Party system

Party system

A party system is a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government by political parties. The idea is that political parties control the government, have a stable base of mass popular support, and create internal mechanisms for controlling funding, information and nominations.


According to recent scholarship there have been at least three party systems in Canada at the federal level since Confederation, each with its own distinctive pattern of social support, patronage relationships, leadership styles, and electoral strategies. [Gagnon and Tanguay, 2007: 1] Political scientists disagree on the names and percise boundries of the eras, however. Steve Patten indenifies four party systems in Canada's political history [Patten, 2007: 57-58]
* The first party system emerged from pre-Confederation colonial politics, had it's "heyday" from 1896 to 1911 and lasted until the Conscription Crisis of 1917, and was characterized by local patronage administered by the two largest parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives.
* The second system emerged following the First World War, and had it's heyday from 1935 and 1957, was characterized by regionalism and saw the emergence of several protest parties, such as the Progressives, the Social Credit Party, and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.
* The third system emerged in 1963 and had it's "heyday" from 1968 to 1983 and began to unravel thereafter. The two largest parties were challenged by a strong third party, the New Democratic Party. Campaigns during this era became more national in scope due to the electronic media, and involved a greater focus on leadership. The dominant policy of the era was Keynesian economics.
* The fourth party system has involved the rise of the Reform Party, the Bloc Quebecois, and the merger of the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives. It saw most parties move to one-member-one-vote leadship contests, and a saw major reform to campaign finace laws in 2004. The dominant policy themes have been neo-liberal economics, and the social investment state.

U.S. models

The concept of party system was introduced by English scholar James Bryce in "American Commonwealth" (1885).

"American Party Systems" was a major textbook by Charles Merriam in 1920s. In 1967 the most important single breakthrough appeared, "The American Party Systems. Stages of Political Development," edited by William Nisbet Chambers and Walter Dean Burnham. It brought together historians and political scientists who agreed on a common framework and numbering system. Thus Chambers published "The First Party System" in 1972. Burnham published numerous articles and books.Closely related is the concept of "critical elections" (introduced by V. O. Key in 1955), and "realignments."

A political science college textbook explains::"Scholars generally agree that realignment theory identifies five distinct party systems with the following approximate dates and major parties: 1. 1796-1816, First Party System: Jeffersonian Republicans and Federalists; 2. 1840-1856, Second Party System: Democrats and Whigs; 3. 1860-1896, Third Party System: Republicans and Democrats; 4. 1896-1932, Fourth Party System: Republicans and Democrats; 5. 1932-, Fifth Party System: Democrats and Republicans." [ Robert C. Benedict, Matthew J. Burbank and Ronald J. Hrebenar, "Political Parties, Interest Groups and Political Campaigns." Westview Press. 1999. Page 11. ]

According to Marjorie Hershey, there have been at least six different party systems throughout the history of the United States:

First Party System: This system can be considered to have developed as a result of the factions in the George Washington administration. The two factions were Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists argued for a strong national government with a national bank and a strong economic and industry system. The Anti-Federalists argued for a limited government, with a more emphasis on farmers and states' rights. After the 1800 Presidential election, the Anti-Federalists (later known as the Democratic-Republicans) gained major dominance for the next twenty years, and the Federalists slowly died off.

Second Party System: This system developed as a result of the one party rule of the Democratic-Republicans not being able to contain some of the most pressing issues of the time, namely slavery. Out of this system came the Whig Party. Wealthier people tended to support the Whigs, and the less fortunate tended to support the Democrats. The Democrats dominated this era, but the party began to break apart into factions, mainly over the issue of slavery.

Third Party System: Beginning around the time of the start of the Civil War, this system was defined by bitter conflict and striking party differences and coalitions. These coalitions were most evidently defined by geography. The South was dominated by the Democrats, and the North, with the exception of some major political machines, was dominated by the Republicans. This era was a time of extreme industrial and economic expansion.

Fourth Party System: This era was defined by Progressivism and immigration. The Democrats wanted to work with these newly arrived immigrants, while the Republicans strongly disliked working with them.

Fifth Party System: This is the system defined by the New Deal programs. The Republican’s response to the Great Depression caused them to lose support from minorities and the poor. The Democrats in this era received much support and were in power in Congress for a substantial amount of time. This era lasted approximately until around 1968.

The sixth party system is still currently developing today, and began with the Democrats losing the South in the late 1960’s. The sectional era of the parties seemed to end the dominance in the south, but created a Republican dominance in the south as shown by election results today. [Hershey, Marjorie Randon. Party Politics in America 12th ed. 2007: Longman Classics in Political Science. pages 119-123]






* Hilaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton. 'The Party System'. (1911; reprint 2007)
* Lauri Karvonen and Stein Kuhnle. "Party Systems and Voter Alignments Revisited" (2000)
* Paul G. Lewis and Paul Webb, eds. "Pan-European Perspectives on Party Politics" (2003)
* Seymour M. Lipset and Stein Rokkan, eds. "Party Systems And Voter Alignments" (1967)
* Scott Mainwaring and Timothy R. Scully. "Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America" (1996)
* Peter Mair (ed.) "The West European Party System" (Oxford University Press, 1990) [ online excerpt pp. 302-310]
* Sartori, Giovanni . "Parties and Party Systems: A framework for analysis " (1976; reprint in 2005)
* James Walch. "Faction and Front: Party Systems in South India" (1976)

United States

* Numan V. Bartley, "Voters and Party Systems: A Review of the Recent Literature," "The History Teacher," Vol. 8, No. 3 (May, 1975), pp. 452-469. [ online at JSTOR]
* Beck, Paul Allen. "Micropolitics in Macro Perspective: the Political History of Walter Dean Burnham." "Social Science History" 1986 10(3): 221-245. Issn: 0145-5532 Fulltext in Jstor
* David Brady and Joseph Stewart, Jr. "Congressional Party Realignment and Transformations of Public Policy in Three Realignment Eras," "American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 26, No. 2 (May, 1982), pp. 333-360 [ online at JSTOR] Looks at links among cross-cutting issues, electoral realignments, the U.S. House and public policy changes during the Civil War, 1890s and New Deal realignments. In each case the policy changes are voted through by a partisan "new" majority party. The Civil War and 1890s realignments were more polarized than was the New Deal realignment, and the extent of party structuring of issue dimensions was greater.
* William Nisbet Chambers and Walter Dean Burnham, eds. "The American Party Systems. Stages of Political Development," (1967)
* Chambers, William Nisbet. "Political Parties in a New Nation: The American Experience, 1776–1809" (1963)
* Hofstadter, Richard. "The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840" (1970)
* James, Scott C. "Presidents, Parties, and the State: A Party System Perspective on Democratic Regulatory Choice, 1884-1936" (2000)
* Jensen, Richard. "American Election Analysis: A Case History of Methodological Innovation and Diffusion," in S. M. Lipset, ed, Politics and the Social Sciences (Oxford University Press, 1969), 226-43.
* Jensen, Richard. "History and the Political Scientist," in S. M. Lipset, ed, Politics and the Social Sciences (Oxford University Press, 1969), , 1-28.
* Jensen, Richard. "Historiography of Political History," in Jack Greene ed., "Encyclopedia of American Political History" (Scribners, 1984), 1:1-25. [ online]
* Jensen, Richard. "The Changing Shape of Burnham's Political Universe," "Social Science History" 10 (1986) 209-19 Issn: 0145-5532 Fulltext in Jstor
* Renda, Lex. "Richard P. McCormick and the Second American Party System." "Reviews in American History" (1995) 23(2): 378-389. Issn: 0048-7511 Fulltext in Project Muse.

External links

* [ Party Systems] (article at "Citizendium").
* [ A detailed bibliography]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • party system — index politics Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • party system —    A country’s party system is the more or less stable configuration of political parties that normally compete in national elections. It is based on how many parties exist, what support they have and the extent to which competition between them… …   Glossary of UK Government and Politics

  • party system — partinė sistema statusas T sritis Politika apibrėžtis Kurioje nors politinėje sistemoje veikiančių partijų sąveikos sistema, kurią lemia partijų veikloje taikomi principai, taisyklės, tradicijos, būdai ir formos. Analizuojamos pagal partijų… …   Politikos mokslų enciklopedinis žodynas

  • party system — Political system in which individuals who share a common set of political beliefs organize themselves into parties to compete in elections for the right to govern. Single party systems are found in countries that do not allow genuine political… …   Universalium

  • party system fractionalization — partinės sistemos fragmentacija statusas T sritis Politika apibrėžtis Partinę sistemą sudarančių partijų skaičiaus ir jų politinės įtakos pokyčiai. M. Laakso ir R. Taagepera fragmentacijai įvertinti siūlo nustatyti veiksmingų rinkiminių (angl.… …   Politikos mokslų enciklopedinis žodynas

  • party system polarization — partinės sistemos poliarizacija statusas T sritis Politika apibrėžtis Partinėje sistemoje veikiančių partijų ideologinių skirtumų atstumas ir jo pokyčiai. Taip pat – rinkėjų balsų pasiskirstymas tarp reikšmingų partijų, užimančių partinėje… …   Politikos mokslų enciklopedinis žodynas

  • Two-party system — Part of the Politics series Party politics Political spectrum …   Wikipedia

  • Second Party System — The Second Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to name the political system existing in the United States from about 1837 to 1852. The system was characterized by rapidly rising levels of voter… …   Wikipedia

  • Dominant-party system — Part of the Politics series Party politics Political spectrum …   Wikipedia

  • First Party System — The First Party System is a term of periodization used by some political scientists and historians to describe the political system existing in the United States between roughly 1792 and 1824. It featured two national parties competing for… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”