Theories of Parties

John H. Aldrich and Jeffrey D. Grynaviski

in The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199542628
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

Theories of Parties

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  • Politics
  • US Politics
  • Political Behaviour



This article evaluates the role of formal theory in the study of political parties. It describes the mechanisms by which two important sets of political institutions interact to give structure to political outcomes in democratic polities. It starts by describing the formal theories of electoral rules and the number of parties. It addresses how party organizations give structure to electoral competition in the context of the spatial model of elections in settings where the early impossibility results suggest that structure should not exist. Additionally, the article considers a question that links the electoral promises made by parties and candidates to the actions of parties when in office. The elucidation of the forces underlying Duverger's Law showed how political party leaders faced the rather different problem of aggregating the within-district tendencies toward two-partyism into a national two-party system.

Keywords: formal theory; political parties; electoral rules; Duverger's Law; political institutions; national two-party system; democratic polities

Article.  7462 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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