The Political Party as a Modernizing Instrument

  • D. E. Apter


Sigmund Neumann, in trying to segregate crucial elements of political parties, suggests the following:

A definition of ‘party’ might as well begin with its simple word derivation. To become a ‘party’ to something always means identification with one group and differentiation from another. Every party in its very essence signifies partnership in a particular organization and separation from others by a specific program.

Such an initial description, to be sure, indicates that the very definition of party presupposes a democratic climate and hence makes it a misnomer in every dictatorship. A one-party system (le parti unique) is a contradiction in itself.1


Political Party Public Office Party Leader Political Socialization Political Tolerance 
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  1. 1.
    Neumann, Modern Political Parties (University of Chicago Press, 1956), p. 395.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Speaking of Africa, Thomas Hodgkin emphasizes the special significance of improved transportation. ‘A modern political party must be able to deploy, with reasonable ease and speed, its leaders and organisers. It must ensure a reasonable degree of central or regional control over local branches and groups. It is highly desirable (and, in the political context of French Africa, essential) to enjoy means of rapid communication between the colonial territory and the metropolitan capital. These technical preconditions of effective party organisation, propaganda, and pressure, have been largely satisfied in post-war colonial Africa. It would be hard to exaggerate the revolutionary political consequences of the creation of an efficient internal and international air net work. In practice, this means that M. Mamadou Konaté [now deceased], deputy for the French Sudan [now independent Mali] can attend a meeting of his party executive in Bamako in the morning; take part in a session of the Grand Conseil at Dakar in the late afternoon; and speak in the National Assembly in Paris next day. Dr. Nkrumah, Mr. Awolowo and Isma’il al-Azhari can combine their party, parliamentary and ministerial duties in the same way. At a less exalted level, the improvement in road communications has made it possible for the middle-rank leadership of parties — national officials, regional and district secretaries and agents — to penetrate into obscure villages in lorries, private cars, party vans, or even on bicycles. Thus party propaganda and slogans can be widely diffused, local branches established, and local grievances ventilated. The gospel is preached; new converts are won; the faithful are confirmed — even in the remoter bush’ (Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa [London: Frederick Miller Ltd, 1956], p. 143).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See the fascinating account of the elections of May, 1956, and March, 1957, in Nigeria by Philip Whitaker (Western Region) and J. H. Price (Eastern Region), in W. J. M. Mackenzie and Kenneth E. Robinson (eds.), Five Elections in Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See the description by Lucian Pye, in Robert E. Ward and Roy C. Macridis (eds.), Modern Political Systems: Asia (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1963), p. 336.Google Scholar
  5. The best description of the PDG is Bernard Charles’s ‘Un Parti Politique Africain, Le Parti Démocratique de Guinee’, Revue Française de Science Politique, XII (June 1962). See also L. Gray Cowan’s useful discussion in Gwendolen M. Carter, African One-Party States (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell U.P., 1962). The best review of political parties in Africa is Thomas Hodgkin’s African Political Parties (London: Penguin Books, 1961).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Jaspers, The Future of Mankind (University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 310–11.Google Scholar

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© Jean Blondel 1969

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  • D. E. Apter

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