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Cleavages Political,

Cleavages Political,



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Published by Jacobin Parcelle
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Cleavages Political
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Cleavages Political

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Jacobin Parcelle on Feb 17, 2009
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B. J. Fraser
Cleavages: Political
‘Political cleavages’ are political divisions amongcitizensrootedinthestructureofagivensocialsystem.However, although cleavages are political divisions,not all political divisions among citizens spring fromstructural cleavages. For one to talk of ‘cleavages’such divisions must be permanent and noncontingent.They must orient people’s behavior and sense of belonging stably and constantly. Political cleavagesare the partisan expression of an underlying divisionamong the members of a given society (whethernational, subnational, or supranational).
1. The Lipset–Rokkan Model 
Theconceptof‘cleavage’hasbeencurrentinthesocialsciences for some time, although it was given fulldevelopment only in the 1960s by Seymour MartinLipset and Stein Rokkan. Both of them politicalsociologists by training, Lipset and Rokkan (1967)sought to redefine and specify the ‘social bases of politics.’ Writing when structural-functionalism wasat its height—and, therefore, influenced by theParsonian theory which assigned to the politicalparties the function of encapsulating social conflictsand stabilizing the social system—they set out toexplain the persistence of party systems in the Euro-pean democracies. In the 1960s, in fact, those systemsstill displayed features similar to those that had beeninstitutionalized at the beginning of the century. Notsurprisingly,theirexplanationwascalledthetheoryof the ‘freezing’ of the European party systems.Their method was primarily historical–sociologicalin so far as it connected existing political divisions inthe European countries with the principal cleavagesthathadopenedupinthecourseoftheirdevelopment,from the birth of the nation-state in the sixteenthcentury to its full democratic maturation in thetwentieth. The specific political cleavages that gaverisetothemodernpartysystemsaccordinglywereseento be the result of two great historical processes: theonethathadbrednationalrevolutions(and,therefore,theformationof themodernEuropean nation-states),and the one that had engendered the industrialrevolution (and, therefore, the formation of modernEuropean capitalist systems).National revolutions had created two structuraldivisions: (a) between the center and the periphery, orbetween the groups and areas that sought to impose asingle public authority on a given territory and thegroups and areas which asserted their traditionalautonomy against such centralizing pressures; (b)between the lay state and the church, or betweengroups which sought to separate temporal fromreligiousauthorityandgroupsintentonpreservingtheintimate connection between them. The industrialrevolution in its turn created two further structuraldivisions: (a) between agriculture and industry, orbetweengroupsandareaswhosesurvivaldependedontraditional activities and groups and areas whichendeavored to remove traditional constraints in orderto foster the growth of new activities and productionmethods; (b) between capital and labor, or betweenthegroupsthatdominatedthenewindustrialstructureand the workers, whose only possession was theircapacity to perform labor.In Europe, only the parties that reflected thesecleavages were able to survive, that is, reproducethemselves electorally and institutionally. The in-stitutionalized interaction among these parties gaverise to the modern party systems which, in individualEuropean countries, and in forms that differed from1987
ages: Political 
one country to another, still conserved in the mid-twentieth century the cleavages that had arisen inprevious ones.
2. Subsequent Debate
The Lipset–Rokkan model heavily influenced thedebate conducted during the 1960s on the politicalparties. The discussion started from the premise thatpolitical parties were necessary to make democracysafe(i.e.,stable),asSchattschneider(1948)hadalreadyargued. However, the model was not endorsed uni-versally, at least in its entirety. In a study of a smallScandinavian democracy,Eckstein (1966)pointed outtheexistenceofmultiplepoliticaldivisions,identifyingonesduetospecificdisagreementsonparticularpublicpolicies, others due to cultural divergences on inter-pretations of political life, and yet others arising fromsegmental cleavages caused by objective social dif-ferences. Again in 1966, Daalder examined the smalldemocracies of continental Europe and pointed outthe existence of political divisions due to factors (forinstance, the nature of the political regime or theconcept of nationality) other than those envisaged bythe Lipset–Rokkan model.But it was Sartori (1969) who challenged mostradically the Lipset–Rokkan model, by reversing itscausal logic. For Sartori, it was not social divisionsthat encouraged the birth of parties; rather, it was theparties that gave visibility and identity to a particularstructure of social divisions. In short, Sartori argued,political sociology (and political science) should takethe place of sociology of politics if partisan politics inthe European democracies were to be understoodproperly. Lipset (1970) himself acknowledged theability of parties to exacerbate politically a cleavagethat might socially be in decline. Nonetheless, hereiterated that a social basis was necessary for a partyto exist. Thus, while for Lipset and Rokkan socialcleavageswerenecessary,thoughnotsufficient,fortheformation of parties and of party systems, for Sartorithey were neither necessary nor sufficient becausepolitics can only be conducted independently of othersocial spheres. This autonomy of the parties fromsocietyhadalreadybeenshownbyKirchheimer(1966)in his celebrated study in which he investigated thetransition from the ‘party of social integration’ to the‘catch-all party,that is, a party able to representdiverse classes and social groups electorally.From the 1970s onwards, partly due to the de-velopment of more sophisticated techniques of socialresearch, the debate moved in a more microempiricaland less macrohistorical direction. The decade sawnumerousstudiesofelectoralbehavior,althoughtheirresults were equivocal. While early studies like Rose(1974) showed the relative decline of politics based onsocial cleavages (or ‘cleavage politics,’ as it came to becalled), the magnitude and implications of this declinewere given various interpretations by scholars. The1992 study by Franklin suggested that the decline of cleavage politics was ineluctable, those of Inglehart(1977), Dalton et al. (1984) and subsequent studiesuntil seemingly showed that cleavage politics wereevolving in a new direction so that ‘cultural’ cleavageswere now taking the place of fading social cleavagesand reorienting electoral and political behavior.For these authors, the new structure of divisionsmight indeed have a ‘social basis,’ but it was manifestinaclashofvalues:betweenindustrialvalues(infavorof the quantitative growth of affluence) on the onehand, and postindustrial ones (which gave priority tothe quality of life and the protection of the environ-ment) on the other. Associated with each side weresocioeconomicgroupsandgeographicalareas,buttheclash involved distinct (and opposed) cultural con-ceptions and lifestyles. Of course, there was no lack of criticismofthisapproach—especiallybyBartoliniandMair (1990)—given that it emptied Lipset andRokkan’s original concept of cleavage of much of itsmeaning. For this reason, Bartolini and Mair pro-posed the following redefinition of the notion: (a)empirically, a cleavage must be definable in terms of socialstructure;(b)normatively,acleavageisasystemof values which gives a sense of collective identity to asocialgroup;(c)behaviorally,acleavageismanifestintheinteractionamongpoliticalactors.Thusredefined,the concept of cleavage is broader in its compass andbecomes a means to order social relations.
3. The Freezing of Clea
Sociologists and economists also joined the debate.Goldthorpe (1996), for example, found that trad-itional social divisions were still conditioning politicalallegiances and electoral choices at the end of thetwentieth century. Other studies appeared which,althoughtheyextendedtheconceptofsocialcleavage,continued to frame it in structural terms. Lijphart(1977), in his study of the small consociative de-mocracies of continental Europe, and then in hisanalyses of the established democracies (Lijphart1999), showed that ethnic divisions performed thesame function in structuring identity and behavior asdid the other social divisions of the Lipset–Rokkanmodel. These divisions, too, sprang from the longhistorical process that had led to the formation of thenation-state. Thereafter, they had continued to pre-dominate despite the divisions created by the processof industrialization. In the nation-states, the divisionsbetweenagricultureandindustry,andbetweencapitaland labor were absorbed by more basic ethnic-linguisticcleavages.AccordingtoLijphart,thediversenature of these cleavages lay at the origin of the twoprincipal models of democracy (what he called ‘con-sensual’and‘majoritarian’)thatdevelopedintheWestafter the World War II.1988
ages: Political 
The model of consensual democracy based on theinclusion in the executive of all the country’s mainethnic groups proved highly effective (in stabilizingdemocracy). It was accordingly used by authors(starting from Sartori and his studies of party systemsin the 1970s) to investigate the workings of nationalsocieties connoted by identity divisions, albeit basedon ideology rather than ethnicity or language. ThereferencehereistothepostwarEuropeandemocraciesdistinguished by the presence of powerful communistparties. Even these democracies were consensual innature,althoughtheiroperationwassustained,notbyinclusive coalitions in the executive (access to whichwas barred to communist parties, owing to thegeopolitical cleavages created by the Cold War), butbyconsensualpracticesinparliament.However,whilethese ideological cleavages proved unstable with thepassageoftime,this wasnot thecase ofethnic ones. Itseemed, indeed, that the model of consensual democ-racy had ended up by ‘freezingethnic allegiances,though managing to cushion their impact.The reasons why party systems were frozen in thepostwar European democracies were expressly in-vestigated by Mair and Bartolini (1990). These twoauthors examined three different hypotheses withregardtothefreezingprocess.First,itmayinvolvethefreezingofsocialcleavages, thatis,thestabilization of the social structure from which the parties drawlegitimation for their political action. Second, thefreezing may be due to the institutionalization of thepolitical parties, albeit accompanied by the fading of thesocialdivisionsthathadpromptedtheirformation(here by ‘institutionalization’ is meant the parties’ability to stand as the only practicable electoralchoices). Third, the freezing may be due to thestabilization of the party system as such, or putotherwise, the institutionalization of the system of interactionsamongthemainpoliticalactors.MairandBartolini seem to suggest that the third of thesehypotheses is the most plausible, given that both thehypothesis of the freezing of social cleavages and thatof the freezing of political parties must admit to somany exceptions that they are not falsifiable. In short,for both authors a distinction must be drawn betweenthe freezing of party systems and the freezing of individual parties.The freezing hypothesis has also been discussed interms of voting behavior. Several surveys havesought—using different indicators—to collect reliabledata on the stability and instability of voting choices.Many scholars, from Pederson (1983) to Maguire(1983) and especially Bartolini (2000), have shownthat rates of aggregate electoral volatility were rela-tively low until the 1980s: which corroborated Lipsetand Rokkan’s original contention that continuityrather than change was the distinguishing feature of partisan politics in Europe. These studies came in forcriticism, of course, mainly on the grounds thatelectoral stability does not necessarily coincide withstableinteractionamongthepoliticalparties,andthatstability may conceal processes of dealignment andrealignment sufficient to gainsay the logic of theLipset–Rokkan model.
4. Between Europe and America
The theory of cleavages has been developed on thebasis of the experiences of the Western Europeancountries, with no reference to the other great modelofdemocracy:thatoftheUnitedStates.Andyetitwasprecisely in the United States that modern politicalparties and party systems were invented. Indeed, themyth of American exceptionalism has been fosteredby this European neglect; a neglect motivated by thebeliefthatAmericansociety,unlikethoseofEuropeancountries, is based on cross-cutting cleavages which—as Lipset maintained as early as 1963—are unable toproduce stable divisions among citizens. This absenceof cleavage politics, the argument ran, gave rise to thedepolarizationofpartisanconflictintheUnitedStatesthat underpinned the stability of ‘American democ-racy.In short, the more cleavages multiply andinterweave, the more numerous the divisions amongcitizens become, and the safer democracy grows.And yet, as Bensel (1987) showed, the situation inthe United States was not so clear-cut, for thatcountry,too,displayed,andstilldoes,astablepoliticalcleavage; sectional rather than social and cultural,althoughit has latterly acquired these features as well.This is the political cleavage between states andregional areas expressed in two radically differentconceptions of the balance of powers to be struckbetween the states and the center of the federation.And it should not be forgotten that this fractureprovoked one of the most violent and bloody civilwars ofthemodernage. Itis around this cleavage thatthe various party systems that have arisen since thefoundation of American republic have structuredthemselves.InthelightofthepostnationalexperienceofEuropeat the end of the twentieth century, the case of theUnited States appears less exceptional than it did inthe past. This is because the process of Europeanintegration has generated a sectional divide amonggeo-economicareasofthecontinent whichcuts acrossthetraditional(inEurope)party-politicalaxisrangingfrom right to left. And in this case, too, the newcontraposition has taken the form of a differentinterpretation of the balance of powers that should beestablished between the European and national in-stitutions. Can European integration be regarded as afurther historical cleavage—in addition to thosesingledoutbytheLipset–Rokkanmodel—destinedtoproduce another political structural cleavage? If so,the cleavage theory might be updated, this timebridging the European and American experiences.1989
ages: Political 

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