Pristine Purity: New Political Parties in Canada

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    Success sells better than failure; hence new parties receive very little attention from political scientists as long as they remain marginal and fail to win seats in Parliament. Yet in the margins of the party system, they may maintain the pristine purity of political principles and ideas better than parties in Parliament, let alone parties in power. This is one reason why one might want to study new parties. However, there are other, perhaps more compelling reasons.

    As traditional parties fragment in the era of "postmodern" politics, new parties have the potential to play a more significant role, in opposition or even in government. If established parties fail to integrate discontented groups--alternative or immigrant subcultures, for example--new parties may mobilize and socialize these groups. In trying to articulate latent interests and ideologies, new parties will show us the range of available political options in a system and throw fresh light on its political culture. Even if the new parties do not win power, their ideas may be borrowed by parties in government once those ideas have been tested in public debate and have gained some popular support. Finally, studying new parties can help us to understand the formation process and subsequent evolution of parties in general, and their relation to society. Too often, political scientists have neglected marginal political parties. Recently, Stephen Hanson and Jeffrey Kopstein pointed out that "seemingly marginal politicians and groups can quickly catalyze powerful institutional changes once the global environment changes," the most extreme examples being Lenin's Bolsheviks and Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)283-300
    Number of pages18
    JournalThe American Review of Canadian Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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