Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

PREFACE

ALTHOUGH political parties are as old as popular government itself, their nature, their forces, and the modes in which they have been organized have received comparatively little attention either from historians or from writers on what is beginning to be called political science. Something has been said, and by no one perhaps so well as by Edmund Burke, upon the theory and aim of Party, and the functions which it ought to discharge; and historical accounts, though seldom either full or philosophical, have been given of the development and career of the two great parties in England and in the American Union. But no one has, so far as I know, produced any treatise containing a systematic examination and description of the structure of parties as organizations governed by settled rules and working by established methods. Even in the United States, where party organization early attained a completeness and effective power unapproached in any other country, I could not find, when in 1883 I began to study and was seeking to portray the institutions of that country, any account of the very remarkable and well-compacted scheme of organization which had been at work there for forty or fifty years; and noted that among even the best-educated men there were few who had mastered its details. The historical action of the parties, their principles or tenets, their local distribution, the social influences that pervaded them, the characters of the men who had led them, -- these were the matters on which attention had been fixed, to the neglect of the less attractive and less conspicuous questions connected with the machinery by which they worked. There was no book on which one could draw,1 and the persons whom I interrogated usually seemed surprised that a stranger should feel interested in enquiries of the kind. Still less has any

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1
I note with interest that M. Ostrogorski says in his preface that he was struck by the same fact when he began to study the subject.

-xxxix-

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