The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
INTERPRETATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
(Continued)

THE NATURE AND FUNCTION OF THE PARTY

The party may be looked upon as a type of social group, primarily concerned social control as exercised through the government. It rests upon fundamental psychological tendencies, upon social or economic interests, develops its own organization, and attracts its personnel, acquires its professional standards and professional technique, and in time its traditions, tendencies, predispositions. Like other groups its momentum may carry it on, after its immediate purpose has been achieved. Group solidarity, personalities, traditions, ambitions, will have been obtained in the struggle, and those who have been acting together in the narrower circle as governors and in the broader circle of those interested for wider social and economic reasons, may go on acting together for other purposes.

The party system may be regarded as an institution, supplementary to the government, aiding the electorate in the selection of official personnel, and in the determination of public policies, and in the larger task of operating or criticising the government. In this sense the party may be regarded as a part of the government itself, an extension of officialism, shading out from very definite responsibility for official acts to the less definite responsibility of shaping and guiding the course of the public opinion.

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