Which Is More Effective At Bringing About Political Change, Political Parties Or Social Movements?

1621 words - 7 pages

The purpose of this essay will be to determine whether New social movements or New politics parties are more effective with bringing about change with a focus on green politics. I will look at the structures of a political system that enables Green political parties to gain representation. Often Green political parties start from grassroots social movements, which can make it difficult to separate the influence that they have on policy change from the movement. Traditionally New political parties, with the exception of Green and new religious parties (Boyeller, 2014), struggle to gain and retain some control in government due to the resilience of traditional parties (Siavelis 2006). This ...view middle of the document...

The proportional representation systems of Europe encourage multiple parties. This system reduces the amount of votes required to gain a seat, allowing Green parties to more easily gain representation in government. As a consequence, Green parties entering proportional representation systems during this period were able to earn seats and establish a niche in government. Die Grunen in Federal Republic of Germany has been one of the arguably most successful parties for achieving a persistent representation in government.
Die Grunen’s success in the national politics of Germany was initially very slow. It started out a coalition of various minor parties and alternative groups that only achieve moderate national success (O’Neill 1997). It was soon launched a national party, overcoming its internal struggles among the various factions within and managed to slowly gain seats in the Bundestag, performing even better at local and state levels. There was an initial belief that Die Grunen’s initial success was little more than a protest vote (O’Neill 1997). The social sciences and members of traditional parties considered that the single issue parties would die early (Kitschelt 1993) as political parties are required to have a stance on a wide range of issues. Die Grunen’s formation of a red-green alliance in 1998 with the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) that allowed them to take majority control of the Bundestag (Werner 2003). As discussed by Werner (2003), Die Grunen was able to successfully create ecological political change by ‘phrasing out of nuclear energy’ and introducing several taxes for sustainability. This successful policy change as a direct effort of a Green parties remains rare however.
On the other hand, the Green social movement has had varying successes worldwide. On April 22, 1970, ‘Earth Day’, inspired by Gaylord Nelson, a democratic senator in the U.S, generated over twelve thousand events about the environment and conservation around the U.S (Lemann 2013). Lemann (2013) attributes this movement to the legislature of the ‘Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered species Act of 1973’. Similarly in Australia, as public concern increased about the environment in 1970s, the government took a direct role in the environment for the first time. The major stature regarding environmental policy included the Environmental Protection Act 1974, the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act. To reiterate, the overwhelming increase in environmental legislature in the 1970s was not created under the direct influence of Green parties, who had minimal representation at the time.
Undeniably the first Green party of the world at the time was the United Tasmania Group of Australia, which was formed in 1972. However the movement party largely failed in achieving representation in the state (Crowley 2009, p.7), as most New...

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