Jean Blondel, Comparative Legislatures (1973).

Main Argument:

This is a compilation volume of early studies on legislatures and legislative institutionalization. It has been critiqued for being too focused on issues that have already been settled in the literature and not having enough in the way of systematic examination of parliamentary vs presidential legislative bodies.

 

Method: Qualitative review of over 100 legislatures in the world (democratic and non).

 

 

 

Key insight: the real empirical question regarding legislatures is not whether they fulfil expectations (with regard to passing all statutes and being able to make and unmake governments). Rather, it is whether they have systemic significance i.e. can constrain the executive and act as a channel of information from the people and the executive. The main value of this works seems to be its comprehensive cataloguing of legislative characteristics.

 

Critique: Blondel’s focus is so broad and comprehensive as to be misleading. Legislatures in dictatorial systems are included along with those in electoral systems.

 

Method: Blondel creates a data set covering more than 100 countries in all regions of the world, and then compares the legislatures across the cases.

 

Notes:

*the yardstick by which analysts should determine the significance of legislatures should not be whether the legislature really passes all the statutes or even most of the rules of the country, and whether it is in a real‚ position to make and unmake governments. These are simply not the real functions of legislatures.

*the function of the legislature is to provide a means of ensuring that there are channels of communication between the people and the executive, as a result of which it is possible for demands to be injected into the decision-making machinery whenever they exist and for the executive decisions to be checked if they raise difficulties, problems, and injustices.

**legislatures constrain and inform.

 

 

== Notes ==

 

–           In this volume only 4 (out of 17) papers focus explicitly on legislative institutionalization and an additional 7 are concerned with legislatures directly
–           The “yardstick” by which analysts should determine the significance of legislatures should not be “whether the legislature ‘really’ passes all the statutes or even most of the rules of the country, and whether it is in a ‘real’ position to make and unmake governments
–           “The function of the legislature is to provide a means of ensuring that there are channels of communication between the people and the executive, as a result of which it is possible for demands to be injected into the decision-making machinery whenever they exist and for the executive decisions to be checked if they raise difficulties, problems, and injustices” [135]
–           There is no full scale treatment of the nature of legislatures in parliamentary versus presidential systems; there is only cursory discussion of the role that committees play in legislatures, with little attempt to characterize and compare committee systems
–           Proposes that any analysis of legislatures should include three criteria: the structural, the cultural, and “the character of elite and public obligation and compliance [25]