Path: Janda: Political Parties, Home Page > Part 1: Table of Contents > Chapter 3
Kenneth Janda, Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey (New York: The Free Press, 1980)
Chapter 3: Institutionalization (pp. 19-28), this is p. 19
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(Text below as published in 1980 citation above)

WRITING IN 1955, McDonald observed, "Even a casual examination of party literature and studies will turn up many references to parties as institutions. Like other terms we have noted, institution as a term seems at first to refer to different things depending upon who uses it." Later in the same work, he says, "Despite the many casual references to parties as institutions it is surprising that there is very little in the way of explicit discussion of the significance of the institution concept as applied to parties as social formations" (1955, pp. 15-17).

Given today's interest in comparing party politics in different countries, contemporary writings are more explicit in discussing the significance of the "institutionalization" of parties than those McDonald described 25 years ago, although they may not use the term itself. For example, Scott notes that in Latin America "little real political party machinery exists at the local level, and what does exist is seldom related directly to a national party. Instead, a few local notables build their own personalistic organizations for each election, allying themselves with national leaders of so-called national parties for reasons of power or material advantage" (1966, p. 337). And Pye sees parties in Southeast Asia in much the same light (1966). Huntington is one contemporary scholar who deals explicitly with the term "institutionalization" and who has labored at explicating the concept. He defines institutions as "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior" and says, "Institutionalization is the process by which organizations and procedures acquire value and stability." Huntington proposes to measure the level of institutionalization for a particular organization "by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence" (1965, p. 394). I agree essentially with his definition of institutions in terms of "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior," but I do not agree with his proposed ingredients for measurement. For example, I believe that a party can be highly institutionalized and yet lack independence of other groups (Huntington's "autonomy")--as the Labour Party in Great Britain.

McDonald's review of various definitions of institution results in a position close to Huntington's: "What these definitions seem to have in common is their emphasis upon institution as stressing the regularity of action pattern, its nonpersonal aspect, and the expectations that it creates. To regard party as an institution would be in some measure to single out for stress something that might be called the party way of doing things, something that might be designated by the phrase 'party politicking' in order to distinguish it from other types of 'politicking' (1955, pp. 16-17). Although Sartori does not refer explicitly to institutionalization, it seems this is what he means in his concern about "structured" and ''unstructured" parties, with structured parties existing in the minds of their followers as ''abstract entities'' apart from their leaders (1968, pp. 281, 293).

Scarrow warns political scientists against "reifying" the party in political analysis (1967, p. 777; but see Ranney 1968a), yet party participants often do reify the party in their behavior, which is characteristic within an institutionalized party. Thus, within our study, an institutionalized party is one that is reified in the public mind so that "the party" exists as a social organization apart from its momentary leaders, and this organization demonstrates recurring patterns of behavior valued by those who identify with it. In the absence of sample survey data on popular views of parties, we seek to measure or "operationalize" the concept of institutionalization with six basic variables:

1.01 -- Year of Origin
1.02 -- Name Changes
1.03 -- Organizational Discontinuity
1.04 -- Leadership Competition
1.05 -- Legislative Instability
1.06 -- Electoral Instability
Basic Variable 1.01: Year of Origin

Students of parties widely regard a party's age as one measure of institutionalization, with old parties considered to be more institutionalized than new ones. We measure age by determining the date of a party's founding or its "year of origin." Because a party's history may be clouded by splits, mergers, name changes, and related phenomena, there is often a problem in estab

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