Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
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tors as well are responsible for this rudeness which has also been called "improper tone." Only those not acquainted with the laws of mass psychology will be surprised by it in view of the youthful nature of the movement, the educational level of the workers, and the need of the intellectuals attached to the movement to assert their leadership role and to prove the genuineness of their convictions before the followers through their supercilious behavior and coarseness of language vis-à-vis those of their colleagues who remained with the bourgeois parties. Furthermore, the contrast between labor's Cinderella-like position in the economic and political sphere and the tremendous role which it has chosen for itself frequently tends to stimulate the feeling of bitterness and the violence of accent which accompany the spirit of battle. It is true, as Socialists always have claimed energetically, that theoretically hatred has nothing to do with the class struggle and that generally it is not being "preached." No unbiased person will, however, be able to deny that it usually accompanies the struggle. That this also projects hatred into the future must be clear as well. Hatred is a good means for the conquest of power, but serves as a poor basis for the treatment of men and things by those who have acquired power.

Some Consequences and Correlates of
Class Polarization

Robert R. Alford

Australia and Great Britain—with fairly high levels of class voting and low regional or religious voting —may be called the more "class-polarized" politiical systems, while the United States and Canada may be called the less class-polarized systems. As might be expected, labor union membership is greater in the more class-polarized countries, although Australia and Britain are not differentiated in this respect, nor are Canada and the United States. 1 It seems probable that the relative strength of labor unionism is both a cause and a consequence of class politics. The level of self-identification of manual workers as "working class" is also in the same order as the level of class voting according to one study of three of these countries. Undoubtedly the integration of class and party serves to clarify the character of the stratification system, for workers at least.

A number of political and social processes seem to differ in a way logically related to these various measures of the extent to which these political systems are polarized around class bases. Localism, par‐

ticularism, and informal bases for political action seem to be more prevalent in the less class-polarized systems, as will be described. No systematic evidence exists for these generalizations, but some suggestive regularities appear.

In the more class-polarized systems, Great Britain and Australia, politics has become bureaucratized, and "mass parties"—parties organized around branches, with individual membership, and a centralized, tightly organized form—have emerged. Australia and Great Britain have party systems organized around "mass" parties; the United States and Canada have party systems organized on a "cadre" or "honoratioren" basis. 2 The parties in the latter two nations are led by "notables" and lack the strength and solidarity of party organization characteristic of mass parties. Instead, party organization practically disappears between elections. Both of the major parties in Canada and the United States are more like "honoratioren" parties than either of the major parties in Australia and Great Britain, and it may be suggested that the rise of a working-class party organized along disciplined lines forces the more conservative party in each country to organize likewise in self-defense.

From Robert R. Alford, Party and Society (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1963), pp. 292-302. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.


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Political Sociology: A Reader
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