2. Political Parties
Chapter No 11 Parties: A linking and Leading Mechanism in Politics, Page no 251 to 273
From Power and Choice: An introduction to politics by W. Phillips Shively: Thirteenth edition
The chapter defines the political parties and how political parties emerged. Then the chapter
explains the history and function of the political parties. Some important functions and purpose
of political parties has also been elaborated. The chapter also includes different types and forms
of political parties that are present in different countries with a focus on USA and the UK.
The chapter starts with the definition of political parties and terms a political Party as a group of
Public officials organized in order to interact with citizens with the aim to remain in power.
Political parties are like interest groups but the difference is that interest groups just follow their
interests while political parties do so in addition to the aim of maintaining power.
Political parties are not only in democratic countries. Even authoritarian regimes have political
parties like China, Syria, and Cuba etc. Similarly Political Parties are used for organizing people
under an organization. The organization can be formal while some countries like the USA have
loose and informal party memberships.
Democracy is considered responsible for the introduction of Political parties. Before democracy,
states were run by officials appointed by leaders. But as democratization took place elected
officials replaced appointed officials. In order for the political to get their own people elected at
different seats, there needed a club where the electables and electorates should combine. This
gave rise to the concept of political parties.
USA was the first to introduce political parties in the world dating back to 1820s and Democratic
Party is the oldest party. This was followed by the Conservative Party of Britain in 1867. Before
that only a small fraction of citizens were allowed to vote. But as voters’ number increased, the
need for political parties emerged. Increased number of voters gave rise to the emergence of
political parties in the rest of Europe as well.
Political Parties are needed to mobilize masses for electing a certain group of officials,
mobilizing the people in terms of crisis or meeting certain demands, and also to mobilize masses
against an unwanted regime as happened in many Asian and African nations against the allied
Political Parties are also used for the socialization of political leaders. In countries like Britain
and other European nations, where there is formal memberships of party members, people who
join parties have to go through different phases in reaching to the top. Even in countries like
USA where there is informal party membership and leaders are elected by the masses directly,
party makes individuals fit for becoming political leaders.
3. Political Parties work as Political identity for its members and there is a channel of control in the
parties. The party leaders use Carrot and Stick process for the purpose of reward and punishment
to the members. Those members who abide by the rules of the party are rewarded while those
who break them are penalized.
The same channel of control in the political parties gives party leaders in Authoritarian regimes
an opportunity to control the citizens of the nation. As party gives the leaders access to a talent
pool of qualified technocrats, this helps leaders in maintaining intellectual supremacy to the party
leaders over masses of the state.
Political parties have informal memberships as in the case of USA. In such organizations, people
get confused about their membership of the party. On the other hand some parties are formally
organized with members formally joining the parties and abiding by the rules and regulations of
the party as in the case of Britain and other European parties. Such parties have a strict hierarchy
and channel of control. Moreover, party leaders are elected through intra party elections who
then become national leaders if the party wins majority.
Political Parties need finances to run their administrative affairs as well as election campaigns.
Sources of finances for parties can be many. Public Finance, in which the state provides financial
assistance to the parties, is an uncommon but a prevailing practice in some countries. Similarly
membership fees paid by the party members, bribes, kick-backs, and interest group funding to
follow their interests are also common sources of finances. Some parties have also established
businesses the profits of which help finance the party. Some foreign countries also fund some
political parties in order to pursue their interests in that country.
There are four types of Political Party Systems in the world.
SINGLE PARTY SYSTEM, the country is run by a single party. This is mostly common in
authoritarian regimes like in PRC (Peoples Republic of China) and Cuba.
DOMINANT PARTY SYSTEM is just like Single Party system as only one party dominates.
But there are other small parties operating in the country. This is the case in newly independent
nations where the party that led the independence campaign always dominates. But as time
passes, due to internal conflicts and corruption, the dominant party loses its dominance and other
parties who usually form coalitions compete and normally defeat the till then dominant party in
elections. This case happened in India and South Africa.
Then there is a TWO PARTY SYSTEM as in USA. In two party systems there are usually two
dominant political parties. Although there may be certain small parties other than those two but
90% of the votes remain between the two dominant parties. Only one of the two dominant parties
wins in such cases.
4. Finally there is a MULTI PARTY SYSTEM in which here is more than one political party in a
country and no party dominates the political scenario. In this case usually a single party does not
form a government as in the case of the above three systems. Rather two or more parties form
coalition government and run the government. The Head of Government is usually from the
party that won most seats.
There are some pros and cons in the Two Party System and the Multi-Party systems. The good
thing about the Multi-Party System is that no party has dominance and there is a constructive
debate and government is run keeping in view mutual interests (as every party has its own
interests and target voters e.g. farmers, industrialists, religion etc.) while in a Two Party system
only the dominant party interests prevail.
On the other hand, a Multi-Party System runs well till the time there is no inter-party conflict. In
case of such conflicts there is difficulty in forming coalition and hence formation of a
Government. But this is not the case in Two-Party system.
The Chapter is written by W. Philip Shivley. Shivley is a professor of Political Science at the
University of Minnesota. The author has explained in great detail the concept of political parties.
The author has beautifully defined and elaborated the definition and concept of what a political
Party is. References of different chapters of the book and examples of different countries and
political systems have been used to explain the arguments and comparisons. Words and phrases
used are easily understandable even by a layman. Moreover, different types of political parties
and different political systems have been comprehensively explained in the comparisons have
been made with great effort.
Still there are some points that would have made the chapter even better. Although the author has
exemplified his arguments through different examples including Norway, India, South Africa
and China but the main focused on only two political systems of the world, i.e.; USA and
Britain. It would have been better if examples would also have included countries like well-
known and historical political systems of France, Germany and even Netherlands.
Similarly the chapter could not be read and completely understood without reading the entire
book. This is because many arguments have been left incomplete by just giving references to the
preceding or successive chapters that can be tiresome for the reader especially who is interested
in the chapter in question.
Another interesting thing to note is that the book has been published in 2012 but citations
included at the end of chapter show that the reference are as old as 1950s and 1980s. Only a
couple of references are for the year 2005. In my opinion latest and up-to-date citations would
have been a better option due to changing global political trends and paradigms.
5. The chapter has been written by an experienced author who has strong grip on the subject.
Information regarding the concept, working and organization of a political party has been
elaborated in great detail and easy to understand language. Similarly examples and references
used to support the arguments are also valid and good. But there are some shortcomings, in the
absence of which the chapter would have been much better. Outdated citations, incomplete
arguments at some points and focusing on just USA and Britain as examples possess problems to
Otherwise it is a good effort and a work well done. This chapter is an introductory level chapter
focused on developing the basic understanding of the political parties system witnessed in the
different segments of the world and to develop and approach in understanding that how different
types of parties are being run. This is a good reading material for the fundamental knowledge
and understanding and is really helpful to the students who want to gain knowledge of the
political parties system in the world.
The chapter is very well written and is most appropriate for the students of Political Science and
Public Policy. Moreover people who are interested in political Sciences in general and the
working of the political parties in particular must read the chapter as it is written in complete
detail and even easily understood by lay man as the language used in very simple.