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Interest Aggregation and Political Parties. Comparative Politics Chapter 5. Interest aggregation – the activity where the political demands of people and groups are combined into policy programs. Political skills and resources are used to accomplish this: Votes Campaign funds

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Interest aggregation and political parties

Interest Aggregation and Political Parties

Comparative Politics

Chapter 5



Personal interest aggregation
Personal Interest Aggregation demands of people and groups are combined into policy programs. Political skills and resources are used to accomplish this:

  • Patron-client networks – do something nice for your ‘clients’ (supporters) and they will take care of you (keep you in office)

    • Feudalism – Lord and the serfs

    • Boss Tweed – NY political machine

    • Richard Daley, Sr. – Chicago political machine

    • President of U.S. – Cabinet, Executive Office, Joint Chiefs of Staff, etc.



Institutional interest
Institutional Interest system it’s in is static – hard to change

  • As societies have modernized, the patron-client system has evolved into a larger network

  • Patron-client is the nucleus and this small network spreads out to connect with larger, more powerful/influential networks

  • This larger connection goes back to the Association Groups from the previous chapter.

  • The bureaucracy negotiates with interest groups to get policy made and implemented


Competitive party systems and interest aggregation
Competitive Party Systems and Interest Aggregation system it’s in is static – hard to change

  • Political parties – groups or organizations that seek to place candidates in office under their label.

  • In the competitive system, political parties tend to try to gain electoral support

  • In other words, the political parties will try to win the support of the various “social” subgroups in order to get their candidate in office


  • Elections system it’s in is static – hard to change

    • One of the few ways diverse groups of people can express their varying interests equally and comprehensively

      • Parties generally keep their promises once they are elected

      • Liberals tend to increase government involvement in daily lives

      • Conservatives tend to slow down, or decrease the government involvement in daily lives


  • Radical changes that are promised by a party before it comes into power is sometimes not possible as quickly and easily as they promised once they achieve the power.

    • Even though voters may have supported the concept of change, they may not have realized the consequences involved in such change, thus slowing down the implementation

    • Also, the parties who are not currently ‘in power’ also still have a say in the policy making process and may still impede the progress/change of the party in power



  • Electoral Systems determine sometimes, it’s just a social thing

    • Who can vote

    • How they vote

    • How the votes are counted

  • Single-member District

    • Plurality – you don’t need a majority (51%) to win, you just need the most votes

      • Common in the U.S. in many local elections

      • Not valid in national and some state level postitions


  • Majority Runoff/Double Ballot sometimes, it’s just a social thing

    • 1st voting narrows down the candidates

    • 2nd voting gets a winner with a majority

    • Exceptions can occur if a candidate gets the required majority (51%) in the 1st voting

  • Proportional Representation

    • The country is divided into large districts and each district gets to elect a lot of representatives (sometimes 20-30)


    • The people vote for their favorite candidates sometimes, it’s just a social thing

    • The parties whose candidates receive a minimum percentage of votes get to send their winners to the legislature. If a party doesn’t get the minimum, then they may have some aspects of their people unrepresented

  • Primary Elections

    • Parties offer their top candidates and let the voters choose who will run for office against the candidates from the other parties


    • Closed-list proportional representation sometimes, it’s just a social thing

      • Elected officials choose from their top and the voters have no say about who their candidates might be

    • Open-list

      • Voters do get to make choices of their favorites from a list of candidates. Those with the most votes may get to run


    • Patterns of Electoral Competition sometimes, it’s just a social thing

      • Duverger’s Law – there is a systemiatic relationship between electoral systems and party systems

        • Plurality single-member districts tend to create two-party systems

        • Proportional representation generates multi-party systems

        • How does this happen?

          • Mechanical effect – the way that different electoral systems convert votes into seats

          • Psychological effect voters and candidates anticipate the mechanical effect

            • Voters may not throw support behind candidates they feel are hopeless

            • Voting for the next best option or the one that will cause the ‘least damage’ is called strategic voting


    • Down’s Median Voter Result sometimes, it’s just a social thing

      • Political parties will try to modify their stand on various issues to win the support of the median voter

      • Two-party systems have a convergence to the center to try to win these median voters

        • In the U.S. there are Republicans who flirt with the left and Democrats who flirt with the right.


    • Competitive Parties in Government sometimes, it’s just a social thing

      • It helps get policies passed if a party wins the majority in the legislative and has control of the executive.

        • This works better in single party districts

        • In pluralities, a party may win control without the majority of the support because of how the seats are distributed to the winner.

          • Great Britain under Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair had less than 50% of the popular vote but them and their party got control.

          • Sometimes, parties will combine to gain control

            • The recent elections in Britain that brought David Cameron in as Prime Minister


    • Aggregation of Interests when coalitions form has costs and benefits

      • The elite determine gov’t policy, and the people feel left out

        • Voters are often discourage by this because they feel their vote doesn’t count

      • When there is a coalition, sometimes the interests of a minority party can be used in negotiations, getting them a policy they may want but might not have gotten had a party gained a clear majority


    • Cooperation and Conflict in Competitive Party Systems benefits

      • Majoritarian two-party systems

        • Dominated by two parties (U.S.)

        • Have two dominant parties and election laws usually create legislative majorities for one of them (Britain)

      • Majority coalition systems

        • Parties form preelectoral coalitions so that voters know which parties will attempt to work together for form the policies (Germany & France)

      • Multiparty systems

        • Election laws can party systems that virtually ensure that no single party wins a legislative majority and no traditional of preelection coalitions


    • Party antagonism/polarization benefits

      • Consensual party system

        • The parties commanding most of the legislative seats are not to far apart on policies and have a reasonable amount of trust in each other and in the political system

      • Conflictual party system

        • The legislature is dominated by parties that are far apart on issues or are antagonistic toward each other and the political system

      • Consociational/Accomodative system

        • Party systems in which political leaders are able to bridge the intense differences between antagonistic voters through power-sharing, broad coalitions, and decentralization of sensitive decisions to the separate social groups (Christians and Muslims in Lebanon)


    Authoritarian party systems
    Authoritarian Party Systems benefits

    • Aggregation takes place

      • Within the party

      • In interactions with

        • Business groups

        • Unions

        • Landowners

        • Institutional groups in the bureaucracy

        • Military

    • Elections are sham to make people think they are included


    • Exclusive Governing Parties benefits

      • Totalitarian

        • One party

        • Top-down control of society

        • No opposition parties or interest groups

        • Legitimacy is provided by clear ideology

        • Failed Totalitarian governments

          • USSR

          • Eastern Europe

        • Working totalitarian governments

          • North Korea

          • Cuba


    • China – mixed and confusing benefits

      • Government no longer controls the economy

      • Government still prohibits mass organization against it’s legitimacy

  • Demise of totalitarianism

    • Greed for power distorts original ideology

    • Limited government ability to control society

    • Loss of confidence in Communism


    • Inclusive Governing Parties benefits

      • Ethnic and tribal authoritarian

        • Usually succeed because they are inclusive

          • Recognize autonomy of

            • Social

            • Cultural

            • Economic groups

          • Bargain with these groups instead of controlling and remaking them

          • Examples:

            • Kenya

            • Tanzania


    • Authoritarian Corporatist Systems benefits

      • Allow formation of interest groups

        • Groups bargain with each other

        • Groups bargain with the government

      • Do not allow political resources directly to the people

      • They sometimes allow opposition parties if they are no real threat to the control

      • Electoral Authoritarianism

        • Façade of democracy that doesn’t really challenge the gov’t

          • Some political opposition

          • Independent media

          • Social Organizations

        • Example: Mexican PRI


    • These governments often are born in the fight against colonialism and begin to dissipate after the leaders die or retire

      • Memories of struggle for independence fade

      • Ideology weakens

      • Worldwide spread of democracy causes people to question the legitimacy of a single party.


    Military interest aggregation
    Military & Interest Aggregation colonialism and begin to dissipate after the leaders die or retire

    • Military Government

      • When civilian governments cannot control society, the military often gets control by default

      • Military has a monopoly on coercive actions to maintain control of society

      • After the military takes over

        • May support a tyrant

        • May try to use their power to further controlling party ideology


    • When the military has taken over they sometimes try to set up a bureaucratic version of authoritarian corporatism

      • Link organized groups with them (the military as the final say in arbitration)

    • Major limitations of military interest aggregation

      • Their internal structure is not designed for interest aggregation

      • They are not set up for

        • Aggregation of internal differences

        • Building compromises

        • Mobilizing popular support

        • Communications with social groups outside of the military

    • Military control is often linked with other institutions and may withdraw from control once another, more stable government is established


    Trends in interest aggregation
    Trends in Interest Aggregation up a bureaucratic version of authoritarian corporatism



    Significance of interest aggregation
    Significance of Interest Aggregation up a bureaucratic version of authoritarian corporatism

    • Successful public policy depends on effective interest aggregation

      • Narrow policy options so citizen demands are converted into a few policy alternatives

        • May eliminate some policies in the process

    • Competitive Party Systems narrow down and combine policy preferences by through elections

      • Voters support the party that has their preferences

      • Unpopular preferences are then eliminated by the majority


    • Noncompetitive Party Systems, military gov’ts and monarchies aggregation can determine policy

      • Authoritarian and military governments may just decide the program

      • Legislative assemblies, military councils or party politburos may have to negotiate policies

    • How well a government aggregates is the final determining factor in it’s adaptability and stability


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