The Communist States in Comparative Perspective

  • Stephen White
  • John Gardner
  • George Schöpflin


So far in this book we have been concerned with politics in the sixteen communist-ruled states, and not to any significant extent with politics in the world outside them. As we suggested in the first chapter, however, comparative communism should properly be thought of as a subfield of comparative politics rather than as a substitute for that method of inquiry, and if we are interested in examining the performance of the communist states in relation to that of similar but non-communist states, in other words in the significance of communist rule as such, then it is clearly the comparative approach that we require. When dealing with the communist states we can normally take for granted a good deal in terms of institutional and other similarities, and the group of states to be considered is fairly easily determined. In dealing with a wider range of political systems, however, the choice of units of comparison becomes somewhat more arbitrary. Should we compare the communist states, for instance, with the major capitalist states, which the communist states have pledged themselves to overtake but which are still, by and large, at a more advanced stage of social and economic development?


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Further reading

  1. The comparative analysis of political systems in terms of their outputs is considered further in Almond and Powell (1978, part iv); see also Groth (1971) and Pryor (1968), a pioneering study. Related issues of comparative political analysis are considered in Dogan and Pelassy (1984). Useful sources of cross-national data are the United Nations Statistical Yearbook (New York, annual), the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook (Paris, annual), the World Bank’s World Development Report (New York, annual), and Ruth Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures (Washington, DC, annual). The need to relate the communist states to broader comparative perspectives of this kind is argued in Kautsky (1973) and in Bunce and Echols (1979).Google Scholar
  2. On comparative levels of political democracy, see Dahl (1971), Bollen (1980) Humana (1986), and the Comparative Survey of Freedom reported in Gastril (1986). Amnesty International publishes an Annual Report on the observance of human rights on a global basis, and has also produced more detailed surveys of human rights and the treatment of prisoners of conscience in the USSR (1980), China (1984) and Yugoslavia (1985). A somewhat more partisan report is produced by the United States Department of State: Country Reports on Human Rights (Washington, DC, annually since 1977). Wider comparative issues of human rights in East and West are considered in Lane (1984) and Szymanski (1984).Google Scholar
  3. Comparative economic performance is reviewed in Wiles (1977), Ellman (1979, ch. 10), and Gregory and Stuart (1985). The difficulties of comparing performance and measuring living standards in East and West are considered in US Congress Joint Economic Committee (1982), Summers and Heston (1984) and Marer (1985). On income differentials, see Wiles and Markowski (1971) and Morrisson (1984). Comparative surveys of social welfare include Groth (1971) and (1982), Krejci (1976), Connor (1979), Leichter (1979), Madison (1980) and Echols (1981). The research reports produced regularly by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty provide abundant and up-to-date information on social conditions in the USSR and Eastern Europe.Google Scholar
  4. On the association between socio-economic and political systems more generally, see Parkin (1971), Brus (1975), Lindblom (1977) and Selucky (1979). On the rather wider question of socialism and the experience of the communist states, see Kolakowski and Hampshire (1974), Bellis (1979), Bahro (1981), Lane (1982), Nove (1982), and Fehér, Heller and Markus (1983). Matters of this kind are also reviewed in periodicals such as Monthly Review (New York, monthly), New Left Review (London, bimonthly) and Critique (Glasgow, bi-annually). World Marxist Review (Prague, monthly), the English edition of Problems of Peace and Socialism, gives the point of view of the communist regimes themselves.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen White, John Gardner and George Schöpflin 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen White
    • 1
  • John Gardner
    • 2
  • George Schöpflin
    • 3
  1. 1.University of GlasgowUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterUK
  3. 3.London School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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