Topic 10: Parties and Ideologies

Topic 10: Parties and Ideologies

Coordinator

Lamport (Khan)

Introduction

Political parties are a private organization with a public purpose–to seize control of government. Ideologies are the systematic sets of belief that animate them, describing the world as they see it, explaining what should be done, and prescribing action that should be taken to achieve it. Ideologies picked up in a secular age from the religious world views that had preceded them, but religious perspectives on politics have made a comeback in the post-Cold War world.

Political parties are actors in a political system, but what sort of actors?  The nature of the party as actor has changed over time, and we can see this in definitions of the political party going back to the 18th century.  The balance of functions varies: coordination with government, within society, between government and society, contesting elections, recruiting participants in the political process, and aggregating and articulating interests through representation are all functions that are present to varying degrees over time, within an electoral cycle, and within the life of a party. How do we recognize these functions and measure or assess the degree of organizational effort devoted to each one?  Party models have also evolved over time: from organizations involving primarily elites, to mass parties, parties that provide a “big tent” and parties that follow a business firm model.  The Communist International attempted to support worldwide revolution and the triumph of worker’s parties through support to doctrinally acceptable communist parties around the world (McDermott and Agnew, 1996), but often the involvement of the COMINTERN was enough to discredit parties as agents of a foreign power.  In contrast, today’s International Democrat Union, now headed by Stephen Harper, supports parties of the “centre right” with the aim of creating a favourable business climate; it is today’s capitalist international – “CAPINTERN”?

Activities during class

Coordinators may consider the following activities:

  • Intelligence assessment: how do we define “extremist parties” or ideologies, and how do they differ from mainstream political parties? Are there examples of

 

Activities after class

  • Review learning objectives
  • Post questions and notes to Moodle.
  • Suggest exam questions
  • Complete Quiz 5 on Moodle (political culture, parties, ideologies)

Learning objectives

Analyze the connections between ideologies, parties, party systems, elections, and government, in comparative perspective.

 

Reading

To be confirmed by instructor after consultation with class coordinators

Activities before class

Consider the following questions for discussion

  1. What are structure and agency in a political system?
  2. How do interest groups, parties, and party systems influence each other?
  3. According to sociologists, how are structure and agency related?
  4. What are principals and agents in a party system?
  5. Is it possible to have democracy without political parties?
  6. Is the left-right dimension still the dominant cleavage in party politics? How do we judge where a party falls on the scale? (
  7. What is “new politics” (identity politics) and what does it mean for interest articulation and aggregation?
  8. What is the life cycle of a political party (birth to death and beyond)?

Activities during class

Coordinators may consider the following activities:

  • Intelligence assessment: how do we define “extremist parties” or ideologies, and how do they differ from mainstream political parties? Are there examples of

 

Activities after class

  • Review learning objectives
  • Post questions and notes to Moodle.
  • Suggest exam questions
  • Complete Quiz 5 on Moodle (political culture, parties, ideologies)

Additional Resources

Boix and Stokes, Ch. 11
Caramani, Ch. 12, political parties (Moodle)
Caramani, Ch. 13, party systems (Moodle)

Castles, F. G., & Mair, P. (1984). Left–right political scales: Some ‘expert’judgmentsEuropean Journal of Political Research12(1), 73-88.

Dickovick and Eastwood, Ch. 11
Election Resources
<McDermott, K., & Agnew, J. (1996). The Comintern: A history of international communism from Lenin to Stalin. Macmillan International Higher Education.
Ware, A. (1996). Political parties and party systems (Vol. 9). Oxford: Oxford University Press.