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A different approach to political competition

Remarks on the strategy and structure of party competition

While William H. Riker and Stein Rokkan’s works, as well as the intellectual schools that have stemmed from their works, tend to be considered in opposition in the analysis of political parties, a special issue of Political Politics, edited by Jan Rovny, argues for their complementarity. In order to grasp a better view on party competition, it is important to integrate sociological and structural approaches within the behaviorist tradition focusing on party strategies. In short, Riker and Rokkan should join forces!

This article is part of a special issue studying the strategic interaction between major state-wide and regional parties in a political setting defined by multiple, potentially cross-cutting, political issues – i.e. the economy and the territorial organization of multi-national states. Through this framework, this special issue locates itself decisively in the behaviorist tradition of studying political competition. Originating from the classical works of Riker and the Rochester school, and focusing on rational choice models, this tradition has influenced a lively literature on party strategies. The articles gathered in this special issue create a bridge between the strategic, Rikerian literature they stem from and seek to engage with, and more sociological approaches to the study of political parties that focus on the structural features of politics reaching back to the works of Lipset and Rokkan. They demonstrate the socially, historically, and institutionally bounded opportunities of political parties. The key feature is thus the demonstrated complementarity of strategic and sociological accounts. While parties have a reasonable space to act strategically, their strategies are enveloped in structural context: Riker and Rokkan coexist.

Read the article – Jan Rovny – Riker and Rokkan. Remarks on the strategy and structure of party competition (Pdf, 115 Ko), in Party Politics, November 2015

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