Democratic Stability in Britain and France

Democratic Stability in Britain and France

The history of the Europeans continent was marked by constant struggles between powers, state, and institutions which determined throughout history changes at the level of the European societies and of the states themselves. France and Britain can be seen from this point-of-view as being some of the most relevant examples. They are two countries in deep contrast when discussing the issue of democracy and its historical evolution in the countries. In this sense, while France is famous for its revolutionary spirit and for the sudden changes that marked its society, Great Britain is seen as the cradle of democracy, with a slow, yet constant evolution of the democratic process. By comparison, it must be said that an essential role in the different evolution of democracy is held by the institutional framework in each country. Therefore it is important to take into account this aspect when considering the democracies in both states.

The institutional theory argues first and foremost a deep reliance on the state for offering a framework for development. More precisely, institutions are essential for the way in which the affairs of a state are conducted. They offer the strategic background for the decisions that are taken in the country, as well as the tools for leading that country. From this perspective, France and Britain are different taking into account their historical background.

From the very beginning, Great Britain was a monarchy (Berstein and Milza, 1994). The institution of the monarchy represented for the UK an important, if not essential post of stability. First and foremost, it was a framework which enabled the British Empire to expand beyond any imaginable boundaries. In the 17th and 18th century, it was considered to be the most important power in the world, a fact which was obvious in the 19th century when its colonial empire was indeed a force that dominated the seas. Martin Wight argued in respect to the polls of power that created the international political life that the UK was in the 19th century the Great Power of the world (1997). However, this could not have been achieved without a stable and reliable leader at its helm. Therefore, from this perspective, the monarchy was the source of stability, the national item with which the people, from all over the empire could identify. This issue also gave unity to the different cultures that comprised the empire. For instance, people from India as well as those from the Kingdom were the subjects of the same superior forum, an element which offered them the sense of adherence to a higher common institution.

By comparison, France had a much more troubled history. Indeed, in the early centuries of the existence of the state, there were several French monarchs ruling in the territories (Berstein and Milza, 1994). However, religion and culture united them under a common belief that would later be embodied in the institution of the monarchy. Despite the fact that in both Britain and France, there was a monarchic rule, the French example is quite different from the English one. More precisely, France has a tradition of authoritarian rule from the early beginnings of its history, especially due to the fact that the French rulers were often forced to have a strong grip on power in order to avert the failures in the confrontations with the Germans. At the same time, the ruling Families always had a troubled history, with dynastical struggles and attempts to oust the heir from the royal post. Therefore, it can be said that from a first point-of-view, the French monarchy did not reassemble the British one because of the lack of stability the former provided for its people and subjects.

Secondly, the history of the French rule was constantly marked by attempts to undermine the authoritarian rule of the king. This is largely because the Church played a significant role in establishing the equilibrium between the state and the church (Braunstein and Pepin, 1998). From this point-of-view, the Reformation of the Catholic Church put great pressure on the way in which the monarchy would cater for the spiritual needs of all its subjects. However, the struggles and fights that marked the 18th and 19th century in this sense were relevant for pointing out that the institution of the monarchy could not deliver a clear…