Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

By Giovanni Sartori | Go to book overview
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fluid polities and quasi-parties


The typology discussed thus far does not claim worldwide applicability. While it does not exclude the states that are new in the sense of having recently acquired national independence, it does not pretend to include the states that are new in the sense of starting from scratch as is the case of most African countries. The distinction is not, then, between old and new states, but rather between formed and formless states. By saying formed states I make reference not only to the modern political systems1 but also, and more generally, to the political systems whose identity is provided either by an adequate historical record (e.g., South America), or by a consolidation that has occurred prior to their independence (e.g., India). By saying formless states I make reference to the polities whose political process is highly undifferentiated and diffuse, and more particularly to the polities that are in a fluid state, in a highly volatile and initial stage of growth.

Formed and formless are remarkably loose notions as they are intended to be. Thus, in my usage, 'formed' is broader than 'structured'. For instance, Latin American states are surely formed i.e., differentiated and characterised by stability of interactions but one of their subsystems, the party system, has seldom acquired, during its intermittent life cycles, structural consolidation.2 On the other hand, while my structural consolidation is close to the ordinary meaning of institutionalisation,3 it is narrower than, and different from, the concept of Huntington. According to Huntington, [the more adaptable an organization or procedure, the more highly institutionalized it is; the…more rigid it is, the lower its level of institutionalisation.]4 Instead, my notion of structural consolidation lays the emphasis precisely on the viscosity, resilience, and immobilising impact of structures.5 In particular, and concretely, a party system becomes structured when it contains solidly entrenched mass parties. Differently put, mass parties real ones are a good indicator of a structured party system.6 And my insistence on the wording 'structural consolidation' implies that I intend a simpler and far less ambitious concept than the one of institutionalisation indeed, that I do not wish to get entangled in the latter. At any rate, the immediate point is that the formless polities have been deliberately ignored, so far, by my argument. I must


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