Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies

By Paul Webb; David Farrell et al. | Go to book overview

citizens; however, even though such activities are sometimes more dramatic and visible than routine party work, they too have shown signs of stagnation and have never come remotely close to replacing political parties in the political arena. At best, their role has been to complement parties. However, the mass media constitute a cluster of independent actors that have undoubtedly come to challenge the agenda-setting function of parties. This development has perhaps contributed to the downgrading of party members' roles as channels of political communication. Thus, indirectly the media have promoted the growth of professionalism within the parties.

None of these changes imply that party members have lost all their traditional purposes. Though less central to the financing and general operation of parties than before, they remain central to the process of candidate-selection at local, regional, national, and supranational levels. But parties now put more effort into winning votes than recruiting members. Votes and seats bring money to the parties through public subsidies, while a big membership may bring as many costs as benefits. It is, however, exclusively in the hands of the members to decide whether to maintain or abolish the membership party, as all parties in Scandinavia operate some kind of system of internal democracy. No signs are yet visible that the members are ready to abolish themselves.

So parties in Scandinavia remain the primary actors in the political arena just as they did at the beginning of the twentieth century. To be old does not automatically imply that the party as a form of political organization is obsolete and ought to be replaced. The oldest car makers in the world are of more or less the same antiquity as the oldest parties in Scandinavia, yet nobody has questioned the capacity of these organizations to renew their models. The same is true for political parties. As with car makers, parties do not generate the same products that they did in the early part of the twentieth century. They have developed their organizations and adapted their policies to a changing environment, an environment, moreover, which is partly a product of their own activities in government.


References

Aardal, B., Valen, H. and Berglund, F. (1995) Valgundersøgelsen 1993. Dokumentasjonsrapport (Oslo: Statistisk sentralbyrå).

——, —— (1995) Konflikt og Opinion (Oslo: NKS-forlaget).

——, —— (1997) 'The Storting elections of 1989 and 1993: Norwegian politics in perspective', in K. Strom and L. Svåsand (eds) Challenges to Political Parties (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press).

—— (1998) 'One for the Record-the 1997 Storting Election'. Scandinavian Political Studies 21.

——, ——, Narud, H.M. and Berglund, F. (1999) Velgere i 90-årene (Oslo: NKS-Forlaget).

-210-

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Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Comparative Politics ii
  • Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • List of Tables x
  • Notes on Contributors xiv
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • References 14
  • 2: Political Parties in Britain 16
  • References 42
  • 3: Italian Parties 46
  • Appendix: Glossary of Party Acronyms 73
  • 4: Party Decline in the Parties State? the Changing Environment of German Politics 77
  • References 103
  • 5: France 107
  • References 147
  • 6: The Colour Purple 151
  • 7: The Scandinavian Party Model at the Crossroads 181
  • References 210
  • 9: Spain 248
  • References 276
  • 10: Parties at the European Level 280
  • References 306
  • 11: Still Functional After All These Years 310
  • 12: Canada's Nineteenth-Century Cadre Parties at the Millennium 345
  • References 377
  • 13: Political Parties in Australia 379
  • References 406
  • 14: Parties and Society in New Zealand 409
  • References 434
  • 15: Conclusion 438
  • Index 461
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