Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies

By Paul Webb; David Farrell et al. | Go to book overview

15 Conclusion

Political Parties and Democratic Control in Advanced Industrial Societies

Paul Webb

Few, if any, would deny that political parties are integral to representative democracy as we know it. And yet since the 1960s it has become increasingly commonplace to encounter references in academic literature, journalistic comment, and polemical assertion alike to the 'decline of party', a contention usually predicated on the view that parties are 'failing' in a variety of respects. We have now reviewed in some detail the contemporary state of political parties in advanced industrial democracies with respect to their standing in the electorate, their organizational development and strength, and their functional performance. It is time, therefore, to summarize as far as possible the complexity of these findings and to reflect on their implications for democracy. For the sake of comparability, this summary analysis sticks to the national cases covered by this study, and excludes the case of the European Union (EU).


Summary of Findings

Party Legitimacy

Table 15.1 summarizes the evidence provided by our country experts in respect of party standing in the electorate. Recall that we stated in the Introduction to this book that we did not presume all of the indicators to be simple and unambiguous measures of partisan strength in the electorate: we recognize, for instance, that falling turnout and the erosion of partisan sentiment could be explained by temporary processes of ideological convergence between the major parties in a political system. Similarly, measures of party system fragmentation like the effective number of parties could vary for reasons unconnected with declining party legitimacy; for example, the emergence of new cleavages might generate additional parties in a system. Nevertheless, it remains possible that each of these measures could, under

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Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Comparative Politics ii
  • Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • List of Tables x
  • Notes on Contributors xiv
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • References 14
  • 2: Political Parties in Britain 16
  • References 42
  • 3: Italian Parties 46
  • Appendix: Glossary of Party Acronyms 73
  • 4: Party Decline in the Parties State? the Changing Environment of German Politics 77
  • References 103
  • 5: France 107
  • References 147
  • 6: The Colour Purple 151
  • 7: The Scandinavian Party Model at the Crossroads 181
  • References 210
  • 9: Spain 248
  • References 276
  • 10: Parties at the European Level 280
  • References 306
  • 11: Still Functional After All These Years 310
  • 12: Canada's Nineteenth-Century Cadre Parties at the Millennium 345
  • References 377
  • 13: Political Parties in Australia 379
  • References 406
  • 14: Parties and Society in New Zealand 409
  • References 434
  • 15: Conclusion 438
  • Index 461
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