Bibliography on Party Politics in ICELAND, 1950-1962

Kenneth Janda

An island nation of about 200,000 population in the midst of the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland attracts relatively little scholarly attention by social scientists in general and even less for its politics. Occasionally, the country comes under consideration in discussions of Scandinavian politics, but often as not authors conveniently define Scandinavia to exclude Iceland. In any event, the quantity of the scholarly material is so scanty that one cannot expect much from the coverage.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

Our microfilm file of party politics in Iceland contains 164 pages from 23 documents. One additional document, Morris Davis' Iceland Extends Its Fisheries Limits (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1963), was not indexed for inclusion in the file but was consulted at the later stages of coding. The table of indexing codes applied to the material, not including the Davis volume, expresses the shape and limitations of the literature on Icelandic party politics.

The most heavily used of the major coding categories is 8-- (party system), followed closely by 6-- (political environment). The literature indexed by these codes tended to be general in nature and of little use for coding the parties on specific variables in the ICPP conceptual framework except for indicators of the parties' "institutionalization" and "governmental status." The most frequent of the specific indexing codes is 530 (issue orientation). Although only 40 pages in the file drew code 530, the discussion of issue positions of the four major parties was sufficient to enable them to be coded on most of the variables in the "issue orientation" cluster.

The literature was most deficient for coding indicators of the concepts dealing with the partiesí "internal organization." Note that only 20 pages in the entire file deal with "party organization" in general (code 4--) The literature that was indexed with the 4-- codes tended to be descriptive of formal party provisions, neglecting the dynamics of intraparty politics. The available information proved more suitable for coding the "degree of organization" variables than for the other concepts of internal organization: "centralization of power," "coherence, and "involvement."

Observations on the State of the Literature

The characteristics of the literature in our file are profiled in the data quality table. Nineteen of the twenty-three documents were published in the United States, and all are in English. Perhaps there is a literature on Icelandic politics in the Scandinavian languages that we failed to uncover, but the few footnote references did not suggest that there was. One of the most striking characteristics of the literature we did encounter was its journalistic nature; 14 of the authors were classified as journalists compared to only 6 academics. Correspondingly, the documents tended to avoid reporting quantitative data, were overwhelmingly non-theoretical, and seldom attributed their sources of information through footnotes.

Not surprisingly, the ICPP Project has found that the quality and quantity of the literature on party politics varies with the state of development of the party system. If the parties are highly institutionalized and function in a competitive system, then the literature is apt to be good and plenty. Obviously, this generalization does not hold for Iceland, which appears to have been neglected as an object of study due to its small population and remote location. From the standpoint of comparative politics, however, small size and remote location should not disqualify a country from study. Instead of doing yet another dissertation on French, British, or American party politics, someone might someday fill a gap in our knowledge of party politics across the world by doing an intensive, analytical study of party politics in Iceland.