• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Are political parties better understood as reflections of ‘social cleavages’, or products of strategic action?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Are political parties better understood as reflections of 'social cleavages', or products of strategic action? As famously expressed by the 19th century French politician and writer Tocqueville, political parties in democratic countries are "the only powerful persons who aspire to rule the state"i. Thus, political scientists and politicians have been keen on examining patterns of support that political parties receive from significant social groupings. The concept of cleavages has become a vital concept in political science when trying to understand voting behaviour and party systems. Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan (1967) described the development of European party systems in terms of the historical conditions of national and socio-economic developmentii. According to Lipset and Rokkan's work, party preferences are strongly influenced by the social groups to which voters belong. Parties arise, then, in response to the demands of these voters. On the other hand, the changes that took place in the European party systems since the Second World War have led many political scientists such as Kirchheimer, Dalton to view political parties as products of an interaction of social base and strategic action. Kirchheimer's 'catch-all party model' aimed to show the new intention of European political parties to attract as many voters as they can, giving less importance to the hitherto decisive social structuresiii. This essay will argue that although political parties across Western Europe were formed on the basis of social cleavages, in time strategic action has become a crucial factor in understanding political parties. ...read more.

Middle

Next, this essay will look at different European party systems in which there are parties based around the same social base but with different political outlooks depending upon the various strategic actions. For example, Von Beyme tells us that in spite of their similar origins of the party systems of Sweden and Norway, in the 1970's the Socialist Party in Norway and the Swedish Centre Party took similar stands in the environment and atomic energy issuesxix. First, liberal parties date from the later part of the nineteenth century, however they have undergone profound changes since they were formed. They originally sought to represent the interests of the bourgeois against the landowners. And mostly in Southern Europe, liberalism was an expression of the radical forces against clerical pressuresxx. Therefore, liberalism was a product of the national and industrial revolutions. Today, liberal parties advocate permissive social policies such as separation of church and state. They are situated at the left or centre of the political spectrum. Some liberal parties have been very supportive for state intervention in economy and national context has been very important in deciding this. For example, policy spaces of the liberal parties in Norway and Finland in 1984, show that there is a good deal of difference between their positions on the left-right scale. The liberal party in Norway (V), which has embraced limited forms of interventionism is scaled 4 whereas Finnish Liberal Party LKP is scaled 5.6 on the left-right scale whereby 0 represents extreme left and 9 represents extreme rightxxi. ...read more.

Conclusion

xiv Mark N Franklin, 1996. Electoral Participation, in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi, Pippa Noris (Eds.), Comparing Democracies. Elections and Voting in Global Perspective, (London: Sage Publications), p. 220. xv Kitschelt, H. (1997). 'European Party Systems: Continuity and Change' in Rhodes, Heywood and Wright (eds.), Developments in West European Politics, (London: Macmillan), p. 33. xvi Lipset, S. M. And Stein Rokkan, (1990). 'Cleavage Structures, Party Systems, and Voter Alignments' in Peter Mair, ed. The West European Party System. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 112. xvii Ibid., p.117. xviiiLane, J-E. and S. Ersson (1999). Politics and Society in Western Europe, (London: Sage), p.78. xix Von Beyme, K. (1985). Political Parties in Western Democracies. (Aldershot: Gower Publishing), p. 136. xx Lane, J-E. and S. Ersson (1999). Politics and Society in Western Europe, (London: Sage), p. 83-84. xxi Colomer, Josep M. (ed.), (1996). Political institutions in Europe. (London : Routledge), pp.266. xxiiWare, A. (1996). Political Parties and Party Systems. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p.31. xxiii Ibid. xxiv Ibid., p.31. xxv Colomer, Josep M. (ed.), (1996).Political institutions in Europe. (London : Routledge), pp. 19-20. xxvi Gallagher, M., Laver M. and Peter Mair(eds.), (1995). Representative Government in Modern Europe (2nd ed.) (New York : McGraw-Hill), p.183. xxvii Ibid, p.185. xxviii Colomer, Josep M. (ed.), (1996).Political institutions in Europe. (London : Routledge), pp.27. xxix Gallagher, M., Laver M. and Peter Mair(eds.), (1995). Representative Government in Modern Europe (2nd ed.) (New York : McGraw-Hill), p. 193. xxx Ware, A. (1996). Political Parties and Party Systems. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp.36-37. xxxi Colomer, Josep M. (ed.), (1996).Political institutions in Europe. (London : Routledge), pp.148-149. xxxii Ibid., pp. 70-71. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Does the mass media have a direct effect on British Politics?

    on television, the newspapers have also changed the way in which they report on politics, especially the tabloids. Newspapers seem to be more interested in the private lives of politicians than in any policies they might have. They dig around in politicians' early lives and current private lives, trying to

  2. Compare and contrast the UK and US political parties and their party systems

    However the British political system consists of a multi party system in which more than two parties have some impact in a state's political life. Though the Labour Party has a very healthy majority in Westminster, its power in Scotland is reasonably well balanced by the power of the SNP

  1. An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

    for them to practice religion as they would have no need to "dull the pain of oppression". Furthermore, if religion really is the form of propaganda that seeks to hide the reality of exploitation and oppression within society then it seems ridiculous to suppose the bourgeoisie would believe their own propaganda.

  2. What are the main ideological principles of the conservatives, Labour and Liberal democrats? To ...

    Analysing the ideologies that were portrayed from Thatcher it is obviously not the traditional or "one nation" ideology in the routes of the party. Nor can you say it is an example of classical Liberalism because she discouraged individualism, therefore coinciding with the hierarchical interpretation of society that the traditionalist executed.

  1. How have political sociologist understood globalization? Globalization is perhaps the central concept of ...

    . on behalf of cultural singularity and people's control over their lives and environment' (1997: 2). Far from being the fragile flower that globalization tramples, identity is seen here as the upsurging power of local culture that offers (albeit multi-form, disorganized and sometimes politically reactionary)

  2. Utilitarianism: Explanation And Study of Criticisms

    PU doesn't say that we should promote the "greatest good for the greatest number." Although Bentham seems to have adopted this view, Mill doesn't, and with good reason. He was concerned with the tyranny of the majority against minorities. PU introduces a gradation of right and wrong actions.

  1. Is the 'New Right' a departure from or a continuation of traditional British Conservatism?

    It did not or does not seem a blatant continuation because, as time wore on, it increasingly sought to exclude or sideline those who held reservations about the New Right project (the One Nationists). The New Right thrived on confrontation by constantly defining itself by what it was against.

  2. The strategic retreat of NEP (New Economic Policy), Lenin said, was forced on the ...

    whether the critics could organize 'factions' or pressure groups on specific issues, and so on. Before 1917, internal party debate meant for all practical purposes debate within the emigre community of Bolshevik intellectuals. Because of Lenin's dominant position, the Bolshevik emigres were a more unified and homogenous group than their

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work