouraging to the

transition from authoritarian to democratic system of the nation.

Analysis of Huntington’s ideas

From the previous point above, I agree that political participation has effect to

democracy. This is because political participation is activities that people made to

influence government decision making, either activities do through legal or illegal, group

or individual, spontaneous or organized, peaceful or violence. Activities can be vote, as

11
member of political organization, demonstration, and riot. Moreover, the higher education

and income of people is the higher level of participation such as vote in election or join

with political organization. Thus, people believe that they vote have influence to political

system. So, the process of democratization might be successful.

However, I disagree that the level of economic development is directly related to

the process of democratization because economic development is not guarantee to

influence people to participate in politics in which the process of democratization of

country will be successful. For instance is Singapore as the best economic system in

Southeast Asia. The level of political participation in Singapore is low, hence economic

development is high. This is because government controls economic system. That is why

the process of democratization works slowly rather than economic growth. Even though,

it is contrast with Indonesia in which economic development lower but political

participation of people is higher. People still believe that one day their lives in term of

level of economic will be changing by their participation in election. It means that

government tries to solve nation’s problem in economic aspect, because he believes that

people has been given their participation through election. Other than that, the higher of

political participation sometimes makes people brutal in term of demonstration or riot. It

means that how the processes of democratization will achieve if the people cannot control

their participation. Thus, it is occur in developing countries.

Moreover, in my point of view, in the process of democratization government

should concern with some problems that may be occur, such as maintaining system of

constitution and new system of election, eliminating group of people who do not support

the changing of government positions, and the changing or taking off of laws which

12
irrelevance towards democracy. In the contextual problem can be seen by characteristics

of citizens, economic condition, cultural and historical background. Those aspects in

some countries unsupported to the process of democratization. For example is Indonesia,

historical background is showing that Indonesia has the root of historical and cultural of

feudalism, until now it is still influencing the process of transition to the democracy. Even

though Indonesia recognized by democratic country by other countries in the world, this

is because people are choosing their president directly through the characteristics of

democracy system.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, political participation is closely related to democracy. It means political

participation affects to democracy. Democracy regarding to him comes from Greek

words, the rule of the people. Thus, democracy only can use if there is any freedom and

equality. It means that, there is no insist to the people to do what they want. Therefore,

the successful of democracy in nation can be seen in their political participation. This is

because nation depends on the people. If the people do not give their participation in

election, means the country will not exist.

Therefore, Huntington mentions that the higher level of economic development

influences the higher of middle class and higher educated public. From there trust and

satisfy toward government can be shaped, hence the process of democratization will

achieve. Here, we can see that his idea about political participation and democracy has

contribution in the process of democratization, particularly in developing countries.

However, his idea only describes or explains that developing countries supposed to get

13
democracy rather than authoritarian system. Meanwhile, he uses sense perception,

historical or scientific report, and speculative thinking or reason as sources of knowledge

or epistemology through his thought. Moreover, he uses empirical or explanatory and

critical or formal in types of political theory. Whereby, he describes what is political

participation and democracy itself. Hence, he develops strategy to make political

participation and democracy to be better in the world, especially in developing countries.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Almond, Gabriel and Sidney Verba “The civic culture”. (The United States: Sage
Publication, 1989).
Budiardjo, Miriam. “Partisipasi dan partai politik : Sebuah bunga rampai” [Participation
and political party: A various flower]. (Jakarta: PT Gramedia, 1981).
Dahl, Robert A. “On Democracy”. (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1998).

14
Ganti, Wan Rohila Binti Wan Abdul Ghapar. “Political culture and political participation
of the electorates in Kuala Berang, Terengganu: A post-election survey”. (Master
thesis, IIUM, 2008).

Huntington, Samuel P. “The third wave: Democratization in the late twentieth century”.
(Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).

Huntington, Samuel P. and Joan M.Nelson. “No easy choice: Political participation in
developing countries”. (England: Harvard University Press, 1976).
Isahak, Aldila. “Salient features of Al-Maturidi’s theory of knowledge”, in Al-Shajarah.
(Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 2001),
Vol. 6, No. 2.

Ropelato, Daniela. “The quality of democracy. Participation and its dilemma: How to go
beyond”. (Crossroad: ISSN 1825-7208, Vol 7, no.1).

15