Political Parties and Party Systems

By Alan Ware | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
SUPPORTERS, MEMBERS, AND ACTIVISTS

SECTION A
One of the most obvious features of political parties is that, with few exceptions today, they involve large numbers of people--as supporters, in some parties as members, and as activists. This chapter is about these people and parties' relationships with them. To many readers, perhaps, the idea that parties require people may seem so self-evident as not to be worth stating. But a moment's reflection will make it clear that there are a great many human purposes that can be secured without mobilizing supporters. Vast multinational corporations are built up and conduct their business successfully without recruiting members or activists. So why, precisely, do parties need them?Several reasons can be advanced, the first two of which relate directly to the subject of the last chapter, namely ideology.
Perhaps the most effective way of getting an ideology accepted is to establish a forum in which those who are attracted to that ideology can interact with others. This helps to keep up the enthusiasm of the already committed because they are not isolated; it provides a base for proselytizing in the wider community; and it helps to publicize the existence of the ideology among potential believers. For some ideological parties, the spreading of the movement can be much easier if relatively enclosed communities of the 'faithful' are created--partly insulating them from other pressures and ideologies. In these cases, especially, the internal life of a party is more likely to resemble that of a religious sect or church than an economic organization.
In some parties the particular set of political ideas advanced by its founders includes the involvement and participation of people in political life. Almost

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