Updated 10 August 2010

AP*Comparative Government
and Politics Examination
|What You Need to Know
  • Political Integration

    Theen and Wilson in their textbook, Comparative Politics: An Introduction to Seven Countries (1992, Prentice-Hall, Inc.), write that "Among the most important political effects of cultural pluralism is the threat it can pose to national unity and stability.

    "Creating a sense of belonging to a single political unit among the various cultural groups that inhabit a nation is known as political integration or nation building.

    "It is a continuing political process, involving agreement on a national language or languages, acceptance of a uniform set of political symbols that evoke emotional support for the state and feelings of patriotism (flag, national anthem, national heroes and martyrs), and the building of political loyalties that transcend the tribe, religious body, or racial group.

    "In short, political integration is the process whereby loyalties and attachments to religious, linguistic, and racial groups are weakened and attachment to a broader political unit (the nation-state) is promoted as the object of the individual's ultimate political loyalty." (p. 10)

    This should help make sense of the political disunity in Iraq.

    According to media accounts, people in Iraq identify themselves as Sunni, Shia, Arab, or Kurd before they identify themselves as Iraqi. Well, except when an Iraqi singer has a chance to win on "Star Academy," the Arab world's version of "American Idol." (See Iraqis Unite Behind Their Heroine on Arab 'Idol' -- Singer Transcends Sectarian Tensions.)

    • As Theen and Wilson note in their text, political integration has been going on for centuries in places like the United Kingdom, but it's not complete. And the influx of immigrants means that the process will continue.

    • The expansion of imperial Russia created the need for large scale political integration. The break up of the Soviet Union, the war in Chechnya and conflicts in nearby republics demonstrate the continuing need for political integration.

    • China strives to integrate Tibetians, Uygurs, Tajiks, and at least eight other ethnic groups. And the seeming linguistic unity doesn't always extend to spoken Chinese, where subtitles are sometimes necessary on national TV.

    • The Mexican government recognizes 56 different ethnic groups including the Nahua (1.7 million descendants of the Aztecs) and Mayans (about a million people).

    • Nigeria's main ethnic groups coexist with at least 250 others, and The Ethnologue lists 521 languages for Nigeria.

    • The CIA World Factbook lists 8 Iranian ethnic groups and an equal number of languages.

    There are many ways to approach the topic that will help you better understand comparative politics.
    • Which of the countries you've studied are most successfully integrated politically? Can you identify the challenges each of the countries face in the pursuit of political integration?

    • What factors account for the relative levels of successful political integration?

    • Is China's apparent high level of political integration authentic or merely the result of thousands of years of authoritarian government?

    • Can a construct of imperialism, like Nigeria, whose borders ignore demographic geography, achieve a higher level of political integration? How or why not?

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