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Political Parties and Conflict Handling

Political Parties and Conflict Handling

(p.86) Chapter Four Political Parties and Conflict Handling
Creating Political Presence
John Erik Fossum
University of Chicago Press

Political scientists have long been fascinated with political parties, but it is only recently that political theorists have started taking note of them and of the role that partisanship plays within the democratic process. As Nancy Rosenblum notes, one of the main rationales for political parties is to handle and civilize conflicts. How this happens is still understudied. This chapter provides an analytical framework for such a discussion. In doing this, the chapter makes use of Albert Hirschman’s famous categories of “exit, voice, and loyalty,” integrating them with Stein Rokkan’s “entry." It deploys such categories to explain the mechanisms that parties use for handling conflicts while performing their representative role. Different mechanisms apply to the way in which parties operate either in their representative functions (being responsive and shaping the identity of their members/voters), or in the way they handle societal conflicts. It is possible that political parties perform their civilizing and conflict handling role at the cost of fully expressing their voters’ political identity and democratic voice; but such civilizing function remains essential in order to provide a framework for democratic politics.

Keywords:   political parties, conflict handling, civilizing conflicts

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