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Why Do Party Systems Tend to Be So Stable?

PublicationArticle (with peer review)
Företagandets villkor, Gissur Ó. Erlingsson, Partiformation, Partisystem

Abstract

The purpose of this research note is to demonstrate the usefulness of rational choice models in making party‐system stability intelligible. First, the ‘problem of collective action among potential party‐entrepreneurs’ makes it puzzling that new political parties emerge at all. Secondly, if the original collective‐action problem is overcome somehow, the ‘problem of voter coordination’ makes it hard for new parties to attract voters. Finally, established competitors have incentives and resources to hold newcomers back. I conclude by maintaining that simple, well‐known rational choice models explain the empirical observation by Lipset and Rokkan (1967) that party systems tend to be ‘frozen’. Instead, the genuinely puzzling thing is why new political parties emerge and gain support at all.

Erlingsson, G.Ó. (2009). ”Why Do Party Systems Tend to Be So Stable? A Review of Rationalist’s Contributions.” Bifröst Journal of Social Science, 3.

Based on content

The Spatial Diffusion of Party Entrepreneurs in Swedish Local Politics
Article (with peer review)Publication
Erlingsson, G.Ó.
Publication year

2008

Published in
Abstract

Theoretical expectations predict instances of party formation to be unusual. It is therefore puzzling that new ‘non-national’ parties became increasingly common in Swedish local councils between 1973 and 2002. This article sets out to answer why party formation became an increasingly popular strategy throughout these years. I show that previous research has not provided satisfactory answers, and argue that existing theories are of limited use explaining this development. It is suggested that a diffusion mechanism may explain why new parties became increasingly common in Swedish local councils. Theoretically, it is argued that an entrepreneur who creates a new party inspires potential entrepreneurs in neighboring municipalities to repeat this at later points in time. A geographical clustering of municipalities where these parties exist is therefore expected. Support is found for this assertion. The result is important since it outperforms the alternative ‘local contextual’, socioeconomic hypotheses previously tested in this empirical setting.

Varför bildas nya partier?
Article (with peer review)Publication
Erlingsson, G.Ó.
Publication year

2006

Abstract

Why do people engage in high-cost political activities such as forming new political parties? Start-up costs are high. Moreover, rewards are unclear and uncertain. Since political parties are collective goods, people demanding new political parties face a collective action problem. It is therefore somewhat puzzling that new parties emerge. Drawing on theories from economics, sociology and political science, I argue that we, in order to understand the emergence of new parties, need to analytically move in on party-entrepreneurs to elucidate what motivates them. Methodologically inspired by the debate on bridging the gap between deductive and inductive strategies, I process-trace and compare theree cases. The case studies identify individual level-mechanisms producing the decision to form a new party. People that voice demands within established parties, and face outright rejection, have experienced bad treatment from established politicians. These experiences contribute to disappointment, anger, and a sense of indignation – i.e. “intense emotions” – that mobilize entrepreneurs. Intense emotions create a lust for revenge, which becomes a psychological selective incentive, and is important for understanding why people engage themselves in high-cost political activities.

Related content: Working Paper No. 115

Modelling Secessions from Municipalities
Article (with peer review)Publication
Erlingsson, G.Ó.
Publication year

2005

Abstract

Under what conditions are quests for secession successful? Current debates in Scandinavia on the appropriate size of municipalities are taken as a point of departure for answering this question. I set out to analyse what processes are triggered through mergers of small political units into larger ones. The Swedish experience is analysed as an empirical illustration. A game-theoretical model is constructed, in which I highlight questions of ideology, power and strategy when analysing secessions. I conclude that mergers, such as those in Sweden between 1952 and 1974, create a built-in conflict in the larger unit. Certain geographical parts of the political unit get the worst of it in a conflict concerning resources, which will create tension based on geographical location. If these conflicts are not solved, questions of secession will inevitably be raised. In the Swedish context the law is phrased in such a way that the government decides whether or not secession will be allowed. The game-theoretical model therefore suggests that campaigns for secession will be successful if the seceding part (SP) (a) meets the required physical criteria (which concern size and financial predisposition), (b) the quest for secession enjoys strong public support and (c) the party in government takes a benevolent view of municipality separations.

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