Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges

By Richard Gunther; José Ramón Montero et al. | Go to book overview

2 Parties: Denied, Dismissed, or Redundant? a Critique
Hans DaalderWe all speak about the crisis of party. But are we clear what we mean? A priori normative positions often cloud both our diagnoses and prognoses. In the debate on the crisis of party, I will argue, at least four different bodies of writing are intermingled which should be clearly distinguished:
1 The persistent body of thought which denies a legitimate role for party, and sees parties as a threat to the good society. Such thoughts were nurtured from two sides: lingering authoritarian ideologies on the one hand, and naïve democratic beliefs on the other. I will call these views the denial of party.
2 The views of those who regard certain types of parties as 'good' but other types parties as 'bad'. These writings may be summarized under the label the selective rejection of party.
3 The proposition that certain party systems are 'good' and others are 'bad'. This view will be dealt with under the heading the selective rejection of party systems.
4 The affirmation by those who regard parties as a transient phenomenon, products of a period of mass mobilization which is now a matter of the past. According to this argument, parties are becoming increasingly irrelevant in democratic politics as other actors and institutions have taken over the major functions which parties once played. That body of literature will be analysed under the rubric the redundancy of party.

The Denial of Party

We must first recognize that, comparatively speaking, organized and legitimate political parties are a relatively new phenomenon. David Hume, for instance, could still speak of parties of principle as 'the most extraordinary and unaccountable phenomenon that has yet appeared in human affairs'. In

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