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Essay Evolution of America's Party System

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In Political Parties and Party Systems, Alan Ware summarizes the two main competing theories that attempt to explain party systems. First, the Sociological approach and then the Institutional approach. In order to comprehend his analysis it is necessary to realize that party systems are in a constant state of evolution, they do not remain stagnant. This evolution may, at times, be imperceptible and at others very noticeable, such as during a revolution; but the change is undoubtedly occurring. It is much easier to understand these theories if you view these two theories from a flexible standpoint as opposed to having a concrete beginning and end with exact delineations in between.
Lipset and Rokkan created a model that identifies the main aspects of the Sociological theory. Their main thesis was that modern party systems were rooted in social conflicts that had been occurring for ages before the systems came to be. They called these conflicts cleavages and established four different lines to which the modern systems could be traced back. The first of these was a Centre-Periphery cleavage which was centered on two issues: Was “society’s religion to be national or international” and, as Latin was how religion was practiced, how can this conflict between state languages and Latin be remedied? The second cleavage, State-Church, involved the state’s desire to control the education of its citizens in order to maintain a close relationship with the citizenry, which clashed with religious thought at that time. The third cleavage was Land-Industry, which concerned the interests of agriculture and industry and the application of tariffs vs. free trade. The last cleavage was Owner-Worker; the critical juncture of the entire process being t...


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...ns were strained on multiple occasions; such as the issue of slavery, indentured servitude, Native American “Trail of Tears”, etc… These all played integral parts in shaping the country that we have before us today. To relate it to the argument asserted by Lipset and Rokkan- America had cleavages well before a significant increase in enfranchisement, and our political history abounds with extremism and devoted supporters. To be sure, the American government constantly attempts to better represent the people. The evolution of America’s party system is, I believe, unique; and it’s this uniqueness that breaks the mold set by the other countries. There is no one class that defines us all, nor any single race, creed, or national origin to which we subscribe. Assuming that the Sociological approach to party systems is correct, the United States belongs in that category.


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