Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

By Jack E. S. Hayward | Go to book overview

regulated by law if not by the constitution itself, accepted as necessary features of the political framework, and given special, publicly subsidized assistance to perform their roles.

The essential danger that is posed by this state of affairs, however, is that much more than most other formal political institutions, such as bureaucracies, security, and enforcement agencies, etc., parties almost certainly enjoy only a contingent legitimacy in the eyes of mass electorates. They are not part of the constitutional contract, and for them to be seen as public utilities with rights to monopolize the representative process may be dangerous, especially where parties are large-scale users of publicly rather than voluntarily raised resources. The dangers of corruption, internal factionalism, policy incompetence, and excessive oligarchy and rigidity among leaders and office-holders raised in this chapter are ever present, and where they are not addressed by parties that enjoy formidable mechanisms to retain power they can be deeply corrosive of a party system's long-term legitimacy.

If the main worry about the health of democracy is electoral instability, the operation of a cartel to guarantee the survival of democratically respectable parties may be an acceptable state of affairs. If the mass electorate came to view the role of the parties in this light, it would be much more dangerous. Some minimal level of clear policy differentiation, and certainly some minimal level of real competition for power, seem necessary to persuade voters that the modern party continues to grow out of civil society, and remains attached to it, and is not operating in a cartel looking suspiciously like a conspiracy against society. While there are no clear prescriptions about what form party government should take in any given European society, this does perhaps suggest at least certain limitations on post-war party developments. Parties should not, at least for long, operate broad and all-inclusive coalitions that admit of no alternatives; parties should not allow consensus politics to restrict political debate to high-level technical discussion suitable only to the initiated; and parties should not allow their mass organizations--particularly their membership and their policy- formulating mechanisms--to fall into desuetude.


NOTES
1.
For a definition, see R. Wildenmann, "'The Problematic of Party Government'", in F. G. Castles and R. Wildenmann (eds.), The Future of PartyGovernment, i: Visions and Realities of Party Government

-141-

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Elitism, Populism, and European Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS x
  • Introduction Mediocre Élites Elected by Mediocre Peoples 1
  • Note 9
  • 1: The Populist Challenge to Élitist Democracy in Europe 10
  • Notes 30
  • 2 - 'Losing Touch' in a Democracy: Demands Versus Needs 33
  • Notes 60
  • 3: Freedom from the Press 67
  • Notes 86
  • 4: From Representative to Responsive Government? 88
  • Notes 99
  • 5: The European Union, the Political Class, and the People 101
  • Notes 120
  • 6: Political Parties and the Public Accountability of Leaders 121
  • Notes 141
  • 7: Élite-Mass Linkages in Europe: Legitimacy Crisis or Party Crisis? 143
  • Notes 160
  • 8: Organized Interests as Intermediaries 164
  • Notes 186
  • 9: Mediating between the Powerless and the Powerful 190
  • Notes 202
  • 10: Public Demands and Economic Constraints: All Italians Now? 203
  • Notes 219
  • 11: The Fluctuating Rationale of Monetary Union 220
  • 4: Conclusion 235
  • Notes 237
  • 12: Has Government by Committee Lost the Public's Confidence? 238
  • Notes 249
  • Conclusion Has European Unification by Stealth a Future? 252
  • Notes 257
  • Index 259
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