Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industrialized Democracies

Marcus Kreuzer

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industrialized Democracies

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Electoral systems and political parties not only are at the core of a wide range of representational mechanisms (others being lobbying, direct democracy, corporatism) used in modern democracies to project societal interests into the formal, legislative decision-making process, but also they vary greatly in their respective make-ups. Political parties differ in their internal decision making, membership size, funding, links with interest groups, and ideology. Electoral systems, in turn, are differentiated into systems of proportional representation (PR), single-member district (SMD), or first-past-the-post electoral systems (FPTP). Despite all these differences, parties and electoral systems are the two primary mechanisms for aggregating and then translating the preferences of private individual citizens. They also are the oldest, most widely studied, and arguably the most democratic channel of political representation. Parties and electoral systems certainly are important, but they are still only intermediary mechanisms that interact in complex ways with other factors, such as actors’ preferences, resources, other representational mechanisms, and the larger constitutional context. This complex interaction makes it intriguing to study how they affect political representation and explains why they are studied from so many different angles, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives. The following bibliographic suggestions are intended to reflect this diversity in the literature. The literature points out that parties and electoral systems function not just as mechanisms of political expression, through which voter preferences are bundled, articulated, and electorally weighted, but also as mechanisms of social control. The social control function becomes apparent in the ability of parties and electoral systems to contain the risks of overly expressive and potentially anarchic forms of direct and, hence, unorganized participation (i.e., protest, extremism, violence) as well as their potential to integrate individual citizens into the political order by creating political identities crucial for social order. Thus, parties and electoral systems have an as yet little understood but also fascinatingly complex relationship to popular sovereignty because they are indispensable for it while at the same time they give politicians the ability to mute and manipulate that sovereignty. In large part, the literature on parties and electoral systems tries to untangle this complex relationship by studying how their cross-national and historical variations influence the extent to which they have facilitated or distorted political representation.

Article.  8639 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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