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The Politics of Bhutan: Change in Continuity

Author(s): Thierry Mathou

Journal: Journal of Bhutan Studies
ISSN 1608-411X

Volume: Vol.2 No.2;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 250;
Date: 2000;
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Keywords: Politics in Bhutan | monarchy | Bhutan

Although there is a certain degree of incompatibility between theWestern-derived rhetoric relating to politicisation and Bhutanesepractice, since the former may be irrelevant to the latter, challenges resulting from the politicisation process in Bhutan can be compared to what happened in all developing societies. As all traditional states, Bhutan has gone through two different stages in the modernisation of its polity. From the establishment of the monarchy in 1907 to the 1960's, the first challenge had been to "concentrate power necessary to produce changes in a weakly articulated and organised traditional society and economy". The second stage that consists in expanding "the power in the system to assimilate the newly mobilised and politically participant groups, in order to create a modern system", is still underway. Huntington's conclusion that such a process was necessarily fatal to any monarchical system lacking the western European political-cultural background has not yet been verified in Bhutan. On the contrary, the Bhutanese monarchy has been the main agent of modernisation. Since it opened to the outside world, in the early 1960s, the kingdom has adopted a unique path toward development. Promoting a distinctive approach to institutions building (polity) and governance orientations (policies), which is consistent both with tradition and modernity, has been essential to its survival.The present paper is a tentative presentation of the normativearchitecture of the current Bhutanese polity. It identifies a hierarchy of principles and patterns, which have guided simultaneously the preservation of the traditional system and its adaptation to modern constraints. The main challenges are also described in order to assess the viability of the monarchy as the principal agent of change.
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