Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, “Cleavage structures, party systems and voter alignments, in Lipset and Rokkan (eds.) Party Systems and Voter Alignments (1967), pp. 1-64.

A study of which cleavages will define how parties form. Summary table on page 47.


Main Argument:This is the seminal work on how parties form based on social cleavages.  There are four main dimensions of cleavages in Western history: the “centre-periphery”; the “state-church”; the “land-industry” and the “owner-worker” cleavages [47]. The result of this is that the party systems of the 1960’s reflect, with few significant exceptions, the cleavage structures that were solidified in the 1920’s. Competitive parties in the western democracies reflect the age of “high mass consumption” and as such, the party organisations are older than the majorities of the national electorates [50]. To understand voter alignments, you have to go back to the formation of party alternatives and to analyse the interaction between the historically established foci of identification and the subsequent changes to the structural conditions of choice. In other words, voter behaviour is a conglomeration of party systems and the institutions that surround it.


Method: This is one of the original peices in party formation theory. Often cited.



== Notes ==


Role of Parties:

– Parties have an expressive function and a representative function [5]

– They develop a network of cross-local communication channels and in that wat help strengthen national identities


Based his analysis in Talcott Parsons model of the functions of a social system: [see page 7]

  1. Universalism vs Particuarlism
  2. Performance vs Quality
  3. Specificity vs Diffusiveness
  4. Affectivity vs Neutrality


There are two kinds of important cleavages (territorial and functional)

– National/regional (territorial) cleavages are those involved in defining the nation, especially the church/government cleavages (over national morals and secularism/ideology)

– The \”subject vs. dominant culture\” cleavage (between cultural groups)

– These cleavages were stirred in the \”national\” revolutions that swept Europe beginning in France Industrial/economic (functional) cleavages (based in England) are interest-based (workers vs employers/owners, primary vs secondary economy)

– These cleavages were stirred by the industrial revolutions, beginning in Britain

– Early growth of national bureaucracy tended to produce essentially territorial oppositions but the subsequent widening of the scope of governmental activities and the acceleration of cross-local interactions gradually made for much more complex systems of alignments, some of them between localities, and others across and within localities [13]

– A crucial factor in the development of working class movements was the openness of a given society


How do these cleavages get translated into party differences?

There are four important thresholds: [see complex typology on pages 27-29]

– Legitimation: Is the right of protest respected, or is all opposition considered conspiratorial? Incorporation: Do most of the movements participants have the same citizenship rights as its opponents?

– Representation: Can the movement gain representation/access to power on its own, or must it join an established movement to do so?

– Majority power: Is the system bare majoritarianism, or are there checks on the majoritys power? [27]

– From these four variables, the authors propose a thorough scheme of various regimes


Finally, how do we account for the enduring party systems that emerged?

– Timing Matters: it has to do with the sequencing of the \”national\” and industrial revolutions in each state

– See model on page 36

– In short, the model says that the central core of \”nation-builders\” (N) who control the machinery of the state face an opposition in the periphery (P) opposed to the current center control

– N can seek alliances on two fronts: religious/ideological and economic/interest

– The contrasts across party systems in Western Europe reflect the national histories of conflict and compromise across the first three of the four cleavage lines: the centre-periphery, the state-church and the land-industry cleavages [35]

– Other factors generating the differences along “left-right lines” are secondary [35]


Put differently [see p. 38], each state faces three dichotomous choices:

– Often, each dichotomy accompanies an extension in suffrage; N extends suffrage because doing so will give a voice to its supporters

– First, the reformation/counter-reformation: the state remains loyal to the Roman church or takes control of a national church

– Second, the \”democratic revolution,\” or National Revolution: who will control education? A secular or religious state?

– Third, the industrial revolution: will the state be committed to the landed or urban (industrial) interests? As shown in the chart (look at it), these three choices lead in a path-dependent fashion to one of eight outcomes


Conclusion: The outcome of the conflicts between state and church in the Reformation largely structured partisan outcomes three centuries later. Political development did not reflect a difference in the salience of any single line of cleavage: the opposition between the joint operations of two sets of cleavages: central nation-building culture and the traditions of the periphery, and the opposition between the primary and secondary sectors of the economy. Also, many cleavages are cross-cutting and self-reinforcing [41]


Two questions remain: how do we account for territorial parties? And what about agrarian parties?

– Agrarian parties: Usually, N had a choice between an alliance with landed or industrial interests. N usually allied with landed interests when the landed interests could \”deliver\” their tenants (peasants) votes

– Sometimes, N allied directly with the farmers, however, resulting in an agrarian party today


This was most likely under four conditions:

(1) Industrial centers were still weak when suffrage was extended;

(2) Most agriculture was family farms, not large estates with peasants;

(3) The countryside had important cultural differences with the cities;

(4) The Catholic church was weak