Review: Political Parties: The Functional Approach and the Structural Alternative

Author(s): William R. Schonfeld
Source: Comparative Politics, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Jul., 1983), pp. 477-499
Published by: Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/421854
Accessed: 13/10/2010 13:07
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at
http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=phd.
Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,
preserve and extend access to Comparative Politics.
http://www.jstor.org
Review Article
Political Parties: The Functional
Approach
and the Structural Alternative
William R.
Schonfeld
Samuel H.
Barnes,
Party Democracy:
Politics in an Italian Socialist Federa-
tion,
New Haven and
London,
Yale
University Press,
1967.
Anthony King,
"Political Parties in Western Democracies: Some
Sceptical
Reflections,"
Polity
2
(Winter 1969):
111-41.
Kay
Lawson, ed.,
Political Parties and
Linkage:
A
Comparative Perspective,
New Haven and
London,
Yale
University Press,
1980.
Richard
Rose,
Do Parties Make a
Difference?
Chatham, N.J.,
Chatham Pub-
lishing
House,
1980.
The intermediate character of
parties
and the
importance
of their real or al-
leged
roles in the
operation
of a
political system explain
in
large part
the
prop-
ensity
to define and
study parties
in terms of their effects. Since the advent of
mass
suffrage, political parties
have been intermediaries between the
citizenry
and the
government. They
are intermediate
spatially,
no matter how a
society
may
be divided
vertically
and
hierarchically. They
are intermediate in
size,
containing only
a
segment
of the entire
population
but a more inclusive
seg-
ment than the
government.
As Roberto Michels noted:
The
political party, etymologically
and
logically,
can embrace
only
a
part
of the
citizenry, politically organized.
The
party
is a
fraction;
it is
pars pro
toto.'
Recently
Giovanni Sartori
reemphasized
this
point:
"A
party
is
part-of-a-
whole."2
The
study
of
parties
has been molded
by
their intermediate
qual-
ity.
Their location in the
polity
between the
general public
and the
government
has fixed attention on two critical
brokerage
functions
they appear
to
perform.
On the one
hand,
parties
seem to offer voters a means to make sense out of
and
organize, what,
without their
presence,
would be a chaotic and incom-
prehensible
choice
among competing
candidates for
public
office. As Leon D.
477
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
Epstein suggested: "Structuring
the vote is the minimum function of a
politi-
cal
party
in a
modern democracy."3 Although
the
terminology
is
contempo-
rary,the argument
is not. A. Lawrence
Lowell, writing
in
1913, argued:
"Their
[political parties']
essential function and the true reason for their exis-
tence,
is
bringing public opinion
to a focus and
framing
issues for the
popular
verdict."4
Similarly,
Edward
McChesney Sait,
twenty-five years later,
ar-
gued:
"the function of
parties
[is]
to consolidate
public opinion
in advance of
the election." 5
On the other
hand,
parties specifically
seek control over the
government.
This function of a
political party
has been considered central
by
countless
scholars, including
Michels and
Duverger, although
not in their
major
works.
...
the
general
orientation of the
political party,
whether in its
personal
or im-
personal aspect,
is that of
Machtstreben
(striving
for
power).6
..* political parties
have as their
primary goal
the
conquest
of
power
or a share
in its
exercise.7
The intermediate character of
parties explains
the research focus on effects.
This
emphasis
so dominates the field that the
explicit
definitions of
parties
in-
variably identify
what
they
do or seek to
accomplish
within the
political sys-
tem and
ignore
what
they
are or what
special activity
occurs within them:
The term
"party"
will be
employed
to
designate
associations,
membership
in
which rests on
formally
free recruitment. The end to which its
activity
is de-
voted is to secure
power
within an
organization
for its leaders in order to attain
ideal or material
advantages
for its active members.
(Weber)'
A
political party
is first of all an
organized attempt
to
get power.
Power is here
defined as control of the
government. (Schnattschneider)9
A
party
is a
group
whose members
propose
to act in concert in the
competitive
struggle
for
political power. (Schumpeter)1o
... any group,
however
loosely organized, seeking
to elect
governmental
office-holders under a
given
label.
(Epstein)1
A
political party
is a formal
organization
whose
self-conscious, primary purpose
is to
place
and maintain in
public
office
persons
who will
control,
alone or in
coalition,
the
machinery
of
government.
(LaPalombara)12
...
organizations
that
pursue
a
goal
of
placing
their avowed
representatives
in
government positions. (Janda)"3
These definitions
represent
the
long
and well-established functional thrust
of the entire field: the
explicit
definitions select a
single function
or
goal
as the
delimiting
trait of a
political party"4
478
William R.
Schonfeld
Scholars who conceive of
parties
in functional terms do not
necessarily ig-
nore
activity
inside the
party.
But it is
given importance only
insofar as it in-
fluences the
performance
of
party
roles.
There is an alternative
conceptualization
of
parties,
one that views
them,
in
the first
instance,
as
structures,
settings
in which
activity
takes
place.
For William Graham Sumner
parties
are
important
because
they
"are con-
stantly
forced" to
practice "antagonistic cooperation,"
which is "the most
productive
form of combination in
high
civilization." "It consists in the com-
bination of two
persons
or
groups
to
satisfy
a
great
common interest while
minor
antagonisms
of interest which exist between them are
suppressed."15i
This
interpretation
identifies as the most salient element of a
party activity
that
occurs
among
its members. As
such,
it is at total variance with the
prevailing
definitions in the field.
The difference seems to be associated with the
starting point
for the schol-
ar's reflection.
Sumner,
a
sociologist, began
with an
attempt
to understand
how
people
behave toward one another. His basic concern was with social re-
lations. Institutions then are
settings
in which
activity
takes
place.
In
turn,
he
did not
inquire
about what
parties
do but
only
about what
people
do in
parties.
In
sharp
contrast,
political
scientists focus on
polities
and thus
emphasize
how
other
organizations
affect the
political
system.16
They begin
their reflections
with the institutions of the
nation-state;
as a
result,
their initial
questions-
what do
parties
do?
why
should
they
be studied?
why
do
they
matter?--lead
to
definitions of the
subject
matter and
subsequent
research that centers on the
intermediary
character of
parties,
their roles and functions.
The
type
of work
practiced by
Sumner is not
entirely foreign
to basic in-
quiry
on
political parties.
In
fact,
the
single
most
important study
in the field
adopted
such a
perspective.
Roberto Michels's Political Parties: A
Sociolog-
ical
Study of
the
Oligarchical
Tendencies
of
Modern
Democracy
treats the
party
as a
setting
for
activity
and not as a structure that affects its environ-
ment. The focus is on
describing
and
explaining
the
organizational
life of so-
cialist, working-class parties
not because of its
consequences
for
structuring
the vote or
obtaining governmental power
but because
. .
the
appearance
of
oligarchical phenomena
in the
very
bosom of the revolu-
tionary parties
is a conclusive
proof
of the existence of immanent
oligarchical
tendencies in
every
kind of human
organization
which strives for the attainment
of definite ends."7
Michels made his decision to treat the
party
as a
setting
for
activity
in
spite
of the fact that the
original
stimulus for his
study apparently
came from Max
Weber who
explicitly
advocated
examining
its effects:
479
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
Weber
suggested
to Robert Michels that
he
study
the
structure of
the
German
Social Democratic
party
in order to understand the
impact
of the
political par-
ties created to mobilize the masses in electoral democracies on the economic and
social structures.'8
The
importance
of Michels's work
argues
for a
perspective
that treats the
party
as a structured
setting
for human
activity.
This
point
is further em-
phasized by
the factors
surrounding
his research decision: Michels followed
Weber's recommendation for a research site but
rejected
the
proposed
functionalism.
On these
grounds
we could advocate a
Sumner-type approach
rather than
the functional one so
prevalent
in the
discipline.
But such a
preference
would
impugn
an entire
scholarly
tradition
dating
back to Max Weber.
Moreover,
since
parties
do
clearly occupy
an intermediate
position
in the
polity, high-
lighting
this in our definitions and research seems
reasonable,
not controver-
sial.
Consequently, only
evidence of serious
problems posed by
the functional
conceptualization
would warrant
rejecting
this
approach.
The
Inadequacies
of the Functional
Approach
The
problems posed by conceiving
of the
political party
in terms of its effects
on the
surrounding
environment are serious. The most
striking
feature of re-
cent functional literature is the
proclivity
of its authors to conclude that
parties
really
do not
play
the role that was
investigated.
To
put
this
point
in its baldest
terms,
a researcher identifies a function
(or
a set of
functions)
of
parties
viewed as crucial for the
political system;
evidence and
analysis
lead to the
conclusion that this function
(these functions)
is
(are)
not
performed
or not
performed
well. Such
findings,
of
course,
are
significant; they identify ways
in which
parties
do not matter or do not matter
very
much.
However,
what is
to be made of an
approach
whose hallmark is the
discovery
that the
phenom-
ena it selects for
study systematically
do not matter
very
much?
To make matters
worse,
the same scholars who
investigate
the critical
functions that are not
performed
or are
performed poorly
tend to conclude that
parties,
for unstated or
amorphous
reasons,
are still
important.
To illustrate this rather
bewildering
state of
affairs,
consider first two recent
books,
Richard Rose' s Do Parties Make a
Difference? and,
more
briefly, Kay
Lawson's Political Parties and
Linkage,
and then
Anthony King's
older,
more
general,
and
quite telling
review of the
field,
"Political Parties in Western
Democracies: Some
Sceptical
Reflections."
For Richard Rose the basic
problem
is to determine whether and how
par-
ties matter in
determining governmental policies.
The United
Kingdom
is the
480
William R. Schonfeld
research site. Since the
regime
is
typically
viewed as a
prime example
of
"party
government"--the
MPs vote
strictly along party
lines and each
gen-
eral election tends to
place governing responsibility
in the hands of a
single
party-we
would
expect parties
to have
significant
influence over
policy.
Rose's
findings
are
stimulating precisely
because
they
are
contrary
to this ex-
pectation.
He
begins by contrasting
the
adversary
with the consensus model of
party
politics:
The
conventional model of British
government
assumes that
parties
are adver-
saries. The Conservative and Labour
parties
are meant to
oppose
each other in
parliamentary
debates and at
general
elections,
and to
govern
the
country
differ-
ently
when each has its turn in office. The Conservative and Labour
parties,
while
opposing
each other in Parliament and in
general
elections,
are
expected
to
agree
about the fundamentals of
governance
and not to differ
substantially
in
their
policies.
When each succeeds the other
office,
major policies
are assumed
to remain much
the
same.
(p.
19)
He tests these basic models
against
five distinct features of the
practice
of
party government
in Britain.
First,
do the Labour and Conservative
parties
follow an
adversary
or a consensus course when
competing
for the voters' al-
legiance?
Overall,
the test of elections tends to
uphold
the Consensus rather than the Ad-
versary
model of
party politics ....
(T)he parties disagree
about which team of
politicians
is best suited to
carry
out the
broadly
consensual wishes of
the
elec-
torate.
(pp.
50-51)
Second,
to what extent do
parties
act on their manifestos once
they
are
elected to office? Once
again,
the
adversary
model is not
upheld. Although
parties
make
specific policy
commitments in their manifestos and
then,
when
elected,
tend to
carry
out most of these
commitments,
the
specific prescrip-
tions advanced
by
Labour and Conservative "are not so much
contradicting
each other as
'talking past'
each other. ...
Party
manifestos are not so much in
conflict about how to resolve
commonly perceived problems
as
they
are
statements of
differing priorities
for
government
action."
(p. 68) Moreover,
the
priorities
enunicated are not
distinctively
and
systematically partisan.
Third,
do the
parties
act in an adversarial or a consensual manner when
they
face each other in Parliament? In
spite
of
adversary procedures
in the House of
Commons,
legislation
shows both
parties tending
to conform to the consensus
model.
481
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
There were no
significant
divisions
against
the
government
on 78
percent
of
government
bills.... There is
normally
Consensus on all
subjects
for
legisla-
tion.... It is rare for an
opposition
to
give
overt consent to
government policy
by actually voting
with it. This is not
necessary; avoiding moving
a division is
enough.... [Finally]
a
newly
installed
government repeals
little of the
legisla-
tion enacted
by
its
predecessor. (pp. 79, 81, 86, 87)
Fourth,
Rose considers the
topic
of
government reorganization.
In this do-
main Labour and Conservative are
frequently
adversaries. Conflict exists and
is centered
explicitly
on the distinct interests of each
party.
Such interests are
challenged,
for
example, by legislation
to
change
electoral laws. Each side
asks "What's in it for us"
(p. 105);
the answers
typically
differ and with them
the
responses
to the
given
issue.
Fifth,
which model fits the
way
in which
parties
handle the
economy?
After
a rather extensive
analysis
of available economic
statistics,
Rose concludes:
Neither
sophisticated intelligence
nor determined
ignorance
has been
capable
of
directing
the
economy along
lines that both Conservative and Labour leaders
agree
are desirable. Secular forces
stronger
than
politicians
and economists
put
together
have been the
principal
determinant of the state of the British
economy
since 1957. This
point
is demonstrated
by
the fact
that, statistically,
in all nine
graphic
tests in this
chapter
a
significnt
secular trend was
found,
which on aver-
age explains
75
percent
of the total
change
in the
period. (p. 139)
Drawing together
the
insights
obtained into British
party politics
from his
examination of these five domains of
partisan activity,
Rose concludes:
Yes, parties
do make a difference in the
way
Britain is
governed-but
the dif-
ferences are not as
expected.
The differences in office between one
party
and
another are less
likely
to arise from
contrasting
intentions than from the
exigen-
cies of
government. (p.
141)
In other
words,
although
the "beliefs and interests" of Conservative and
Labour
politicians differ,
their behavior is
quite
similar. There is evolution
over time but as a function of secular
trends,
not as a function of which
party
is in office.
"Necessity
rather than
ideological
consensus is the
explanation
for similarities in behavior."
(p.
145)
Rose's
argument
is
stimulating.
In contrast to
prevailing interpretations
of
British
politics,
he
depicts
a rather consensual
agreement,
which deem-
phasizes
the
importance
of
parties
in
determining
the
policies
to be im-
plemented. Despite
the mass of evidence marshaled in this concise and well-
written
book,
the
argument
is not
fully convincing.19
If
my purpose
were to
analyze
the
policy-formation process
in
Britain,
the role of
parties
in that
482
William R. Schonfeld
process,
or the nature of
politics
in the United
Kingdom,
a detailed and careful
assessment of Rose's
findings
would be needed.20
However,
my purpose
is
different: to elucidate the
ways
in which
parties
have been studied and indicate
directions in which future research
may
be
profitably
oriented.
From this
perspective
the most remarkable feature of Rose's book is the
discovery
that British
parties really
do not
perform
a
key
role in
shaping gov-
ernmental
policy.
This
means,
to return to Rose's functionalist
conception,
that
parties
do not matter for the
phenomena
that matter.
Surely, they
nomi-
nate candidates and
participate
in
elections,
and we could view them as
"teams
competing
for electoral
victory,"
but to do so denies
"any
further
purpose
to
parties"
and "reduces" elections to
"popularity
contests" or
votes "of confidence
(or
no
confidence)
in the relative
competence
of alterna-
tive teams of
politicians." (p. 10)
For Rose such a
perspective (extrapolated
from
Schumpeter)
is
denigrating
and
simplistic.
Yet,
paradoxically,
this is
precisely
the
only
view of
parties
that can be drawn from his research. A
careful
scrutiny
of the British context and of Rose's data
might
call into
ques-
tion his
analysis
but would not alter the fact that the hallmark of his
functionalist
study
was the
discovery
that
parties
do
not,
according
to his in-
terpretation
of the
findings, perform
the role that he thinks matters most.
Another recent
book,
Political Parties and
Linkage:
A
Comparative
Per-
spective,
ed.
Kay
Lawson, analyzes
the role of
parties
"as
agencies
for
forg-
ing
links between citizens and
policymakers."
This function is
significant
be-
cause it
"distinguishes parties"
from all other
public
and
private
institutions.
(p.
3)
For
Lawson,
linkage
is the
defining
trait of
political parties. They per-
form
many
other
functions,
but no other
private
or
public
institution serves to
connect the members of a
polity
with their
government.
Hence the
special
im-
portance
of
parties.
The volume contains studies of four
types
of
linkage: participatory linkage
in which
parties
"serve as
agencies through
which citizens can
participate
in
government"; policy-responsive linkage
in which
parties
"serve as
agencies
for
ensuring
that
government
officials will be
responsive
to the views of
rank-and-file
voters";
linkage by
reward in which
parties
"act
primarily
as
channels for the
exchange
of votes for
favors";
and directive
linkage
in which
parties
"are used
by governments
as aids to maintain coercive control over
their
subjects." (pp.
13-14)
The
separate
articles in the volume are case studies of distinct
empirical
contexts
ranging
from Los
Angeles party
activists
(by
Dwaine
Marvick)
to
Kenyan legislators
and their constituents
(by
Joel D. Barkan and John J.
Okumu). They
examine distinct
types
of
linkage
and do not even share a
common theoretical or
conceptual
framework. Each does address a
linkage
topic,
but the
focus,
as well as the
definitions
and
operationalizations,
varies
according
to the
specific
author's
preferences.
483
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
As the
editor,
Lawson has done
yeoman
service in
integrating
these
sepa-
rate
pieces
into a coherent whole. In her
introductory essay,
she teases out a
series of
general
theoretical and
empirical
conclusions from the case studies.
Most
important
for a book on the
linkage
function:
What do
they
[the
hypotheses extrapolated
from the case
studies]
suggest
is the
role of
parties
as
agencies
of
democracy,
that
is,
as
agencies
that
help
citizens
influence the
processes
of
government (by any
of the forms of
linkage
noted)?
Most of the conclusions are
negative.
Parties cannot insure that citizens' views
will influence
policymaking processes by choosing
as leaders the socioeco-
nomic
peers
of those citizens.
If
the elected
representatives
of
parties
are
capa-
ble of
influencing policy processes
at
all, they probably
do so at the
expense
of
participatory linkage: learning
to function
cooperatively
with leaders of other
parties may
well mean
learning
to
forget
commitments to the voters.
(p.
21)
Succinctly put, parties
do not
perform
the
linkage
role,
the
very
function
identified for
scrutiny
because of its
special significance.
What conclusion
should we draw from the
finding
that
political parties
do not
accomplish
their
role of
connecting
the
citizenry
with the
government?
Lawson's
argument is,
I
think, unsatisfactory:
Parties claim to serve as
agencies
of
linkage
because that is one
way
to maintain
legitimacy,
to
capture
the votes which are their
currency
in the markets of
power.
To the extent that
they
ever
operate
in a fashion to enhance citizen con-
trol of the
government, they
do so because citizens have made it clear that
only
thus are their votes to be secured. The
responsibility
for
making
and
keeping
parties
useful intermediaries can never rest more than
partially
with the more
idealistic of their own activists and leaders. In the final
analysis, only
an in-
formed and assertive
citizenry
can
compel parties-or any
other
organiza-
tion-to
adopt
structures and
practices necessary
to
aggregate
their
interests;
to
recruit
responsible, electable,
and effective
leadership;
and to transform rea-
soned wishes into
public policy. (pp.
23-24)
Lawson thus
lays
the blame for the
parties'
failure to
perform
the
linkage
function
squarely
on the electorate. This is a rather odd conclusion since the
connective role was one that Lawson and her coauthors claimed for
parties.
Maybe they erred
in
attributing special
and
singular importance
to
linkage.
If
the editor had
argued,
much as Rose
had,
that
parties
should be
expected
to
link the
citizenry
with their
policymakers
but do
not,
then the
problem
of
why
study parties
would remain. At
least, however,
explicit questions
about the
utility
of
researching linkages
would have been raised. But Lawson wants to
argue
for the
importance
of
linkage
as a future
perspective
for
party inquiry
while
simultaneously demonstrating
that this function is not
actually per-
formed; this contradiction cannot be
accepted.
484
William R.
Schonfeld
Rose and Lawson
suggest
that an
important
function of
political parties
is
not
being
fulfilled.
Knowledge
and
understanding progress
not
only through
learning
what does
happen
but also
by showing
that what was
intuitively
rea-
sonable does not occur. From this
persepctive findings
that demonstrate that
governmental
decisions are not much affected
by
which of two "adversarial"
parties
is in
power
or that democratic
parties
do not link the
citizenry
to their
policymakers
are
quite significant.
Even if the data from which Rose and
Lawson draw their conclusions are not
entirely
reliable or are
subject
to con-
flicting interpretations,
are not their
arguments important
additions to the lit-
erature?
The two books are
noteworthy
because
they challenge
some basic
assump-
tions about the functions
performed by parties.
Neither book
is, however,
path
breaking
in this
respect.
More than a decade
ago, Anthony King published
an
incisive review article of the field. He called into
question
the
importance
of
political parties
in
performing any
of the roles attributed to them.
King
focused
attention
on six
alleged
basic functions
parties perform:
structuring
the
vote,
the
integration
and the mobilization of the mass
public,
the recruitment of
political leaders,
the
organization
of
government,
the for-
mation of
public policy,
and the
aggregation
of interests. He
suggested
that
for each of these
functions,
political parties play
a
role,
often minimal but
by
no means the critical role.
Structuring
the vote
may
refer either to
"parties'
efforts to
persuade
voters
to
respond
to
particular party
labels" or to
"parties'
efforts to
persuade
citi-
zens to
adopt particular opinions." (p.
121)
Considering
the first
sense,
"in
most countries at most times the
major
electoral alliances are in
large part
party alignments." (p.
121)
When
King
turns to examine the second
sense,
he
discovers an absence of "'fit' between the
pattern
of
party opinion
and the
pattern
of mass
opinion." (p.
122)
A number of
examples
from the
1960s,
ranging
from Black alienation in the United States to student unrest in West
Germany
and France and the
development
of French Canadian
separatism,
suggest
that
parties may
fail to
play
a critical or an
important
role in
shaping
public opinion.
The
findings
on
integrationand
mobilization cast doubt on the
centrality
of
the
party's
role in
fulfilling
these functions. In
many (most?)
societies there
are
prevalent antiparty
norms;
and
"parties
can
hardly
be said to be
perform-
ing
a
positive integrative
function if there exists
widespread antipathy
or even
indifference towards them."
(p.
125) Next,
studies
examining
the
impact
of
party activity
on the mass
public suggest
that such
impact may
be
important,
but it is
severely
restricted and
only
touches a small
proportion
of the
popula-
tion.
King
concludes: "In
Europe
as in
America, party
is
likely
to remain one
important
factor in
political integration
and
mobilization;
in
Europe
as in
America it has never been the
only
one and it seems
possible
that its
impor-
tance is
declining." (p. 128)
485
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
Turning
to the function of
leadership
recruitment.
King points
out that
many
critical
government
decision makers are not elected officeholders but
rather are
appointed
executive
officials,
senior civil
servants, military
offic-
ers,
judges,
and so forth. Parties
play only
a
very
limited
role,
if
any,
in de-
termining
who the incumbents will be.
Moreover,
even in connection with re-
cruitment to elective
office,
the role of the
party
is at least
problematic
and
may
in
large part
be attributable to the "self-recruitment" of individuals.
The function of the
organization
of
government
refers to the
capacity
of
parties,
as coherent
entities,
to exercise their
authority
over the various ele-
ments of
government.
Neither
European parties,
with their
greater
cohesion,
nor American ones have "been able to extend their
grasp
over the executive
and administration
and,
for
example, publicly-owned
industries."
(p.
134)
The role of
policy
formation can be conceived of as the
relationship
be-
tween
party
and
electorate,
as Lawson
did,
or as between
party
and
govern-
ment,
as Rose did.
King pays
attention to the second sense and concludes:
Organized party generally
remains one of the forces with which Western
gov-
ernments must contend in the formation of
public policy;
but it has never been
the
only
one,
and there is reason to
suppose
that in
many
countries in the late
1960's it is not even a
major
one.
(p.
137)
Considering
the final
function,
King
asks: "Are
parties
in fact the
major
inter-
est
aggregators
in the west?"
The
answer,
irrespective
of whether
aggregation
is used in its accommodation of
interest
sense,
or in its
general-policy
alternatives
sense,
would seem to be
"no'"-that the interest
aggregation function,
like most of the others discussed
here,
is
performed by
a
variety
of structures of which the
political party
is
only
one and not
necessarily
the most
important. (p.
139)
What do these
findings
mean for the
study
of
political parties?
At the
"very
least,"
we should be
skeptical
about the
catalog
of functions considered and
"the
great importance
attached to
parties
in
large segments
of the
political
sci-
ence literature."
(p.
140)
Research should be reoriented.
First,
the function in
question
must be "defined
precisely
and in detail."
Second,
the focus of
study
"should almost
certainly
be on the function and not on the
party."
Last,
"what is needed above all else are
attempts
to
specify
the conditions under
which various
political parties
and other
political
structures will or will not
perform
the various
political
functions."
(p.
141)
King's argument merges
well with and
perhaps
was even nurtured
by
the
context of the times in which he wrote. There was a
growing depolitization
of
politics among
students of
political science,
a trend that has since been muted
but still
persists.
The
end-of-ideology
debate and the notion of the catch-all
486
William R. Schonfeld
party suggested
that
political
conflict is not
nearly
as
important
or as intense in
democracies as it used to be or as it is
imagined
to
be.21 Political
parties
are
one
purveyor, perhaps
the basic
purveyor,
of
political
conflict.
King's
claim
that
they
do not matter as much as it is sometimes
intuitively
or
explicitly
al-
leged
fits the mood of
depolitization.
There is a contradiction in
King's argument.
It is
puzzling
but instructive.
He
begins
with the
assumption
that institutions matter because of the effects
they have,
the basic axiom of
any
functional
perspective.
He discovers that
parties
do not
perform
or do not
extensively perform
the functions that were
identified as
being
critical to their role in the
political system.
He concludes
that
inquiry
should focus on
functions,
not on
structures,
including
those of
parties,
and should assess the conditions
determining
the
type
of institution
that will
perform
each function
effectively.
The
logic
of the
argument
is shattered
by introducing
the idea that
parties
must be studied in
any
case.
The
experience
of all Western societies
suggests that,
where there is
any degree
of freedom and where
power
is both worth
having
and hard to
get,
men and
women will combine to form
political parties.
The
parties they
form are certain
to
play
a
large part
in almost
every process
of democratic
politics,
the
electoral,
the
legislative,
the
administrative,
even the
judicial.
If the
study
of
political par-
ties did not
exist,
it would
clearly
have to be invented.
(p. 141)
This
incongruous statement,
reinventing
the
just
eliminated
explicit study
of
political parties,
is
important
because it
suggests
reasons
why
the functional
approach may
be
inadequate. First,
to
develop King's point, although parties
may
not
play
the critical role in
performing every
function attributed to
them,
they
do
play
a role in
performing
a whole host of functions.
They
do
many
things,
and even if in each arena of feasible
activity
their contribution is not
necessarily
the most critical
one,
the number of arenas in which
they perform
make them central to an
understanding
of
politics
in the
contemporary
nation-state. The functional
approach,
whether it examines a
single
role of
special significance
or a series of
functions,
runs the risk of
underestimating,
perhaps
even
overlooking,
the
party's
cumulative contribution to
political
ac-
tivity.
Second,
all the roles associated with
parties
have
surely
been fulfilled at
some time in a
given polity
and have been
ignored
in others. Parties have the
potential
to
perform
each of these functions even if in
given
concrete cases
they
do not do so. This
potential
is an
important
factor in
understanding
the
significance
of
political parties;
it
is overlooked
by
the functionalists.
Third,
the
incongruous
element in
King's
conclusion is entailed
by
the
very
approach
he used, which attributes
significance
to both structures and the ef-
487
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
fects
they
have on the
surrounding
environment. It
posits
that social and
po-
litical institutions matter because of the roles
they perform
in the
polity.
King's
evidence and his
general
conclusion
suggest
that
parties
need not and
should not be studied
directly.
This deduction
challenges
the
very approach
that
guided
his
inquiry. By inserting
into his conclusion the
paradoxical
asser-
tion that
parties
as such must be
subjects
in
inquiry, King
mutes this
major
contradiction and at the same time reduces the
potential controversy
that
would surround an
explicit
call to
political
scientists not to
study parties.
The
contradiction,
of
course,
is not resolved. If
anything,
this
particular
attempt
to
camouflage
it
highlights
the
problem
not
only
within
King's
article
but also within the extensive literature on
parties
informed
by
a functional
ap-
proach.
Research indicates that
parties
do not
perform
or do not
perform
well
the functions
they
were
expected
to fulfill. One deduction that cannot
properly
be drawn and
yet
is drawn from these
findings
is that
parties
should continue
to be a focal
point
of
inquiry.
What deductions should be drawn? How can the contradiction be resolved
or avoided? Three alternative remedies can be considered.
1.
King's general
conclusion should be
accepted.
The functions
supposedly
performed by parties
matter
most;
these are what led scholars in the first in-
stance to attribute
importance
to
parties. Inquiry
should be
organized
around
these functions to determine how
they
are
being
fulfilled in different
polities
and
by
what social and
political
institutions. Parties should enter the re-
searcher's field of vision
only
to the extent that
they play
a role in ac-
complishing
the
prescribed
functions.
This solution is
problematic
not
only
because the
thought
of
eliminating
the
explicit study
of
parties
from the
political
scientist's
panoply
of research con-
cerns is
disconcerting.
Parties
may
not be critical to the
performance
of
any
specific political
function,
but their
very
existence
may
have a crucial overall
effect on the
polity.
In
particular, "democracy"
has never
developed
without
political parties.
Schattschneider's
unequivocal
statement that "modern
democracy
is unthinkable save in terms of
parties"
is
basically
exact.22 Al-
though
we can "think" in
just
about
any
terms,
we cannot
point
to a
single
empirical
case of modern
political democracy
in which
parties
are not
pre-
sent.23
Thus a field of
study
reoriented toward the functions
purportedly
ful-
filled
by parties
runs the risk
by analogy
of
carefully attending
to some trees
while
ignoring
the forest.
2. The
problem
is not with the functional
perspective
but rather with its
operationalization.
Scholars have failed to
identify properly
the roles
per-
formed
by political parties.
As a
result,
the
implications
drawn from the
gathered
data for
redirecting inquiry
are unfounded. Work is needed to de-
velop
a better
application
of functionalism to the
study
of
parties.
This
remedy may
be correct. Yet the roles selected
by
researchers-struc-
488
William R. Schonfeld
turing
the
vote,
shaping public policy,
and so forth-seem to be the ones
we
could
reasonably expect parties
to
perform,
and it is difficult to
imagine what
are the
important
functions that have
escaped attention.
3. The
problem
stems
directly
from the functional
approach
and can
only
be
remedied
by employing
a
perspective
that involves a different
emphasis.
Specifically, parties
should be studied as
settings
in which
activity
takes
place.
Earlier I
suggested
tile
plausibility
of such an
approach
and indicated
how Michels's seminal work lent it
credibility.
The
empirical problems posed
by conceiving
of
parties
in terms of their effects warrant
sketching
out how
such an
approach
can be
applied
to the
study
of
parties.
The Structural
Remedy
Viewing political parties
as
settings
for
activity
does not entail a denial of the
various functions
they
have been
presumed
to fulfill. Parties
may aggregate
interests,
transmit
ideology, shape policy, forge
links between the
citizenry
and the
government,
and so forth. But
parties
do not
necessarily perform any
of these roles. The
settings perspective posits
that the
"essence,"
"exis-
tence,"
or
"meaning"
of
political parties
is not
captured by any
one function
or even the full
gamut
of functions attributed to them.
Political
parties
are first and foremost
(particular
kinds
of)
persistent
col-
lectivities of
people
with a more or less
extensively
shared set of
goals.
The
party
is distinct from all other
collectivities,
including family, school,
work
place,
interest
group,
civic action
group, military,
and
church,
in that its
prin-
cipal
claim is to contain within its
membership
the
personnel capable
of
gov-
erning
the nation
(either
alone
or,
if
necessary,
in association with other
par-
ties).
This
conceptualization
designates
a
comparable
set of
groupings
to those
conventionally placed
under the rubric of
political parties.
It does not restrict
attention to collectivities with a reasonable chance to obtain
partial
or full
control over a nation's
government.
Power-striving parties-the
American
Democrats,
the British
Conservatives,
the French
Gaullists,
the
Spanish
So-
cialists,
et
al.-are,
of
course,
included within the definition's
purview.
But
community parties-nonviable
"contenders" for
power
such as the American
Peace and Freedom
party
and the French Unified Socialist
party (P.S.U.)-
are also
included;
they
too claim the
capacity
to
govern.
Most
important,
the
settings conceptualization
does not ascribe to or with-
hold from
parties any special
roles in the
polity.
In contrast to the
prevailing
functionalist
view,
it delimits two interconnected directions for
inquiry:
the
organizational
sociology
of
parties (to
appreciate
both their
particularity
as a
species and their similarity to other members of the genus, human collec-
489
Comparative
Politics
July 1983
tivities)
and the
party
as a
training ground
for
governmental positions (since
parties
claim to contain
among
their
membership
the
personnel capable
of
providing political leadership
for the
nation).
A consideration of the
existing
literature that treats
parties
as
organizations
suggests
an even more focused
strategy
of
inquiry.24
Michels's work
argues
for
concentrating
attention on the
elites,
the
"management,"
of
parties,
and
against discarding
a
sociology
of
organizations approach
for a
sociology
of
political party organization.
But
many
of his
followers,
including Barnes,
El-
dersveld,
and
Duverger,
in their revisions of his
perspective,
have
challenged
one or the other or both of these basic
propositions.
These
modifications,
paradoxically, highlight
the wisdom of the
original
formulation.
Roberto Michels viewed the
political party
as an
organization.
His book
drew on the
experiences
of the
early
social democratic
parties
to demonstrate
the
impossibility
for
organizations-no
matter how
strongly
their members
are committed
intellectually
and
philosophically
to
democracy-to escape
in
their
operation
from "the iron law of
oligarchy,"
the universal
tendency
within
organizations
for control to be exercised
by
those "at the
top,"
the
leaders.
Michels did not
actually provide
an
organizational sociology
of either
par-
ties or their elites.
Instead,
he used
political parties
as
testing
sites for a
par-
ticular
principle
of how
people
behave in
any collectivity.
His
inquiry
em-
phasized
that
parties
are
organizations
and that in all
organizations,
the
elites,
to use a
very
mild
formulation,
are
disproportionately
influential. As the ar-
gument unraveled,
Michels could have but did not cast
light
on
many
critical
features of
party activity directly
related to his basic thesis. To take one exam-
ple,
he did not examine
authority
relations between
strata,
not even the issue
of the leaders' directiveness. These omissions were not caused
by
carelessness
but rather
by
the
analytical problem
that drove the
inquiry.
Political Parties: A
Sociological Study of
the
Oligarchical
Tendencies
of
Modern
Democracy
indicates one
type
of research
compatible
with the set-
tings approach: drawing
on the
operation
of
political parties
to test more
gen-
eral
propositions
about collective human behavior. This method
emphasizes
that
parties
are
organizations.
Even
though
it does not
provide
an
organiza-
tional
sociology,
it
suggests
that such an
approach
would be a
logical
further
development
of the basic
perspective.
Michels's
findings urge
that were an
organizational sociology
of
political parties
to be
undertaken,
the most
appro-
priate strategy
of
inquiry
would be one that centers attention on elites. If the
national
leadership
of a
party
assumes a determinant
part
in
shaping
and di-
recting
the
party's
activities,
then a research concentration on this stratum-of
course,
not
ignoring
its relations with lower strata-would be most
appropri-
ate.
The
proclaimed
heirs to Michels
curiously
tend not
only
to
ignore
the
logi-
490
William R.
Schonfeld
cal extension of his work but also to undermine and
challenge
these two basic
dicta. For
example,
the
driving
force behind
Maurice
Duverger's
now classi-
cal
study
was the search for a
general theory
of
political parties.25
Such a
goal
directly
contradicts the notion that
parties
are
organizations
because it as-
sumes that
parties
are so different that
they require
a
special theory
in order to
understand them. A
general theory
of
complex organizations, including,
for
example, political parties,
work
places,
and
hospitals, may
be
attainable,26
but this would
preclude
the
very possibility
of a
general theory
of the
hospital,
the work
place,
or the
party. Succinctly put, if,
as Michels
thought, parties
are
a
specific type
of social
institution,
they may
be too narrow in
scope
to serve
as a basis for
constructing
a
general theory.
Samuel Barnes's research on a
provincial
federation of the Italian Socialist
party (PSI)
is a
particularly good example
of how work conducted in the
Michelsian tradition
unsuccessfully
strives to
deny
the
organizational
and
elite-centered features of
party
life. Barnes
squarely places
his
study
in the
context of
illuminating
the
relationship
between
democracy
and
party organi-
zation,
although revising
Michels's formulation
(Ch. 1).
His data are drawn
from interviews with rank-and-file members of a
particular
local federation of
the PSI. The
methodology
and its
consequent findings (providing
information
on the
political
attitudes and
personal
histories of a set of low-level
party
members)
are not relevant to
elucidating
Michels's thesis.
By
its
very
operationalization,
the research
rejects
elite-centered
study
and an
organiza-
tional
sociology
of the
party.
But are these conclusions
justified?
Barnes
points
out that the PSI is a
highly
centralized
party.
He
indicates,
for
instance,
the critical role
played by
the national
leaderships
of the factions in
developing
the alternative
policy programs presented
to
ordinary
rank-and-file
members. Basic
policy
and
important
decisions are
clearly
made
by
the na-
tional elite. But Barnes's research focuses on a local federation. Could the
data
gathered
at this level of
party activity
cast
light
on the issues addressed
by
Michels?
If,
following
Barnes's
logic, democracy
involves
influence,
does it
matter that rank-and-file members in a
specific
federation believe
they
have
influence,
and if in fact the
key
decisions are made at the national
level,
influ-
ence over what?
For Barnes the fundamental flaw in Michels's
conceptualization
was to
view the
party
as
(simply
another
type
of)
a
complex organization:
Michels' formulation of the
problem
of
organizational oligarchy
suffers from a
serious weakness: it
accepts
the
appropriateness
of the bureaucratic model for
the
study
of
political parties....
But a
political party
in a free
society
exhibits
characteristics that differentiate it
sharply
from
many
other formal
organiza-
tions.
(pp. 4-5)
491
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
Although
it is
surely
exact that the
political party
is not
indistinguishable
from
other
types
of
complex organizations,
it is also true that it is not different from
them in
every single respect.
The critical issue is: are the differences sufficient
to
require
a
special
theoretical
apparatus?
Barnes
identifies two basic traits
that,
in his
judgment,
limit the
application
of the "bureaucratic model" to the
political party. (pp.
6-7)
First and
foremost,
"perhaps
the most effective limitation on
oligarchy
in
political parties
within democracies is the
ability
of the
membership
to vote
with its
feet,
to become inactive or even to leave the
party." (p.
6)
As a
result,
the
elites,
dependent
on the labor and the enthusiasm of
volunteers,
cannot re-
ally
dismiss those who are their subordinates.
Second,
the leaders must often
work with
colleagues
and subordinates who
they
have not
personally
chosen,
and
they
must deal with situations over which
they
have little influence. In
conjunction
these two factors limit the amount of hierarchical control that can
be exerted.
Barnes concludes:
The student of
political parties consequently
needs to concentrate as much on
the
recipients
as on the wielders of
authority.
He should examine the decision to
participate,
the
expectations
and rewards associated with
participation,
and the
nature and limits of
authority
within the
organization.
He must stress
interper-
sonal
dynamics
as well as
the
formal
decision-making
structure.... Goal con-
flict,
muddled lines of
authority,
and
marginality
of
participation
render the
po-
litical
party,
at least the one under
study, quite
different from the
typical
Ameri-
can trade union.
(pp. 7, 8, 9)
Barnes's observations are exact. Yet the conclusion drawn from them-
parties
are in some fundamental
respect
different from other
complex organi-
zations-seems extreme
and,
in
part,
based on
incomplete
observation. Con-
sider,
for
example,
the notion that
parties
differ in the
capacity
of their mem-
bers to "vote with their feet." On the one
hand,
this
ignores
the contrast
within
political parties
between
"ordinary"
members who can, in fact,
quit
rather
easily (assuming they
do not have a
high degree
of
identity
with the
party)
and those who either hold or seek to hold
public
office. The latter cate-
gory
of individuals is rather
dependent
on the
party.
Whatever reservations
they might
entertain about the
processes
or
goals
at
any given
moment,
their
capacity
to
pack
their
bags
is constrained
by
their desire to rise to elected
pos-
itions in the
polity.
And this
group
need not constitute
only
a small fraction of
the
membership.
Note,
for
example,
that at least
during
the
past
five or six
years, approximately
20
percent
of the
membership
of the French Socialist
party (P.S.)
has
actually
held
public
office,
and
naturally
a much
larger pro-
portion
seeks such
positions.
On the other
hand,
the "freedom" to leave an
organization
cannot
logically
be construed to lead to more democracy,
influ-
492
William R.
Schonfeld
ence,
and control
by
subordinates. In
Exit,
Voice and
Loyalty
Albert
O.
Hirschman enunciates as a "central
point"
of this
powerful
and
convincing
theory
that: "The
presence
of the exit alternative can therefore tend to
atrophy
the
development of
the art
of
voice. "27 In other words,
the
facility
of the de-
parture
vitiates the
capacity
to seek internal
change
and
consequently
rein-
forces the elite's control over the
organization's operation.
The
very
observa-
tion from which Barnes draws
support
for his contention that
parties
are more
"democratic" than other
complex organizations,
from Hirschman's
perspec-
tive,
leads to a
greater capacity
for the
top leadership
to exert effective hierar-
chical control.
Barnes's conclusion is also fueled
by
an
exaggeration
of the characteristics
of other formal
organizations.
If we look
cross-culturally
at business enter-
prises,
at least at times when
unemployment
is not
severe,
employees
are
rarely
dismissed
(regardless
of their behavior on the
job). They
also have the
capacity
to leave their
jobs
and move on to
comparable positions
in other en-
terprises. Perhaps
this shift can even be more
easily
effected than
leaving
one
political party
to
join
another:
membership
in a
party
involves
symbolic
iden-
tity
with a
particular
view of the world that is not as
necessary
a trait of mem-
bership
in a
particular
work
place.28 Naturally, people may
well leave a
party
and not
join
another
one,
whereas a
person resigning
from one
enterprise
must
seek
employment
elsewhere. Yet with the
exception
of the casual
joiner
who
is
unlikely
to become a
party
activist,
it is not clear that the members'
capacity
to vote with their feet is
markedly greater
in the
political party
than in other
(voluntary)
formal
organizations.
From his
assumption
of a
special type
of
membership,
Barnes derives a
special
form of
authority relationship,
which
distinguishes
the
political party
from other
organizations.
For this
point,
he draws
inspiration
and
support
from
Eldersveld,
who he
quotes
at
length, including
the
following passage.
(p.
13)
The
political party
is thus to be visualized as a
"reciprocal
deference structure."
Contrary
to the bureaucratic and authoritarian models of social
organization,
the
party
is not a
precisely
ordered
system
of
authority
and influence from the
top
down, though
as a
"paper"
structure it
may give
this
appearance.
The
organi-
zation does not function
through
the issuance of directives from the
top
which
are
obeyed
without
question.
Rather,
there is tolerance of
autonomy,
local in-
itiative,
local inertia.29
This
image
of the distinct nature of the
political party
is
predicated
on an un-
realistic and artificial view of other
organizations being
much like
mythical
armies
composed
of obedient subordinates directed
completely by
autocratic
superordinates.
Few if
any organizations
in
any society (particularly
a
demo-
cratic one) operate
in the
way
that Eldersveld, seconded
by Barnes, ascribes to
493
Comparative
Politics July 1983
bureaucratic and authoritarian
organizations. Negotiation
between members
of distinct
strata,
local
initiative,
and local inertia are
widespread
features of
collective life.
Automatic,
unquestioned
obedience and the absence of au-
tonomy
are
very
rare.
Overall,
the
challenges
to Michels's
dicta,
which extend his work
through
a
special sociology
of
party organization
and a
deemphasis
on the
importance
of
elites,
are not
convincing.
Rather,
to
develop
the
settings perspective along
the lines
suggested by Michels,
an
apt
research
strategy
would seek an
organi-
zational
sociology
of elites.
Any organizational sociology may
attend to three basic
topics:
relations
within
strata,
relations between
strata,
and relations with other
groups.
An or-
ganizational sociology
of
party
elites would first draw attention to the follow-
ing
variables:
authority
relations
(participation, responsiveness,
influence
flows,
and
patterns
of
compliance) among
the members of the
top
national
leadership
and between them and other
segments
of the
party;
the bases and
the
degree
of cohesion and
division,
the climate of
everyday
human
relations,
the
decision-making process,
the motivational factors
leading
to commitments
of time and
energy,
and recruitment to
top leadership positions.
Such an or-
ganizational sociology
should also
provide insights
into the
party's
environ-
ment: the social milieu and networks of
party
leaders,
the extent and the na-
ture of their relations with the
press,
television,
and
radio,
as well as with the
government,
the administrative
apparatus
of the
state,
pressure groups,
and
other
political parties.
Gathering insights
into each of these
separate
variables
is,
in and of
itself,
a
worthwhile
project. Surprisingly,
we have
extraordinarily
limited information
on the
internal
operation
of national
party
elites. What is the
relationship
be-
tween the leader and the other members of the national elite? Do mass
parties
tend to be
democratic,
as
many politicians
claim,
or
oligarchical,
as Michels
argued,
or is
authority
exercised in a more monocratic manner?30 How di-
rective is the national
leadership?
Under what conditions are
they responsive
to
attempted
influence
by
local
party
leaders and the
general membership?
How does the
party leadership (the
divisiveness of which is
especially appa-
rent)
maintain cohesion?
Why
is it much more
prone
to establish
patterns
of
"antagonistic cooperation,"
to use Sumner's
term,
than the
management
of
other
organizations?
Is
partisan hostility
a function of the
degree
to which
leaders are embedded in
antagonistic, mutually
exclusive subcultures and
networks of contacts?31 These and
many
other unanswered
(often
unposed)
questions promise
to
provide important insights
into the
internal
operation
of a
political party.
Consider,
for
example,
one case that indicates how a focus on the
party
elite
may
enrich our
perspective
on a
phenomenon
that has not been
ignored.
Scholars have tended to
regard
the media as a transmission belt used
by
lead-
494
William R. Schonfeld
ers to convert or exercise influence over the "mass."132 The relations between
a
party
elite and the media are
significantly
more
complex
and involve at least
two additional
roles,
both
camouflaged
unless the
leadership
iself is a focal
point
of
inquiry.
First,
the
presence
or the absence of the
media,
as well as its
disposition
toward the
political
force
being
considered and its various fac-
tions,
has an influence over the
decision-making process
of the
party.
If a
party
is
being ignored,
to attract attention it
may try
to
stage
a "media
event,"
which in turn
may
have
important unanticipated
ramifications on
partisan
positions
taken in the future. Conflict within a
party
can be accentuated and
deepened
if the media
provide
a forum for
particular
factional leaders who
cannot resist the
temptation
to increase their
public exposure. Second,
in
spite
of the
conspiratorial image
of
politics,
it
may
well be that an
important seg-
ment of the elite of a
political party gathers
information about its own
party's
activities and decisions from the media.
(Research
that I have conducted on
the national
leaderships
of the French Gaullist and Socialist
parties
indicates
that this occurs
frequently.)
If
so,
this
provides
a
stimulating
base for reflec-
tion: what are the
consequences
for
organizational
life of a
pattern
of commu-
nication
among
leaders that is
dependent
on the
radio, television,
and the
press?
What does such a
pattern
of communication indicate about the deci-
sion-making process
within the national elite? What are the
psychological
ramifications for a member of the
top leadership
stratum to obtain information
about his
party's positions
and activities
through
the mass media?
A
synthesis
of the
basic,
discrete
organizational
variables
provides
a
gen-
eral
understanding
of the
operation
of the
party's
"national
government."
The
importance
and the
significance
of such
general practices
have been but
should not be underestimated. In
particular,
the established
patterns
of ex-
pectation, activity, interaction,
and behavior
among
members of the
party
elite and between them and other
groups
in their environment set
parameters
on and establish
precedents
for their behavior should
they
obtain control over
the state
apparatus.
In other
words,
membership
in the
party
elite serves as a
training ground
for
governmental position.
This
conception goes beyond
and differs from the notion that
governmental
leaders are recruited from
party
elites. The
training-ground
idea
agrees
with
Eldersveld's
telling
formulation that
parties
are "miniature
polities"33
but
more
importantly
and more
specifically suggests
that there
may
be a
type
of
symbiosis
between
leadership
in the
party
and in the
government.
Member-
ship
in the national
party
elite
may
well be
preparation
for
parallel positions
in
the
nation,
which
shapes
and forms such future behavior. The case of the
French Socialist
party
is almost
ideal-typical:
the first
secretary, Frangois
Mitterrand,
is now
president
of the
Republic;
the man who for a
long
time was
the PS's number two
leader,
Pierre
Mauroy,
is
prime
minister;
the third
potentate
of the
party,
Gaston Defferre, is now the most
powerful
minister of
495
Comparative
Politics July
1983
the
government;
the leaders of the
major
non-Mitterrandist
"factions,"
Jean-Pierre Chevenement and Michel
Rocard,
hold the
special
title of minister
of
state;
and the
all-important
staff of the
Elysee
is directed
by long-standing
associates, collaborators,
and friends of
Francois
Mitterrand. Such
examples
could be cited ad nauseum:
membership
in the elite of the PS and relations
with the first
secretary
served as a
training ground
for
leadership
of the nation.
Alternatively, membership
in a
party's
national elite
may
more or less
ex-
tensively
be derivative from
governmental
service. To remain with a French
example,
this was to a
large
extent the case for the
top
leaders of the
current
Gaullist movement
(RPR).
The
symbiotic relationship
is thus not
unidirec-
tional;
both
government
and
party may
serve as a recruitment base for
the
other. Moreover,
specific
individuals
may
move back and forth between
the
two
organizations
or
simultaneously
serve both.
As a
result,
it is not unreasonable to assume that as
managers
of the
minia-
ture
polity
become
managers
of the
nation,
and vice
versa,
there is a certain
continuity
in their
behavior-continuity
that is all the more to be
expected
since such transfers are not
idiosyncratic
but rather involve collections of
peo-
ple
who have
already
established
working
relations with each other. It would
in fact be more
surprising
if these relations were transformed
significantly
be-
cause the context of the interaction had
changed.
This is the essence of
the
idea of
training ground,
which is
clearly
distinct from the less
constraining
notion of recruitment.
Although
the
symbiotic relationship
between
party
and
governmental
elite
is not
universal,
it is common. An
organizational
sociology
of
party
elites
permits examining
this critical but
neglected
issue.
The
findings
of an
organizational sociology
of
party
elites
may
be com-
bined with other kinds of data to illuminate a
variety
of issues
important
to so-
cial scientists.
First,
the
approach
outlined here would allow
comparison
of
a
political party
with a
variety
of social
institutions, including
schools,
fac-
tories,
work
places,
and administrations of the state. Such
comparison
on a
cross-national basis would
permit distinguishing
those features of a
party's
experience
that are
culturally specific
to the nation in which it is located and
functionally specific
to
parties
(in general
or within that
nation)
from those
that are
specific
to the
particular party being
studied. More
generally,
since
organizational sociologists rarely
if ever
study political parties,
research of
the
kind I have defined
might suggest
some revisions or
amplifications
of theories
of
organizations.
Second,
the
approach
outlined here could be
supplemented by findings
on
other features of a
political party.
In
particular,
the
settings approach
could
provide
a context in which to examine how
parties perform
the various func-
tions that have been attributed to them.34
I have
already
indicated how the or-
ganizational perspective
recasts and combines
questions
on the recruitment of
496
William R.
Schonfeld
political
leaders and the
organization
of
government.
A
deep understanding
of
the
types
of
party organization,
which could
only
be derived from extensive
research in a
variety
of
contexts,
would
surely
cast
light
on variations in
whether and how
parties attempt
to fulfill the various functions attributed to
them and
perhaps
also into how effective
they
are. On the basis of such in-
quiries,
an
amalgamation
of the
settings
and effects
approaches
could be con-
structed.
Such an
amalgam
is
clearly
desirable since
parties
are not
only
structured
settings
for activities but also
generators
of effects. But for the blend to
pros-
per
it must be
based,
first and
foremost,
on an
understanding
of the
party
as an
organization.
NOTES
1. Roberto
Michels,
First Lectures in Political
Sociology (New
York:
Harper
and Row,
1965-originally
written and delivered in
1927), p.
134.
2. Giovanni
Sartori,
Parties and
Party Systems:
A Framework
for Analysis,
vol.
1
(London,
New
York,
and Melbourne:
Cambridge University Press, 1976), p.
26.
3. Leon D.
Epstein,
Political Parties in Western Democracies
(New York, Washington,
and
London: Frederick A.
Praeger,
1967), p.
77.
4. A. Lawrence
Lowell,
Public
Opinion
and
Popular
Government
(New York, London,
Bom-
bay,
and Calcutta:
Longmans,
Green and
Company, 1913), p.
70.
5. Edward
McChesney Sait,
Political Institutions: A
Preface (New
York:
Appleton-Century-
Crofts, Inc., 1938), p.
520.
6. Roberto
Michels,
First Lectures in Political
Sociology, op.
cit.,
p.
134.
7. Maurice
Duverger, Party
Politics and Pressure
Groups:
A
Comparative
Introduction
(New
York: Thomas Y.
Crowell,
1972-originally published
in
1966), p.
1.
8. Max
Weber, Economy
and
Society:
An Outline
of Interpretive Sociology,
vol.
1
(New
York:
Bedminster
Press, 1968), p.
284.
9. E.E.
Schattschneider, Party
Government
(New
York:
Holt,
Rinehart and
Winston, 1942),
p.
35.
10.
Joseph
A.
Schumpeter, Capitalism,
Socialism,
and
Democracy,
3rd ed.
(New
York:
Harper
and
Row, 1962-originally published
in
1942), p.
283.
11. Leon D.
Epstein,
Political Parties in Western
Democracies, op. cit., p.
9.
12.
Joseph LaPalombara,
Politics Within Nations
(Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice
Hall,
1974), p.
509.
13. Kenneth
Janda,
Political Parties: A Cross-National
Survey (New
York: The Free
Press,
1980), p.
5.
14. This statement should not be construed as
implying
that
party
scholars
systematically pro-
vide definitions of their
subject
matter. Some of the most
important
studies, including
those of
Michels and
Duverger,
have avoided
explicit
definitions.
(See:
Robert
Michels,
Political Parties:
A
Sociological Study of
the
Oligarchical
Tendencies
of
Modern
Democracy
[New
York: The Free
Press, 1962-originally published
in
1915];
and Maurice
Duverger,
Political Parties: Their Or-
ganization
and
Activity
in the Modern State
[New
York: John
Wiley,
1963:
originally published
in
1951].)
Even
V.O. Key,
a seminal
figure
in American behavioral
political
science,
did not de-
fine the
phenomenon.
Rather he identified four distinct
usages
of the term:
"party-in-the-elector-
ate,"
"the
group
of more or less
professional political
workers," "groups
within the
govern-
ment,"
and an
all-encompassing usage
"which rolls into one the
party-in-the-electorate,
the
pro-
fessional
political group,
the
party-in-the-legislature,
and the
party-in-the-government."
(Poli-
tics, Parties, and Pressure
Groups,
4th ed. [New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1958-originally
published
in 1942], pp.
180-182.)
497
Comparative
Politics
July
1983
Key's usage
of the term is
clearly
functional. Michels and
Duverger
focus on the
party
as a
terrain of
activity
and do not seem
very
concerned
with the roles
parties play
in the
political sys-
tem.
15. William Graham
Sumner, Folkways:
A
Study of
the
Sociological Importance of Usages,
Manners, Customs, Mores,
and Morals
(New
York: The American
Library,
Mentor
Books,
1960-originally published
in
1906), p.
32.
16. As Weber
argued: "By
definition a
party
can
only
exist within an
organization,
in order to
influence its
policy
or
gain
control of it"
(op. cit., p.
285).
And for
political
scientists that
organi-
zation has been the
government.
17. Robert
Michels,
Political
Parties, op.
cit.
p.
50.
18.
Seymour
Martin
Lipset, ed.,
Politics and the Social Sciences (New York, London,
and
Toronto: Oxford
University Press, 1969), p.
xx.
19. The adversarial
model,
as Rose translates
it,
seems too
absolute;
foes must not
only
differ
but also be irreconcilable and
oppose
one another on
virtually every
issue. To the extent that the
real world of British
politics
does not conform to this
image,
Rose
judges
it to be
consensual.
Al-
though,
in the
concluding chapter,
he indicates that
parties
that are
fundamentally
distinct from
one another run the risk of either
tearing
the
political system
asunder or
destroying
themselves
through fragmentation,
in the
body
of the
book,
he establishes criteria for adversarial
politics
that
would
require precisely
the kind of suicidal behavior described in the
concluding chapter.
His
model of
adversary politics
is so
extreme-suggesting,
for
example,
that a
newly
installed
gov-
ernment would
repeal
the
legislation adopted by
its
predecessor-that
were it to be
realized,
it
would
signify
the end of
democracy
or the
beginning
of a bizarre form of
representative govern-
ment characterized
by
the
alternation
between
competitive
"totalitarian"
parties.
Rose's
argument
also suffers from an absence of
comparative
data. To ascertain the extent to
which British
politics
is consensual or
adversarial,
evidence drawn from other democracies on the
consequences
for
public policy
of a
change
in
government
would have been instructive. Without
such
data,
how do we
interpret
the fact that 75
percent
of the variance in economic indicators is
explained by
secular trends? If the
change
in
governing party
accounts for 25
percent
of the var-
iance,
is this much
higher,
more or less the
same,
or much lower than what occurs in other
polities?
Without an answer to this last
question,
Rose's
findings
can,
I
think,
be used to
justify
labeling
British
politics
as
consenual,
but
they
could also have served to
support
the adversarial
perspective.
20. These issues can
profitably
be considered
by comparing
Do Parties Make a
Difference?
with
S.E.
Finer's The
Changing
British
Party System,
1945-1979
(Washington,
D.C.: American
Enterprise Institute, 1980).
The two
books, published
at the same
time,
cover the same
period,
often
drawing inspiration
from similar data. Yet
they
arrive at distinct conclusions. The
compari-
son would be all the more instructive because Finer and Rose are
engaged
in a
debate,
but neither
had read the other's work when he wrote his own.
21. The twin ideas of the "end of
ideology"
and the "catch-all"
party
are not
nearly
as new as
we sometimes
imagine.
As far back as the
1830s,
the Duke of
Wellington, commenting
on British
politics,
wrote:
"
....
there is
(now) very
little difference of
principle among public
men in
gen-
eral."
(Cited
in R.T.
McKenzie,
Political Parties: The Distribution
of
Power within the Conser-
vative and Labour
Parties,
2nd ed.
[New
York and London: Frederick A.
Praeger,
1964-
originally published
in
1955], p. 1.)
Lord
Bryce analyzed
both
phenomena
in now classic and
unfortunately rarely
studied works.
His view of
depoliticized politics
is
captured aptly
in the
metaphorical suggestion
that "the two
great [American] parties
were like two bottles:
(e)ach
bore a label
denoting
the kind of
liquor
it
contained,
but each was
empty."
The American
Commonwealth,
vol. 2
(New
York:
Macmillan,
1910-originally published
in
1894), p.
29.
He
emphasized
the absence of
ideological politics
in the United States:
(N)either party
has
any
clean-cut
principles,
and distinctive tenets. Both have traditions.
Both claim to have tendencies. ... Tenets and
policies, points
of
political
doctrine and
points
of
political practice,
have all but vanished.
They
have not been thrown
away,
but
have been
stripped away by
Time and the
progress
of
events, fulfilling
some
policies,
blot-
ting
out others. All has been lost
except
office or the
hope
of it.
(Ibid., p.
21.)
498
William R.
Schonfeld
InModern Democracies Lord
Bryce explains
that all
political parties
in the democracies of his era
persisted
and thrived for reasons other than the effects
they
had on the
political system
or their
"ideologies":
Whatever its
origin every party
lives and thrives
by
the concurrent action of four tendencies
or
forces,
which
may
be described as those of
Sympathy, Imitation, Competition
and
Pug-
nacity.
Even if intellectual conviction had much to do with its
creation,
emotion has more to
do with its
vitality
and combative
power.
Men
enjoy
combat for its own
sake, loving
to out-
strip
others and
carry
their
flag
to
victory.
...
Life becomes more
interesting
when each
talks to each of how the
opposite party
must be
outgeneralled,
and more
exciting
when the
day
of an electoral contest arrives.
Though
a certain set of views
may
have been the old
basis of a
party,
and be still inscribed on its banner. The views count for less than do the
fighting traditions,
the attachment to its
name,
the
inextinguishable pleasure
in
working
to-
gether,
even if the
object sought
be little more than the maintenance of the
organization
it-
self.
(Modern Democracies,
vol.
1
[New
York:
Macmillan, 1921], pp.
112-13.)
He went on to
argue
that what we have come to call catch-all
parties
are the
traditional,
nine-
teenth-century, type
of
party: "parties
of the old
type,
co-extensive with the nation and
trying
to
draw adherents from all sections and classes within it."
(Ibid., p. 123.)
22. E.E.
Schattschneider,
Party Government, op. cit., p.
1.
23. In the words of Lord
Bryce: "(P)arties
are inevitable. No free
large country
has been with-
out them. No one has shown how
representative government
could be worked without them."
(Modern Democracies,
vol.
1, op. cit., p. 119.)
24. This literature is not extensive.
Moreover,
there are no
significant
recent studies that treat
parties
as
organizations.
25. Maurice
Duverger,
Political
Parties, op. cit., p.
xiii.
26. An
example
of such an endeavor is Amitai
Etzioni,
A
Comparative Analysis of Complex
Organizations (Glencoe,
1ll.:
The Free
Press, 1961).
27. Albert
O.
Hirschman, Exit, Voice,
and
Loyalty: Responses
to Decline in
Firms,
Organiza-
tions,
and States
(Cambridge, Mass,
and London: Harvard
University Press, 1970), p.
43.
28.
Employees,
in
fact, may identify strongly
with their
enterprises.
This trait seems wide-
spread
in
Japan.
See Ronald
Dore,
British
Factory-Japanese Factory:
The
Origins of
National
Diversity
in Industrial Relations
(Berkeley
and Los
Angeles: University
of California
Press,
1973).
29. Samuel J.
Eldersveld,
Political Parties: A Behavioral
Analysis (Chicago:
Rand
McNally,
1964), pp.
9-10.
30. For some
explanation
of this
issue,
see William R.
Schonfeld, "Oligarchy
and
Leadership
Stability:
The French
Communist,
Socialist and Gaullist
Parties,"
American Journal
of
Political
Science
(1981):
215-40.
31. This is often
thought
to be the case. For an
argument
and data that
question
this
assumption,
see William R.
Schonfeld,
"The 'Closed' Worlds of Socialist and Gaullist
Elites,"
in Elites in
France:
Origins, Reproduction
and
Power,
ed.
Jolyon
Howorth and
Philip
G.
Gerney (London:
Frances
Pinter), pp. 196-215.
32. In the
early
literature on
parties
the
emphasis
was on the
party
as a
"machine,"
especially
in the sense of
shaping "public opinion."
See
Bryce,
The American
Commonwealth,
vol.
2, pp.
3ff.
33. Samuel J.
Eldersveld,
Political
Parties,
op. cit., p.
1.
34. Alan Ware
(The
Logic of Party Democracy [New
York: St. Martin's
Press], 1979)
does at-
tempt
to link the
performance
of a
party's
functions to its internal
organization.
His research
views
parties
as
generators
of effects but
argues
that structure influences the outcome. The
prob-
lem with the book is that his data are not relevant to the theoretical
argument.
499