Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

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9780954796617: Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis
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About the Book In this rich and broad-ranging volume, Giovanni Sartori outlines what is now recognised to be the most comprehensive and authoritative approach to the classification of party systems. He also offers an extensive review of the concept and rationale of the political party, and develops a sharp critique of various spatial models of party competition. This is political science at its best - combining the intelligent use of theory with sophisticated analytic arguments, and grounding all of this on a substantial cross-national empirical base. Parties and Party Systems is one of the classics of postwar political science, and is now established as the foremost work in its field. Author Biography Giovanni Sartori was born in Florence, Italy, in 1924, and was appointed Professor of Political Science at the University of Florence in 1963. He has been a visiting Professor in Harvard and Yale, and in 1976 he succeeded Gabriel Almond as Professor of Political Science in Stanford. In 1979 he was appointed Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, New York, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Giovanni Sartori is the author of numerous books across a wide range of fields in political theory and comparative politics, including Parties and Party Systems (1976), The Theory of Democracy Revisited (2 volumes, 1990), and Comparative Constitutional Engineering (2nd ed., 1997). His most recent books are Homo Videns (2nd ed., 2000), Pluralismo, Multiculturalismo, Estranei (2nd ed., 2002), and Mala Tempora (2004), which has been a bestseller in Italy. In 2005, Parties and Party Systems was also published in a Chinese translation.

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Giovanni Sartori's Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis, was a work of exceptional conceptual clarity and has a curious history. An intended second volume - the draft notes and index card - was stolen along with the author's car and never retrieved. Sartori deliberately decided to allow the first volume to go out of print to encourage him to produce an abridged version together with an abridgement of the lost classificatory discussion of party types, organisation and function in a single volume. Was the second volume or conflation never rewritten partly because by the end of the 1960s structural functionalism, to which more attention was to be devoted, was already on the wane? Although this former fashionable political science methodology was abandoned, Sartori's book demonstrates that, when used circumspectly, its strengths yield both insight and systemisation. Sartori uses English with the sensitivity of a person who has thought carefully about the connotations and nuances of the words he uses from a foreign language. Linked with his early philosophical reading, his resort to the history of ideas provides a temporal extension that was neglected to their cost by his more positivist/presentist contemporaries. As a result, Sartori's writings have a cutting edge of exceptional sharpness, combined with a scrupulous respect for complexity that embraces both abstract categorisation and empirical verification. Asserting unapologetically that 'pedantry is necessary at a typological level of discussion whenever we tend to forget that the road of comparative politics is marked with pitfalls' (p. 227), Sartori's analysis of parties and party systems is characterised by subtlety and sophistication, eschewing oversimplifying generalisations. He does so by qualifying his judgements with penetrating distinctions arrived at after years of reflection, sometimes pursued obsessively into sub-distinctions with self-indulgent delectation. He occasionally recalls Jeremy Bentham's The Handbook of Political Fallacies, with its castigation of 'vague generalities', 'sweeping classifications' and 'sham distinctions'. Sartori's great enemy is conceptual confusion. What makes his book a classic is that apart from what it has to teach us about its subject matter, its obiter dicta on how to undertake political analysis are of timeless significance. Consider his discussion on the logic of classification and how it relates to measurement. 'How does the "qualitative science" dealing with what questions, relate to the "quantitative science" dealing with how much questions? Bluntly put, how do differences in kind relate to differences in degree?' (p. 263). Sartori rejected 'the assumption that the logic of classification was obstructive of, if not inimical to, the quantitative turn of the discipline' and that 'quantitative science [was] deemed capable of proceeding without or outside of, the qualitative science includes the quasi-totality of our theory' (pp. 263 - 4). Concepts were 'data containers', so he asks, 'what turns a concept into a valid fact-finding container?' (p. 264). Classification alone combines standardisation and discriminating power that avoids mis-gathering facts leading to misinformation. Because 'we must beware of a precision that is nothing but an operational artefact', Sartori concludes: 'Words alone beat numbers alone. Words with numbers beat words alone. And numbers make sense, or much greater sense, within verbal theory' (p. 284). Sartori prepares the ground for his typology of party systems by terminologically stressing the pluralistic presuppositions of being a party and starting with the historical conceptual evolutions of parties. 'What is the present-day relevance of antecedents? Why go back to the origin? The answer is that the past is the original map, the design of the foundations' (p. 21). As a result we are losing sight of the fundamentals. 'We are travelling more and more through the ever-growing jungle of party politics without really knowing where we started, let alone where we are heading' (p. 22). He boldly and explicitly adopts a normative emphasis that rejects the claims then current in American political science to be a value-free political science while appealing to a dissenter tradition that came to the USA from Britain in the seventeenth century. 'Dissent draws from both consensus and conflict, but coincides with neither' (p. 14). Because unification has to precede party 'position', it presupposes agreement on fundamentals and the 'endless process of adjusting many dissenting minds [and interests]' (p. 15). Because 'parties are instrumental to collective benefits' (p. 22), 'If a party is not a part capable of governing for the sake of the whole, that is, in view of a general interest, then it does not differ from a faction' (p. 23). Thus Sartori nails his liberal democratic preferences to the mast in no uncertain terms. Sartori's starting point was his 'unhappiness with Duverger's pioneering volume' on political parties with its 'tendency to explain all party systems by extrapolating from the two party model' (p. xxi, p. 116). In a 1967 paper on 'Party Types, Organisation and Functions' (published for the first time in English in West European Politics, 28, 1 January 2005) Sartori had sternly scolded: 'The trouble with Duverger is his theoretical untidiness, his conspicuous lack of consistency, and particularly his tendency to deal with too many problems at one blow, with no apparent perception of their distinctiveness' (article cited, p. 7). He arrived at his influential conception of 'polarised pluralism' by his narrowing down actual two-party systems - with reservations even in these instances - to three countries: Britain, the USA and New Zealand, resulting in 'the paradox of having the most celebrated type of party system running out of cases', coupled with the fact that the 'English and American twopartyism are so far apart that it makes little sense to classify them together' (p. 165). Sartori distinguished eight features of polarised pluralism: the existence of anti-system parties; bilateral, mutually exclusive oppositions; the centre occupied; ideological neutrality; ideological distance; extremism; irresponsible oppositions leading to irresponsible government; and incessant escalation of promises to outbid party competitors (pp. 117 - 24). In contrast to moderate pluralism, in polarised pluralism 'pragmatic bargaining is feasible only under the cover of invisibility, whereas the visible game of politics must continue to be played, and indeed to be overplayed, ideologically' (p. 127). Concealed would probably have been a better designation than invisible, especially as it is associated with political corruption. Sartori's conclusion is that polarised party systems have between five and six parties beyond which one moves from polarised to extreme pluralism. In his introduction, Peter Mair points out that while the classic two-party system has become equivocal, bipolarisation has been a feature of some of the newer southern and east-central European and Latin American democracies. Furthermore, it is 'difficult to find unambiguous examples of systems of polarised pluralism' (p. xviii). Even though Sartori's classification has not worn that well, the contribution of Sartori's logic of classification remains unimpaired, so it was appropriate that in 1998 the American Political Science Association (APSA) Parties Section chose his book for its outstanding award because of its 'lasting significance'. Although he devoted appropriately much more attention to his Italian sociological predecessors Mosca and Pareto in his study of Political Elites, Geraint Parry did touch on Sartori's important contribution to an elitist reinterpretation of pluralist liberal democracy. However, Sartori in his 1962 study of Democratic Theory and especially in his 1987 more fully developed Theory of Democracy Revisited, derived his inspiration from Schumpter's focus on leadership competition. The function of electoral competition was not to maximise public participation but to select and legitimise the best qualified leaders. The main threat to pluralistic liberal democracy was from anti-liberal and anti-democratic counter-elites, not from strong government deriving its authority from a public opinion that was influenced by its leaders even more than being influenced by them. Jack Hayward, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Hull, Political Studies Review Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 45 - 55, January 2007

About the Author:

Giovanni Sartori was born in Florence, Italy, in 1924, and was appointed Professor of Political Science at the University of Florence in 1963. He has been a visiting Professor in Harvard and Yale, and in 1976 he succeeded Gabriel Almond as Professor of Political Science in Stanford. In 1979 he was appointed Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, New York, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Giovanni Sartori is the author of numerous books across a wide range of fields in political theory and comparative politics, including Parties and Party Systems (1976), The Theory of Democracy Revisited (2 volumes, 1990), and Comparative Constitutional Engineering (2nd ed., 1997). His most recent books are Homo Videns (2nd ed., 2000), Pluralismo, Multiculturalismo, Estranei (2nd ed., 2002), and Mala Tempora (2004), which has been a bestseller in Italy. In 2005, Parties and Party Systems was also published in a Chinese translation.

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