ISBN : 9780198735854
Party and Democracy integrates philosophical, historical, and empirical analyses in order to highlight the profound roots of the limited legitimation of parties in contemporary society. The parties' long attempt to gain legitimacy per se, is first analysed under a philosophical-historical perspective pinpointing the crucial passages in the acceptance of the party both theoretically and empirically. The book illustrates the process through which parties first emerged and then achieved full legitimacy in the early decades of the 20th century, and it shows how, paradoxically, their role became absolute in the totalitarian regimes of the interwar period where the party became hyper-powerful. The book suggests that, in the post-war period, parties shifted from a golden age of positive reception by public opinion and organizational development towards a more difficult relationship with society as long as it moved into post-industrialism. Parties were unable to master societal change and thus went towards the state to recover resources they were no longer able to extract from their constituencies. Therefore, parties have become richer and more powerful thanks to their interpenetration into the state, but they have paid for their pervasive presence in the society and the state with a declining legitimacy. The party today is caught in a dramatic contradiction. It has become a sort of Leviathan with clay feet: very powerful thanks to the resources it gets from the state and to its control of the societal and state sphere due to an extension of clientelistic and patronage practices; but very weak in terms of legitimacy and confidence in the eyes of the mass public. However, it is argued that there is still no alternative to the party, and the volume analyses hypotheses concerning the advancement of party democracy.
1 Searching for Political Parties in the Past
2 The Colliding Parties' Reception from Selective Acceptance to Outright Rejection
3 Towards the Final Legitimation of the Party
4 The Party's Golden age and its Demise
5 Party Standstill in an Era of Change
6 Parties' Resources at the Dawn of the New Millennium
7 Party in Agony?