Ratio Working Papers
Notes on the 'Freezing Hypothesis'
Abstract: It is now 40 years since Lipset and Rokkans heavily
influential ‘Cleavage Structures…’ was first published. Current research
has still made little effort to explain why the ‘freezing’ of party systems
these authors observed actually took place. The purpose here is to
contribute to this field by elucidating the individual-level mechanisms
that make party system stability more intelligible. The argument put
forward here is that three interrelated factors give us deeper insights
into the mechanics of the so called ‘freezing process’. Firstly, the
‘problem of collective action among potential party-entrepreneurs’ makes it
puzzling that new political parties emerge at all. Secondly, even if the
original collective-action problem somehow is overcome, the
‘principal-agent problem’ and the ‘problem of voter coordination’ make it
hard for new parties to attract voters. Finally, well-established and
powerful competitors have the incentives and instruments to fight newcomers
and steer them away from the political arena. I reach the conclusion that
it is not surprising at all that Lipset and Rokkan made their empirical
observations. Instead, what is really puzzling is why new political parties
emerge and gain support at all.
Keywords: Party systems; 'freezing hypothesis'; party formation; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: D01; D71; D72; H41; (follow links to similar papers)
13 pages, May 24, 2007
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