Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

By Giovanni Sartori | Go to book overview

chapter
three
the preliminary framework

1. CHANNELMENT, COMMUNICATION, EXPRESSION

In the course of the analysis, two functions, or two major systemic roles of parties, have come to the fore: expression and channelment. A third function – communication – needs to be entered for the completeness of the argument. For one thing, the expressive function implies communication and might well be considered part and parcel of the communication function. Hence I should explain why I say 'expression' rather than 'communication' and, at the same time, how the two are related. In the second place, it could be argued that the channeling function too involves communication. And this cannot be denied, since communication is the requisite of everything.

Given the prerequisite nature of communication, one option is to adopt an overall cybernetic approach, such as the one cogently developed by Deutsch.l Accordingly, the party comes to be perceived as [the communication network that functionally specialises in the aggregation of political communications (i.e. communications relating to the authoritative allocation of values) for a polity.]2 The alternative option is the one pursued by Almond, namely, to spell out a [political communication function] alongside the other systemic functions.3 And this is how the notion is intended here.

The reason for my having left aside, so far, the communication function is that it does not have sufficient discriminating power. As will be remembered, the expressive function characterises party pluralism, i.e., the party that belongs to a party system. The channelling function emerges at a later stage, the stage of structural consolidation of the party polities, and appears applicable not only to the party systems but also to the party-state systems.4 At this point the political communication function can be usefully entered in the analysis – with the caution that we have a problem of fitting historically derived categories into a purely analytical class.

With respect to inclusiveness, communication is doubtless an all-inclusive category and perhaps the universal category par excellence. All political systems, without exception, can be said to have political communication. Channelment comes next. It is equally an all-inclusive category, but its range is not as broad, for

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