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8. Governments and Bureaucracies  

Wolfgang C. Müller

This chapter examines the decision-making modes of governments and their capacities to govern, with particular emphasis on bureaucracies that support governments in their tasks of ruling and administrating the country. It first presents the relevant definitions before discussing different modes of government that reflect the internal balance of power: presidential government, cabinet government, prime ministerial government, and ministerial government. It then considers the autonomy of government, especially from political parties and the permanent bureaucracy, along with the political capacity of governments, the relevance of unified versus divided government, majority versus minority government, and single-party versus coalition government. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the bureaucratic capacities of government, focusing on issues such as classic bureaucracy, the politicization of bureaucracies, and New Public Management systems.

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Cover Comparative Politics

12. Political Parties  

Richard S. Katz

This chapter examines the role that political parties play in the working of democracy. Political parties are among the major actors in democratic politics. Whether or not in power as the result of victory in free and fair elections, the governments of most countries have effectively been in the hands of party leaders. When governments were not in the hands of party leaders, most often it was because party government was interrupted by a military takeover. The chapter first considers various definitions of a political party, before tracing the origins of political parties. It then describes the functions of parties and the ways in which parties are organized, regulated, and financed. It concludes with an analysis of the role of parties in the stabilization of democracy in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as well as challenges confronting parties in the new millennium.

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Cover Comparative Politics

14. Interest Groups  

Roland Erne

This chapter examines the role that interest groups play in political systems across time and space. Many scholars define interest groups as voluntary organizations that appeal to government but do not participate in elections. In a comparative context, however, this formal definition is problematic as the form of interest representation varies across countries. An alternative suggestion is to distinguish ‘public’ and ‘private interest groups’, but the term ‘public interest’ is problematic because of its contentious nature. The chapter begins with a review of different definitions of interest groups and the problems associated with each. It then considers the legacies of competing theoretical traditions in the field, namely republicanism, pluralism, and neocorporatism. It also discusses the role of interest associations in practice, distinguishing different types of action that are available to different groups, including direct lobbying, political exchange, contentious politics, and private interest government.