communal integration because they cannot find access to the more exclusive informal circles. Whenever national parties are eager to gain an extensive foothold on the community level, the growth of local party networks may well gain its own momentum independent of any
developments on the individual level. This is vividly illustrated by Denmark, where communal party groupings continued to proliferate during
the 1970s and 1980s, while the number of adherents (and available candidates) was sharply shrinking (Chapter 10).
However, several studies in this book agree on the point that local parties are not very active in channeling individual political demands and
grievances into the communal political system, because most inhabitants
prefer to contact other role incumbents or persons outside the formal political system. This fact applies, at least, to Denmark (Chapter 10), Germany (Chapter 5), and Italy (Chapter 8). In addition, their role in supporting supralocal election campaigns is at the least questionable,
because in most cases, they rely on minimal volunteer activity and are
quite reluctant to adapt their activities optimally to their surrounding
conditions. Thus, it may be doubted whether local parties are absolutely
irreplaceable components of national party organizations or are beneficial to community politics. But the fact that they are functioning reasonably well within both frameworks may nevertheless guarantee their
long-term survival and contribute to their endogenous revival in the
In Switzerland, for example, it has been found that local party membership
has remained quite stable in a period where considerable "dealignments" have
taken place in the general electorate (see Geser 1991a).
On the methodological level, this implies that no realistic assessment of local
party activity is possible on the basis of formal processes (e.g., frequencies of official meetings) alone, because much less visible (and highly irregular) kinds of
informal social communications and interactions have to be included in the
3. According to Prewitt, about 40 percent of all citizens are represented in community politics. Although those with more income and education are still over-
represented, this is quite a large segment compared with the highly elitist recruitment practices on the state and national level. This rather "plebiscitarian"
character of community politics may be reinforced by the fact that most higher-
class citizens show little interest because they focus their political interest on
supralocal levels ( Prewitt 1970, 33ff.). 4.
See also Nassmacher and Rudzio ( 1978), 138ff.
This is surely the case in Switzerland , where formal political federalism is
combined with many subcultural territorial divisions on the basis of language,
religion, divergent historical traditions, and so forth (see Ladner, Chapter 9).
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Local Parties in Political and Organizational Perspective.
Contributors: Martin Saiz - Editor, Hans Geser - Editor.
Publisher: Westview Press.
Place of publication: Boulder, CO.
Publication year: 1999.
Page number: 37.
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