The Nature of Party Government: A Comparative European Perspective

By Jean Blondel; Maurizio Cotta | Go to book overview

5
A framework for the Empirical
Analysis of Government–
Supporting Party Relationships

J.Blondel

Party government links the two halves of political life, the half constituted by the inputs of the society brought into the ‘blackbox’ via the governmental party(ies) and the half constituted by the state outputs organised and controlled in the ‘blackbox’ by the government. To be understood, the characteristics of party government therefore have to be related to activities taking place within these two halves, indeed not just at the level of parties and of governments, but within the society and the state at large. The aim of this chapter is to provide a framework for such an analysis.

To do so, however, one must move from the general proposition that state and society influence the nature of party government to a practical determination of the mechanisms of this influence. Clearly, in a first and rather tentative examination of the problem, many aspects have to be set aside; moreover, the analysis conducted in this volume is confined to eight Western European countries which differ to some extent but also have many aspects in common. The ‘societal’ half is similar in many ways. These polities are not only all liberal democracies; they are parliamentary democracies, including the semi-presidential French Fifth Republic. This means that government and parliament are closely related, with the parties being central to this relationship. Indeed, parties are typically strong, even if Italy since 1992 and to a more limited extent France constitute partial exceptions. Moreover, these countries all have a large number of lively groups and movements which have come to play a major part in the policy-making process.

There is also a substantial similarity in the ‘state’ half of Western European polities. Whatever may be said about some of these countries

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