The Scandinavian Party Model at the Crossroads

Jan Sundberg

in Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199240562
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600296 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

 The Scandinavian Party Model at the Crossroads

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Scandinavian party systems have often been seen as ‘ultra stable’, a view that was certainly justified between 1945 and the early 1970; however, the general election of 1973 in Denmark signalled a new era of instability as the three major parties saw their aggregate share of the vote slashed; soon similar developments became visible in Norway, to some extent in Finland, and (a little later) in Sweden. The main political actors in the Scandinavian democracies are organized around conflicts between labour and capital, and between the rural peripheries and urban centres; the five party families of the classic Scandinavian model (social democracy, conservatism, liberalism, agrarian ‘centrism’, and communism) are deeply anchored in these social bases, with class especially having been a more important determinant of party loyalty than in other west European democracies; in particular, the mutual tolerance and moderation that parties typically accord each other in consensus democracies has resulted in the creation of an extensive and well‐known mixed welfare economy. However, the classic five‐party model no longer provides a comprehensive account of party politics in Scandinavia: since the early 1970s a variety of other parties, old and new, have emerged, and this has led to doubt as to whether the Scandinavian party systems remain distinctive, although they may still be located in the category of moderate pluralism. The increasing fragmentation of parliaments has also affected governments in different ways in the four countries. The introduction discusses these changes; the next three sections cover the same topics as those in the other country case studies in the book, and examine (the erosion of) party legitimacy, party organizational strength (finance, members), and the systemic functionality of political parties (in governance, political recruitment, interest articulation and aggregation, political participation, and political communication).

Keywords: agrarian centrism; case studies; class factors; communism; consensus democracies; conservatism; Denmark; Finland; governance; interest aggregation; interest articulation; liberalism; mixed welfare economy; Norway; parliaments; party functionality; party legitimacy; party loyalty; party organization; party performance; party politics; party systems; pluralism; political communication; political participation; political parties; political recruitment; political system; Scandinavia; social democracy; Sweden

Chapter.  15954 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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