Political Parties

  • Rod Hague
  • Martin Harrop
  • Shaun Breslin
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


The crucial difference between the political party and other kinds of organised group lies in its relationship to the political system as a whole. Whereas the aim of interest groups is to influence the state, the political party seeks to occupy the decisive positions of authority within it. Thus the defining characteristics of a political party are:
  1. 1.

    A conscious aim (realistic or not) to capture decision-making power, alone or in coalition

  2. 2.

    The pursuit of popular support through elections

  3. 3.

    A permanent organisation.



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Key reading

  1. Duverger, M. (1964) Political Parties (London: Methuen). Despite outdated empirical data, a good introduction to the classification of parties.Google Scholar
  2. Lipset, S. and Rokkan, S. (1967) Party Systems and Voter Alignments, (New York: Free Press). The seminal work on the development of European party systems.Google Scholar
  3. Mair, P. (1990) The West European Party System (Oxford: Oxford University Press). A wide-ranging analysis of parties and party systems in Western Europe.Google Scholar
  4. Randall, V. (ed.) (1988) Political Parties in the Third World (London: Sage). Case studies of party systems from all areas of the third world.Google Scholar
  5. White, S., Gardner, J., Schöpflin, G, and Saich, T. (1990) Communist and Postcommunist Political Systems: An Introduction, 3rd edn, (London: Macmillan). Chapter 4 provides an excellent introduction both to the structure of ruling communist parties, and to the origins of parties in the postcommunist second world.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Rod Hague, Martin Harrop and Shaun Breslin 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rod Hague
  • Martin Harrop
  • Shaun Breslin

There are no affiliations available

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