The Nature of Party Government: A Comparative European Perspective

By Jean Blondel; Maurizio Cotta | Go to book overview

3
Party Government, State and
Society: Mapping Boundaries
and Interrelations

R. B.Andeweg


Two unconnected debates

The idea of party government is to bring together, to unify two different spheres, as argued in chapter 2. Often this unification is incomplete and tensions remain between the two. Even if unification were achieved, it would still be important to know what exactly is unified, and what is not. In other words, the next step in the exploration of the relationship between governments and governing parties is to clarify concepts. In this chapter we shall attempt to distinguish party and government by relating them to the cognate concepts of state and (civil) society. In doing so we shall, for the moment, treat these four elements as if they constituted unitary actors: in the next chapter the concepts of party and of government will be examined in more detail and will cease to be viewed as unitary.

As already noted, the question of ‘party government’ has a strong normative dimension, with (primarily American) advocates of ‘responsible party government’ on the one hand, and (primarily European) critics of ‘partitocrazia’ on the other. It has an empirical dimension, with scholars trying to measure the extent of party government and the ‘partyness’ of governments ( Rose, 1974; Castles and Wildenmann, 1986). In the debate ‘society’ does not feature, other than as ‘the electorate’. The ‘state’ is mentioned more often, but primarily as a set of resources for a party to be captured through its control of the government, or as an outright synonym of government, as when the German ‘Parteienstaat’ is translated into English as ‘party government’.

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