How Political Parties Work: Perspectives from Within

How Political Parties Work: Perspectives from Within

How Political Parties Work: Perspectives from Within

How Political Parties Work: Perspectives from Within

Synopsis

This important volume examines the inner dynamics of political parties with the intention of finding out how parties really work. Specialists on Germany, France, New Zealand, Norway, Japan, India, Belgium, Israel, Poland, Britain, and the United States provide analyses of the ways in which power is developed and exercised in those countries--who is trying to do what, within the party and by means of the party, and how successful they are. Political parties are not monoliths, as they have tended to be treated in party system research; rather, they have differentiated internal structures, layers, and levels, and on each of these the motivations and objectives of the participants may be very different. By looking within, these authors provide an understanding of the internal play of party power and why parties function as they do within the broader political arena.

Excerpt

Kay Lawson

The study of parties has for some time been dominated by the study of party systems, as opposed to the study of particular parties. From early classics by Robert Michels and Moisei Ostrogorski through the studies by Maurice Duverger and Leon Epstein in the 1950s and 1960s, the internal structure of parties was a major research theme. For the past thirty years, however, theories of editors like Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, or of authors like Giovanni Sartori--which explain why party systems take the form they do, why they endure, why they change, and what they signify--seem to have attracted more attention than theories of internal party life (Duverger 1951; Epstein 1986; Lipset and Rokkan 1967; Sartori 1976; both Duverger and Epstein gave considerable attention to the problems of whole systems as well). Because the parties' most obvious effects are achieved not by themselves but by their elected representatives--who are themselves often forced to work cooperatively with those representing other parties--party scholarship has tended to focus less on the parties as individual organizations and more on the relative strength of the parties in elections and on the role their elected representatives play in government. This has, in turn, tempted us to treat all the parties in a particular polity as an ensemble and to stress the collective characteristics of the composite party system. In studying who wins, in what combinations, and who governs and where, we have tended to shortchange the work of examining the organizations that produce these fateful results.

However, it takes only a moment's reflection to realize that our ability to understand the effects that parties have in whole systems would be greatly enhanced if we knew more about what goes on inside the individual parties . . .

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