The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States

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9780691119311: The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States
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Pradeep Chhibber and Ken Kollman rely on historical data spanning back to the eighteenth century from Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States to revise our understanding of why a country's party system consists of national or regional parties. They demonstrate that the party systems in these four countries have been shaped by the authority granted to different levels of government. Departing from the conventional focus on social divisions or electoral rules in determining whether a party system will consist of national or regional parties, they argue instead that national party systems emerge when economic and political power resides with the national government. Regional parties thrive when authority in a nation-state rests with provincial or state governments. The success of political parties therefore depends on which level of government voters credit for policy outcomes. National political parties win votes during periods when political and economic authority rests with the national government, and lose votes to regional and provincial parties when political or economic authority gravitates to lower levels of government.


This is the first book to establish a link between federalism and the formation of national or regional party systems in a comparative context. It places contemporary party politics in the four examined countries in historical and comparative perspectives, and provides a compelling account of long-term changes in these countries. For example, the authors discover a surprising level of voting for minor parties in the United States before the 1930s. This calls into question the widespread notion that the United States has always had a two-party system. In fact, only recently has the two-party system become predominant.


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"Chhibber and Kollman provide the most extensive and careful study of a relatively neglected but important issue--party aggregation--and a compelling case for the importance of centralization in explaining over-time trends in party aggregation."--Gary Cox, University of California, San Diego, author of Making Votes Count


"The authors propose an original and intuitively compelling answer to an important question that has long preoccupied scholars of party politics. The claim that the degree of government centralization has an effect on how party and electoral systems are organized is a plausible one. By theorizing about the hitherto neglected role of the state in explaining the number of parties, this clearly written book opens up new avenues of research in the field of parties and elections."--Kanchan Chandra, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Why Ethnic Parties Succeed


About the Author:

Pradeep Chhibber is Associate Professor of Political Science and Indo-American Community Chair in India Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of "Democracy without Associations" (Michigan). Ken Kollman is Associate Professor of Political Science and Research Associate Professor in the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of "Outside Lobbying" (Princeton).

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Pradeep Chhibber; Ken Kollman
Published by Princeton University Press (2004)
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Pradeep Chhibber, Ken Kollman
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