An Active Pillar of the Swiss Political System
ANDREAS LADNER Soziologisches Institut der Universität Zürich, Switzerland
Editors' note: In this chapter, Ladner describes how local party networks maintained by supralocal parties integrate communities into a common framework of political ideas, rules, and procedures and contribute significantly to the overall integration of the political system. Given the highly heterogeneous nature of Swiss society, party networks help overcome the many centrifugal forces stemming from different local and regional traditions. These networks are mutually reinforcing, with central-level parties providing resources and ideological guidance and local levels providing substantial organizational support during elections. Further, the traditional practice of shared power across parties prevails in local, cantonal, and federal bodies of political decisionmaking. As a consequence, parties are disposed to maintain the similar strategies and mutual relationships on all levels of their organization. Thus, although local parties have become numerous, autonomous, and influential, minor parties have not been able to organize sections in smaller communities because they lack the means for establishing themselves on a stable basis within the national political system. This lack of political integration is found to be a main reason for the fleeting nature of most "single-issue parties" emerging out of the various "new social movements" after 1968.
In contrast to their weak position at the national level, Swiss political parties play an important role in local politics. In order to understand the nature of Swiss local parties and explain the varying importance of parties at different political levels, it is first necessary to look briefly at some of