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Matthijs Bogaards and Françoise Boucek (eds), Dominant political parties and democracy: Concepts, measures, cases and comparisons

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Matthijs Bogaards and Françoise Boucek (eds), Dominant political parties and democracy: Concepts, measures, cases and comparisons
  Book reviews Matthijs Bogaards and Franc¸oise Boucek (eds) Dominant political parties and democracy: Concepts, measures, cases and comparisons. (  2010)London: Routledge. 256 pp. ISBN 9780415485821. Reviewed by:  Caroline Close, Universite´ Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Publicopinionasmuchaspoliticalscientiststendtoassumethatpartydominanceproducesa lack of alternation which might blur the  quality  of democracy and threaten the democra-tizationprocessinemergingdemocracies.However,casesoflong-termdominantpartiesinadvanced industrialized democracies – Social Democracy in Sweden, Christian Democ-racy in Italy, Liberal Democracy in Japan – suggest that the relationship between partydominance and the  quality  of democracy is somewhat ambivalent: the negative impactof party dominance on democracy might not be as crystal clear as is commonly accepted.Howandwhycandominancebelinkedpositivelytothe democraticprocess insome cases,while not in others? How could we explain the long-lasting dominance of parties in old or newly democratic systems, and what factors can account for their decline or breakdown?This is the puzzle that constitutes the starting point of Matthijs Bogaards and Franc¸oiseBoucek’s edited volume  Dominant Political Parties and Democracy .The book examines party dominance in both established and new democraciesthrough diverse analytical approaches and cases. Ten chapters are brought together around a common goal: re-thinking the concept of dominance in all its various aspects.In doing so, the different contributions help us look at what could explain the ambivalentrelationship between dominance and democracy. First, the uncertainty revolving around this relationship might come from a conceptual vagueness: there is no single understand-ing of   dominance , and the methods for measuring it are numerous. Three contributions(Chapters 2, 3 and 4) give new conceptual insights, and put into question the traditionalunderstanding of dominance – often defined qualitatively and   retrospectively  in terms of length of incumbency and size of vote/seat-shares. Jean-Franc¸ois Caulier and Patrick Dumont (Chapter 3) offer one of the most promising quantitative methods that scholarscouldrely on in order to identify andmeasure cases of dominance. Buildingindices thatmeasure dominance in a dynamic way, in terms of bargaining power in coalition forma-tion, they develop methodological tools that are appropriate for assessing dominance inmultiple arenas. Indeed, these tools can be applied to cases of dominance at a sub-national level (see Abedi andSchneider inChapter5) or at the intra-partylevel (Boucek in Chapter 7). Party Politics19(5) 841–850 ª  The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permission:sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/1354068813493998ppq.sagepub.com  at ULB - Bibliotheque on July 16, 2015ppq.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Secondly, how dominance might impact on the democratic process also depends onwhich dimension and aspect of dominance that scholars focus on. Actually, althoughdominance is a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted phenomenon (see, for example,Boucek [1998]), scholars often concentrate on a sole dimension, or on one level of inquiry. Comparing single-party dominance in  sub-national   governments in the Cana-dian provinces and the German  La¨ nder  , Amir Abedi and Steffen Schneider (Chapter 5) attract attention to a neglected dimension of dominance. Then Gordon Smith (Chapter 6) observes one particular case of regional single-party dominance: the Christian SocialUnion (CSU) in Bavaria. In the same vein, Nicolas Sauger (Chapter 4) conceptualizesdistrict-level dominance in the French case. Another, quite ignored level of inquiry isfurther explored by Franc¸oise Boucek (Chapter 7) and Kenneth Carty (Chapter 8): theintra-party dynamics of dominant parties. In fact, the editors treat this intra-party topic ina very enthusiastic (maybe too enthusiastic?) manner; since much of Boucek’s previouswork has been devoted to the study of factionalism within Western dominant parties(see, for example, Boucek [2002]).Thirdly, confusion about the relationship between dominance and democracy mightarise simply because of the empirical reality of dominant parties: they are not specificcharacteristics of any particular type of regime, democratic or not. Should dominant par-ties in authoritarian regimes and dominant parties in democratic regimes be considered as distinct objects of study? Kenneth Greene (Chapter 9) argues that both types respond to a common logic: dominant parties stay in power by building a system based on anasymmetric share of resources, making resource-poor opposition parties unable to attractenough voters to win elections. According to this view, dominance might weaken democ-racy, whatever the type of regime. Again, Staffan Lindberg and Jonathan Jones (Chapter 11) treat them as equivalent categories, and compare their impact in terms of governmenteffectiveness and economic growth in African democratic and non-democratic regimes.The editors’ preference for contributions on African countries clearly echoes Bogaards’research interests (see, for example, Bogaards [2004, 2005]), although one could regreta lack of different perspectives from other parts of the democratizing world.Since the volume mainly aims at re-thinking the relationship between dominance and democracy, we would expect the authors to provide at least a basic definition of whatthey understand as  democracy . Though much energy is dedicated to the conceptualiza-tion and measure of dominance, democracy is rarely defined, except in Linberg and Jones’s chapter. Furthermore, the book pretends to study dominance in  democratized  as well as in  democratizing   countries as if both cases relate to the same phenomenon.If both dominance in democratic regimes and dominance in non-democratic regimestruly correspond to the same concept, they should be measured with the same tools, suchas with the promising power indexes. But there is no such demonstration in the book,which makes it unbalanced between the advanced methodological chapters and theempirical ones, the two having little in common.This edited volume  Dominant Political Parties and Democracy  undoubtedly raisesvarious questions revolving around the study of dominance, but the answers remain puz-zling for many of them – probably because the book asks too many questions at the sametime, and in too many directions. In fact, there is a clear lack of coherence:  dominance  istackled at times in the electoral, legislative and executive arenas; but also at the national, 842  Party Politics 19(5)  at ULB - Bibliotheque on July 16, 2015ppq.sagepub.comDownloaded from   sub-national and intra-party levels. But since the book is an edited volume gathering papers from a workshop, we should not be surprised by such a lack of homogeneity.Besides, dominant parties are studied in the same way in democratic, democratizingand authoritarian regimes in some contributions, while the rest of the book does not say aword about dominance in non-democratic regimes. In answer to the question ‘How could  party dominance be measured?’ it seems that several scholars agree on the usefulnessand the great scientific potential of voting power indices to assess dominance at thenational, sub-national and intra-party levels. However, as promising as they might seemfor measuring dominance at any level in democratic regimes, there is no evidence thatthey can be used in non-democratic regimes. And while we wonder ‘What are the srcinsof dominance and its consequences for the democratic process?’ the book fails to resolvethe srcinal ‘puzzle’. More comparative and empirical work instead of case studies could  provide a better understanding of these dynamics.Finally, researchers looking for a uniform understanding of dominance could be dis-appointed with this edited volume. The collection of such different contributions doesnot offer a homogeneous theory of dominance that embraces and articulates the multipledimensions and facets of the phenomenon, and the diverse arenas in which it occurs. Butthose looking for different ways of thinking about the concept, measures and dynamicsof party and party system dominance will enjoy reading those chapters, and will certainly pick up recent methodological advancements on the topic. References Bogaards M (2004) Counting parties and identifying dominant party systems in Africa.  European Journal of Political Research  43: 173–197.Bogaards M (2005) Power-sharing in South Africa: The ANC as a consociational party? In: John Sand Noel R (eds)  From Power-Sharing to Democracy: Post-Conflict Institutions in Ethnically Divided Societies , pp. 164–183. Toronto: McGill University Press.Boucek F (1998) Electoral and parliamentary aspects of dominant party systems. In: Pennings Pand Lane JE (eds)  Comparing Party System Change , pp. 103–124. London: Routledge.Boucek F (2002) The Growth and Management of Factionalism in Long-lived Dominant Parties:Comparing Britain, Italy,Canada and Japan.London: London School of Economics and PoliticalScience, unpublished PhD thesis.  Joel D. Aberbach and Gillian Peele (eds) Crisis of conservatism? The Republican Party, the conservative movement, and American politicsafter Bush . (2011) New York: Oxford University Press. 416 pp. ISBN 9780199764020. Reviewed by:  Richard Skinner, New College of Florida, USA In the spring of 2008, George W. Bush had approval ratings comparable to those experi-enced by Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Despite the success of the ‘surge’,the Iraq War remained deeply unpopular. The economy was sliding into a downturn thatwould prove to be the worst since the Great Depression. It was under these conditions thata conference on the future of the American conservative movement was held at Oxford  Book reviews  843  at ULB - Bibliotheque on July 16, 2015ppq.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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