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Liberalism as IdeologyEssays in Honour of Michael Freeden$
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Ben Jackson and Marc Stears

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199600670

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600670.001.0001

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The Problem of Political Parties in Western Liberalism, 1868–1968

The Problem of Political Parties in Western Liberalism, 1868–1968

Chapter:
(p.119) 6 The Problem of Political Parties in Western Liberalism, 1868–1968
Source:
Liberalism as Ideology
Author(s):

Paolo Pombeni

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600670.003.0007

Are political parties an unavoidable component of liberal constitutionalism? A historical enquiry shows us how troubled was the perception of political parties among Western European liberals. In the mid nineteenth century, the understanding of them as inheritors of classical ‘demagogy’ was still competing with the Burkeian idea of parties as ‘honourable connexions’. What changed in subsequent years was the expansion of the franchise and the realization that what counted in politics was numbers not brains. A realistic approach then prevailed, which understood a constitution as a means of organized access to power based on popular consent. This raised the problems of ‘disciplining’ the popular vote, and parties became seen as a tool to organize democracy. After the Second World War, a party-based democracy became the accepted norm in Western Europe, but parties now transformed themselves from ‘Weltanschaaung’ into ‘catch-all’ parties.

Keywords:   liberal constitutionalism, demagogy, honourable connexions, politics, popular vote, Weltanschaaung, catch-all parties

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