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Russell J. Dalton and Ian McAllister, "Political Parties and Political Development: A New Perspective," Party Politics, 13 (March 2007), 139-140.

Fourth and Fifth paragraphs:
This special issue of Party Politics examines the theme of parties and political development on the 40th anniversary of the original LaPalombara and Weiner volume. This special issue has two broad goals. First, there has been a tremendous expansion of empirical research on political parties,especially research on new third-wave democracies. Many of the articles that follow draw upon the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems project that surveyed public opinion in more than 50 national election studies. Articles examine the characteristics of contemporary parties at the electoral level, parties as organizations and parties as governing institutions, across a wide range of established and new democratic nations. These empirical articles provide comprehensive descriptions of parties and their voters in contemporary democracies.

Second, this special issue offers a new understanding of the relationship between parties and political development. If the expansion and institutionalization of parties has diminished in new democracies, what factors explain these patterns? The contributors consider the changing social role of parties vis-à-vis other political actors: the media, the intervention of the state into party politics through funding and regulation, and the changing nature of citizens in contemporary democracies. Understanding the causal processes at work in contemporary party systems can lead to a better understanding of the implications of current patterns for political development in new democracies

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Finally, two main conclusions emerge from the articles in this special issue. First, we find great diversity in how parties and party systems have emerged and how they operate within the new democracies. There is no single model, and new democracies often seem to be following a different trajectory than party development in the Western democracies. For the most part, this diversity can be traced to differences in political development, to political culture and to transition experiences to democracy. Second, while this diversity was not envisaged by LaPalombara and Weiner, their conclusion that parties are essential to modern stable democracy remains a strue today as when their study appeared 40 years ago.

last updated February 2007