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13 J. Conflict Resol. 1 (1969)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr13 and id is 1 raw text is: 









Political stability and instability:


some manifestations and

JAMES   C. DAVIES
Department of Political Science, University of Oregon


  There  is a wealth  of  ignorance and  a
poverty of knowledge  about  the symptoms
and  origins of political instability and its
consequences.  Apparent stability sometimes
precedes explosive change  that profoundly
alters basic political institutions. Apparent
instability sometimes precedes gradual and
not very profound change. If instability and
stability form a continuum,  like heat and
cold, the ignorance of why  stable societies
are stable is just as great and should  be
twice  as disconcerting to social scientists
who  do not  know  why  the stable societies
they live in are stable.
  Most  of the writing that sometimes pre-
cedes  and always  follows notable changes
in polities leads to wordy inconclusions, or
it amounts  to nonexplanatory, ad  hoc  ex-
planations. One   can come   almost to the
false conclusion that historians and social
scientists alike are able to produce  only
post  hoc explanations. In  helping under-
stand  the past, historians do help explain
both  it and the  future, and so  do social
scientists. Both can improve their work by
looking for deeper, more widely  applicable
causes.

  1 The tabulations in this article are the result
of the patient labor of my graduate assistant,
Barry H. Barlow. Financial support for the field
research came  from the Institute of Interna-
tional Studies at the University of Oregon and
for the  statistical work from the Office of
Scientitific and Scholarly Research at Oregon.


causes1


  Most  individuals are unable  to explain
why  they  do  much  of  what  they do  as
citizens, husbands, wives, employees,  em-
ployers, or whatever. Social scientists are at
times a  little better able to explain the
behavior of  individuals, and the marginal
difference in ability is critical. In some ways
it is even  more  difficult to explain the
behavior of categories and groups  of indi-
viduals on any but superficial levels. If an
individual cannot say why he loves or hates
or hugs  or hits another individual, it may
seem  impossible to say why  a public talks
or  acts in a  friendly or hostile manner
toward  its own government.
  Two  historic cases illustrate the difficulty.
In  reviewing them  briefly I shall try to
show  what reasoning underlay the design of
the research to be reported here.
  As  historians and social scientists now see
it, the 1936 election in the United States is
one  of the easiest to explain. Serious eco-
nomic  reversal in 1929 rapidly became the
Great Depression.  The political response in
1932  was to replace the incumbent Repub-
lican party and  President. As  the Demo-
cratic party candidate, Franklin Roosevelt
in 1932 received 57 percent of the total vote
cast for all candidates. The New Deal fired
the public imagination. By  1936 the mood
of  despair early  in the  depression  had
passed. There was  now no call for a change.
FDR   was a shoo-in.

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