Party Government, Patronage, and Party Decline in Western Europe

Jean Blondel

in Political Parties

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780199246748
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599385 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

 Party Government, Patronage, and Party Decline in Western Europe

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Blondel approaches the question of party decline by asking to what extent it is a product of semi‐legal or illegal practices adopted by parties. At first glance it seems that the answer should be positive—the discovery of corruption or the distribution of favours by parties has made them the target of mass media attacks that have fed into increasing citizen dissatisfaction with or disaffection from parties; Blondel, however, adopts a more cautious and conditional stance, noting that negative electoral consequences of illegal or semi‐legal practices have been inconsistent among countries with significant levels of corruption. Develops a series of analytical distinctions and empirical generalizations focusing on the concepts of party government and patronage, which starts by noting that the most basic linkages between governments and their supporting parties involve policies and appointments, and that traditional parliamentary theory neglects patronage as one important aspect of these linkages. In order to speculate about the origins of cross‐national differences in the extent of patronage, Blondel develops a classification scheme based upon two dimensions: the first is derived from the various types of party–government relationships—adversarial, consensual, and conciliatory; the second involves the extent of parliamentary support for the government; in addition to these dimensions, a distinction is made between those parliamentary settings in which parties are, in general terms, dependent upon the government, those in which parties predominate over the government, and those in which the government and its supporting party/ies are linked in a situation of mutual interdependence. These typologies show that patronage is extensive and widely distributed in ‘partitocratic’ countries, is less common in Westminster‐type majoritarian polities, is greatly reduced in ‘conciliatory’ systems, and has grown notably since the 1980s, but only in the first two of these categories; suggests that this increase is because favours, bribes, and corruption are utilized as a partial substitute for the unfulfilment of over‐ambitious government programme commitments; argues that an assessment of the effects of patronage also requires a differentiation among types of party government.

Keywords: adversarial relationships; bribes; conciliatory polities; conciliatory relationships; consensual relationships; corruption; cross‐national differences; favours; parliamentary support; partitocratic polities; party decline; party government; party–government linkages; party–government relationships; patronage; political parties; Westminster‐type majoritarian polities

Chapter.  11302 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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