Classy Writers

Classical Writers

presidential versus parliamentary systems

Please read the following article: Scott Mainwaring, and Matthew S. Shugart. 1997. “Juan Linz, Presidentialism, and Democracy: A Critical Appraisal.” Comparative Politics 29 (4): 449-471. * You may skip p. 463 (starting with Variations among Presidential Systems) – p. 468. Clear structure: Introduction (brief explanation of what you pare going to talk about in the paper) Body (coherent argument(s) and relevant examples reflecting your opinion and knowledge; optional references to specific places in the article). The argument is that made by Juan Linz, and it is an argument that might seem surprising to Americans at first glance, although it might seem familiar to many living in other Anglophone countries (such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Jamaica). There is a major distinction between parliamentary systems, in which heads of government are elected my members of the legislature (typically called a parliament), and presidential systems, in which executives are directly elected by the populace and are distinct from the legislature and have their own sets of powers – this is something we talked about in our class on 10/02 and what you can find in your textbook (ch. 5). The basic line of argument provided by Linz is that parliamentary systems of government are preferable to presidential systems of government in certain fundamental ways. In particular, says Linz, parliamentarism does a better job of protecting and securing democracy than presidentialism. As Mainwaring and Shugart note, Linz offers five principal reasons for this. In this piece, the authors summarize Linz’s argument and then evaluate it critically. They concur with Linz in several ways, but also raise theoretical objections and then challenge Linz on the interpretation of the empirical evidence. The piece offered here thus surveys the important debate about presidential versus parliamentary systems and provides a constructive critique of the argument. See whether you can identify the theoretical critique and the empirical critique. Reflecting on your own country’s experience, does this argument make sense? Can you identify reasons or causes for why your country does or does not fit the expectations coming from Linz’s theory? What is your preferred system and why? Has reading this article changed your initial understanding of which system is better? In what way?

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