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Evolution Of America's Party System Essay

2388 words - 10 pages

In Political Parties and Party Systems, Alan Ware summarizes the two main competing theories that attempt to explain party systems. First, the Sociological approach and then the Institutional approach. In order to comprehend his analysis it is necessary to realize that party systems are in a constant state of evolution, they do not remain stagnant. This evolution may, at times, be imperceptible and at others very noticeable, such as during a revolution; but the change is undoubtedly occurring. It is much easier to understand these theories if you view these two theories from a flexible standpoint as opposed to having a concrete beginning and end with exact delineations in between.
Lipset and Rokkan created a model that identifies the main aspects of the Sociological theory. Their main thesis was that modern party systems were rooted in social conflicts that had been occurring for ages before the systems came to be. They called these conflicts cleavages and established four different lines to which the modern systems could be traced back. The first of these was a Centre-Periphery cleavage which was centered on two issues: Was “society’s religion to be national or international” and, as Latin was how religion was practiced, how can this conflict between state languages and Latin be remedied? The second cleavage, State-Church, involved the state’s desire to control the education of its citizens in order to maintain a close relationship with the citizenry, which clashed with religious thought at that time. The third cleavage was Land-Industry, which concerned the interests of agriculture and industry and the application of tariffs vs. free trade. The last cleavage was Owner-Worker; the critical juncture of the entire process being the Russian Revolution of 1917, which met a “conflict of loyalty” between international political movements and national polity.
These four cleavages emerged as the part of the foundation of the argument for a sociological approach to explaining party systems. A social cleavage is a far cry from a political party, and so Lipset and Rokkan had to provide a transition from the former to the latter; which they did in three parts. The first being that these cleavages existed before all adult males were given the privilege of voting. What this meant was that before these men could have joined together and voted one way or another there already existed certain issues on which they held viewpoints, whether consciously or not. The second point they made was that during this time of enfranchisement of the masses, the structure made it so that political organizations had to rely on support of the people to continue to enjoy political success. Typically this support came from certain factions that were strongly supportive of whatever ideal the organization held. The final point they make about transitioning from cleavage to party system is that when there is a movement towards better representation it’s the result of a fracturing...

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