Note: This is a first draft. An abridged version has been published as
"Presidentialism vs. Parliamentarism: Implications for Representativeness and Legitimacy," International Political Science Review. 18:3 (1998) pp.253-278.
The collapse of the world's great modern empires -- both communist and capitalist in ideology -- gave birth to a large number of successor states. Despite early optimism that they would soon become thriving democracies, many of them have become weak authoritarian states unable to govern effectively throughout their inherited domains. (Jackson. Quasi-States) In the anarchic chaos that prevails in many of these domains, rival ethnic groups and criminal gangs challenge the authority of those in power. Inherited colonial bureaucracies, headed by military officers, often respond to such crises by seizing power in order to impose peace and, of course, to protect their own rights and privileges.
There are growing signs of democratization at work (Huntington, and Diamond, "Consolidation of Democracy") and a growing number of states have struggled out of turmoil and authoritarianism to establish (or re-establish) democratic constitutional government. What are the prospects for success of these emergent democracies? How can interested outsiders help the leaders of incipient democracies to succeed and to sustain their fledgling democratic institutions when they come under attack?
To what extent is the fate of these countries determined by forces outside of their control? Could it be possible that if their leaders knew more about what works and what doesn't work in their situations, they would be able to make choices that would enhance the prospects for successful consolidation and maintenance of democratic institutions? More specifically, does it make a difference whether they choose to be governed by constitutional rules based on the separation-of-powers as exemplified by the U.S. model, or by parliamentarism, based on the fusion-of- powers as we find it in Western Europe?
I shall focus on some institutional variables that can be influenced by constitutional choices. No doubt many non- institutional forces, both domestic and external -- including economic development, cultural norms, geographic resources, and historical experiences are also fundamental and affect the prospects for democracy (Przeworski). However, it may be easier to change policies, laws, and even constitutional practices than to make fundamental changes in the non-institutional parameters. At least, we certainly need to add analysis of institutional variables to the information about non-institutional factors that has already received a good deal of attention.
Because the basic design of any constitutional system of governance affects how many other institutional variables work, I shall focus on the pro's and con's of parliamentarism and presidentialism as they affect the capacity of any regime to cope with the fundamental problems generated by modernity, and what I see as its most important aspects: industrialism, nationalism and democracy. Let us first try to clarify the basic structural features of all modern organizations, including states, and then consider the triad of modernity. This foundation will enable us, subsequently, to look at the way different institutional patterns affect the capacity of contemporary states to deal with their most important modern problems.
What I see as the quintessential development that marks modern governance (both in states and in non-state organizations) is the structural linkage between two major components that take the form of (1), a constitutive system anchored in an elected assembly1 and (2), a managerial (bureaucratic) sub- system responsible for implementing the policies authorized by the constitutive system. Modern democracies (and, indeed, all modern associations -- i.e. self-governing organizations) link a constitutive system with a bureaucracy as symbolized by the yin-yang symbol of Chinese classic philosophy (Riggs 1996a).
The first component is polyarchic or representative -- its constituents (citizens, members) of any modern organization are formally represented in elected assemblies, and its head is also elected. The second component is hierarchic or managerial in which authority from above permeates the whole -- this is, of course, the main form of "traditional" or "pre-modern" governance, usually thought of as monarchic. Its legitimacy derived from supernatural forces that, as influenced by royal ceremonies and sacrifices, were thought to bring welfare and health to all subjects.
In its evolved forms, monarchic rule was reinforced by bureaucratic structures of public administration that enabled rulers to dominate a population and extract the resources --financial, military, and spiritual -- that it needed to maintain its power. A few monarchies survive where these structures of authority persist - - they are contemporary but not modern in their constitutional structure.
Democratic (polyarchic) forms of governance also existed in pre- modern societies, but normally only on a small scale and, we may assume, all food-gathering (primitive) societies were organized polyarchically for many millennia before states were born. They still survive in contemporary stateless societies on the fringes of the modern world -- especially among some "indigenous" peoples.
Although various intermediate stages that linked the polyarchic and hierarchic principles of organization can be found in pre-modern societies, the elaboration and formal institutionalization of the compound format (constitutive system plus bureaucracy) is modern and, today, almost ubiquitous both in states and non-governmental associations. In some of these states one side or the other of this compound format is compromised and exists on paper only -- frequently they take the form of authoritarian regimes in which a ruling group promulgates a formalistic "charter" that is not implemented. My point is that the formal requisites of democratic organization -- public and private -- are widely known and often, though not always, practiced. States (and other organizations) may be considered modern democracies to the degree that they understand and implement this compound institutional structure. Clearly many contemporary states are not modern democracies -- or they may give lip-service to the principles without practicing them.
With some notable exceptions, all modern democratic organizations can be characterized as presidentialist or parliamentary, based on a fundamental rule that links the head of government to the constitutive system. The presidentialist form evolved first in the United States. It replaces monarchs with presidents elected for a fixed term. They have the authority (at least nominally) to manage the governmental bureaucracy. Some comments on the historical situation that led the "Founding Fathers" of the U.S. "Constitution" to reproduce the powers of the king of England while rejecting the principles that legitimated the monarchy will be discussed below.
Concurrently, an elected assembly was created to co-exist with the president on the basis of a principle referred to as the "separation of powers." This principle has been reproduced in all presidentialist regimes -- I use 'presidentialist' in preference to 'presidential' because many parliamentary regimes also have presidents and it is easy to confuse them (Riggs 1994a). However, by "presidentialist" I do not imply an "imperial presidency," which has also become a meaning of "presidentialist." To avoid confusion, I often insert "separation-of-powers" to characterize the type of system I have in mind.
By contrast, in parliamentary regimes, a balancing rule prevails that produces the fusion of executive/legislative authority in some kind of cabinet. The cabinet and its leader, a prime minister, needs the support of a parliamentary majority to stay in power with two fundamental consequences. Because the constitutive system in such regimes is fused -- i.e. the chief executive is accountable to the elected assembly and can be discharged by a vote of no-confidence -- deadlock between the two branches can be avoided. Moreover, control over the bureaucracy is enhanced by the fusion of powers -- officials are not held responsible to a multiplicity of centers of authority. This means that they can administer more effectively and also that they can be controlled more effectively.
Without claiming that parliamentarism is more or less democratic than presidentialism or that it is a "better" system in any sense, it seems to be apparent that parliamentarism is more likely to survive than presidentialism as a democratic form of governance. On the basis of a statistical analysis of 135 countries observed annually between 1950 and 1990, Prezorski and his associates concluded that "Parliamentary regimes last longer, much longer, than presidential ones..." (Przeworski et al, 1996, p.47)2 This finding reinforces my own earlier conclusions (Riggs 1993).
The long-term survival of presidentialism in the U.S. can be explained, I think, by many practices that differ from those found in other presidential regimes (see Riggs 1988, 1994a). I shall not try to describe them here, but they provide a basis for suggesting some of the constitutional practices that could be adopted by presidential regimes wishing to enhance their own prospects for survival and, accordingly, to deal more effectively with the major problems of modernity discussed below.
Fundamental reforms are vigorously opposed, however, because the beneficiaries of established structures and practices in any system of governance typically rally to defend them against such changes. A possible way to cut this "Gordian Knot" might be to switch from presidentialism to parliamentarism. Unfortunately, this is also a very difficult transition to make. In fact, it is difficult to think of any successful cases -- when Brazil recently put the issue to a plebiscite vote, parliamentarism lost out.
In the Philippines, the struggle to abandon presidentialism in favor of parliamentarism has been renewed and is currently going on with, I should imagine, almost no chance of success. An earlier and more serious effort to replace presidentialism with parliamentarism led, in 1973, to the seizure of power by then-president Ferdinand Marcos. A nominally successful case involved the transition from parliamentarism in the first Nigerian republic to presidentialism in the second. Since both "experiments" ended with the seizure of power by a military cabal, it can hardly be considered an exception, however. Perhaps the earliest historical case is that of France where the Second Republic was launched by the election of Louis Napoleon, a man who promptly confronted that country's legislature, creating an impasse that ended only when the president seized power and established the second Empire. The Third republic, which was parliamentary and lasted much longer, was created by a dying monarchy, not as a transition from presidentialism.
My conclusion is that all modern democracies are trapped by the basic form (whether presidentialist or parliamentary) that they first adopted (with a few possible exceptions). Two different sets of historical forces determine this choice: first the rise of modernity in the West, and second its subsequent globalization through the contemporary processes of modernization. No sharp lines can be drawn, chronologically, between these stages, but the first accompanied the emergence of modern states, especially during the nineteenth century, and the second occurred in the successor states that arose following the collapse of all the modern empires in the 20th century.
To summarize, the states that were created by revolutionary secession from pre-modern empires, as did the United States and most of Latin America, chose presidentialism as a way to replace kings who, in those days, served concurrently as heads of state and heads of government. By contrast (to simplify the process), regimes that evolved out of a long-term struggle between royal authority and growing bourgeois power were able to compel kings to surrender the right to rule while keeping the right to reign -- and from this evolutionary process parliamentarism emerged throughout Europe.
During the contemporary process of modernization, by contrast, successor states tended to adopt the constitutional design of their imperial masters -- except for those that came to power after a prolonged revolutionary struggle where, under Communist Party influence, single-party regimes were established. Where independence was negotiated, however, the agents of imperial power were normally able to "advise" their successors to follow their example. When, as often happened, these embryonic democracies collapsed and military/bureaucratic rule prevailed, one might suppose that more experienced local leaders would have been able to persuade their autocratic elites to surrender power to a more locally appropriate type of democratic government. Usually, however (Nigeria is a striking exception) the military rulers who eventually surrendered power did so in a way that restored the constitutional status quo ante.
My point is that, after the basic constitutional choice had been made, regardless of the evident advantages of parliamentarism over presidentialism for the survival of democratic governance, countries that had started out presidentialist have almost never made a successful transition to parliamentarism. Bearing this point in mind, I shall not offer any recommendations to support a shift from presidentialism to parliamentarism. Rather, I think, we need to consider how any constitutional democracy, taking its established form as a given, can select among the institutional options which can be changed those that will most likely enable democracy to survive in their specific situations. In order to make any such changes or reforms, however, we need to understand the basic problems confronting all modern states as contrasted with those that faced pre-modern regimes. Each of these problems confronts modern governments with a new set of challenges that parliamentary regimes, I suspect, are able to meet more easily than presidentialist governments can. To test this claim, we need to have clear notions about what the basic features of modernity are and the challenges they present to any contemporary government.
Modernity, I believe, can best be understood as an historical process that evolved in the West during the past three or so centuries on the basis of three closely interlocked forces: industrialism, democracy and nationalism, what I like to think of collectively as the IND triad. We usually think of them as separate processes because each has its own history and can trace its origins and evolution to independent forces. This tendency is reinforced by the way we compartmentalize academic disciplines making it easier for economists to focus on industrialism, sociologists on nationalism and political scientists on democracy. However, I believe each depended on and reinforced the others to such a degree that we need to adopt a cross-disciplinary perspective to understand modernity as a single complex or syndrome (Riggs 1994c).3
The relation between industrialism, nationalism and democracy (IND) as major components of modernity may be compared to a braid whose strands have an independent existence yet, when interwoven, create a single entity that is stronger and more visible than any of its constituent hairs. All three strands interact as forces that affect the different forms of governance -- including presidentialism and parliamentarism -- but we need to think about each, separately, in historical perspective. I shall, therefore, discuss each in turn in Part Two of this essay.
We should also distinguish historically between the formative stages of modernity -- the forces that brought each facet into existence -- and their contemporary consequences as world movers that have produced what is increasingly called a global village (Khator and Garcia-Zamor). The historical dynamics of invention and evolution differed in many ways from contemporary processes of dissemination and reproduction -- the former produced modernity and the latter modernization.
Modernity produced modern states in which all three IND processes intertwine. By contrast, modernization has led to quasi-states and dictatorships in which the three strands of modernity have often become dissociated from each other. Although we like to view modernization as a benign effort made by the former empires to assist their former dependencies, in fact modernization was launched and had already transformed the life of dependent peoples in the imperial possessions long before they were "liberated." Speaking temporally, modernity did not suddenly spring into existence and its forms have continuously changed. We need, therefore, to recognize stages, but I shall refer only to late-modernity as a reference to its contemporary forms and issues: I much prefer this to post-modern, a term that suggests the end of modernity and an indeterminate succeeding state of affairs.
It is important to recognize that premodern ideas and institutions persist everywhere while modernity grew and superimposed new forms and practices. Premodern phenomena are more conspicuous in the sucessor states of modern empires than they are in the homelands of these empires -- I shall refer to the latter as the metropoles for lack of a more convenient term. When we walk, talk, dance, worship, make love, have children and bury our dead, we engage in practices that have survived from ancient times and continue to shape our lives, in the metropoles as everywhere else -- modernity is a kind of frosting over a cake which obscures but does not fundamentally change what remains underneath.
Sad to say, this kind of frosting often sweetens the cake, but sometimes it can also pollute it: we need to recognize the diverse consequences of modernity which have always been both desirable and undesirable, positive and negative. We have celebrated the achievements and benefits of modernity so loudly that must of us have not listened to the complaints of those who bitterly experienced its costs.
Surely, however, all the proudest accomplishments of modernity have also had tragic consequences -- the two aspects cannot be divorced from each other. Recent airplane disasters symbolize this linkage: without the technological and scientific achievements of the industrial revolution we could not, today, fly so quickly from place to place around the world. Yet, every time we board a plane, we must also face the possibility that everyone on board may die suddenly because of an engine failure or a terrorist's bomb. When we consider the positive and negative aspects of modernity, it may help us to distinguish between its desirable ortho-modern aspects and its negative para-modern consequences.
Much of the contemporary debate about modernity seems to assume that we can avoid or transcend it -- I think this is wishful thinking. Modernity is here to stay and we must learn to live with it and do the best we can to understand and cope with its harmful consequences: retrospectively, we focus on the positive aspects of ortho-modernity, but today we have become much more aware of its para-modern aspects. That does not mean that modernity was only a myth, or that it has come to an end. Instead, I think, we need to confront the para-modern beast and do what we can to "slay this dragon." Among other things, we must construct governmental institutions capable of helping us understand and cope with para- modernity using ortho-modern knowledge and technology to help us.
Finally, we often use modernism to talk about the mental images or philosophical notions that both contributed to and resulted from modernity and modernization. This includes our conceptual framework of basic values or norms: secularism, individualism, communitarianism, etc. The subject is relevant and fascinating but I cannot deal with it here.4 Instead, let me now turn to each of these major facets of modernity, the IND triad, and consider the challenges they offer to constitutional democracy and, comparatively, to the capacity of presidentialist and parliamentary regimes to deal with them.
Original draft:  industrialism || nationalism || democracy (1) || democracy (2) || conclusion || endnotes || bibliography 
A revised text:  COPING,I || COPING, II || COPING, III || COPING, V || ENDNOTES || REFERENCES 
See also:  COVICO || Industrialism and Constitutionalism || and Nationalism and Constitutionalism 
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