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The Madisonian Turn

Political Parties and Parliamentary Democracy in Nordic Europe

Torbjörn Bergman and Kaare Strøm, editors

Publication Year: 2011

This book is unique in its comparative scope and the wealth of information on the state of parliamentary democracy in the Nordic countries. It is particularly useful for the comparativists who do not come from these countries, because the original literature which it covers in detail is often not accessible for the English-speaking audience. ---Hanspeter Kriesi, University of Zurich Parliamentary democracy is the most common regime type in the contemporary political world, but the quality of governance depends on effective parliamentary oversight and strong political parties. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have traditionally been strongholds of parliamentary democracy. In recent years, however, critics have suggested that new challenges such as weakened popular attachment, the advent of cartel parties, the judicialization of politics, and European integration have threatened the institutions of parliamentary democracy in the Nordic region. This volume examines these claims and their implications. The authors find that the Nordic states have moved away from their previous resemblance to a Westminster model toward a form of parliamentary democracy with more separation-of-powers features---a Madisonian model. These features are evident both in vertical power relations (e.g., relations with the European Union) and horizontal ones (e.g., increasingly independent courts and central banks). Yet these developments are far from uniform and demonstrate that there may be different responses to the political challenges faced by contemporary Western democracies. Torbjörn Bergman is Professor of Political Science at Umeå University, Sweden. Kaare Strøm is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

As editors and contributors to this volume, we have over the past several years accumulated a great number of debts to the many individuals and institutions who have helped us make this study possible or improved its quality. Besides our respective home institutions, the first main sponsor of this research was...

Theory and Background

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1. Parliamentary Democracies under Siege?

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pp. 3-34

There is increasing concern across the advanced industrial democracies about the health of two essential democratic institutions: legislatures and political parties.1 As Russell Dalton argues, citizens “have grown distrustful of politicians, skeptical about democratic institutions, and disillusioned about how the democratic process functions” (2004, 1). Most of those that ...

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2. Nordic Europe in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 35-64

Few readers will be surprised at our treatment of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as one region. There is in fact widespread agreement among students of politics, social life, history, and culture that these countries share many commonalities, and that it is for a variety of purpose is meaningful and interesting to study them jointly. While the Nordic...

The Five Nordics

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3. Change and Challenges of Danish Parliamentary Democracy

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pp. 67-111

Denmark is the oldest of the Nordic states, with a continuous history of sovereignty that goes back more than a thousand years. It also has one of the world’s oldest continuous monarchies. Although Denmark experienced the longest period of royal absolutism (1660–1849) of the Nordic states, it has gradually evolved, since 1849, into a constitutional monarchy that exhibits ...

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4. Finland: Moving in the Opposite Direction

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pp. 112-157

The Finnish political system is normally categorized as semi-presidential, with the executive functions divided between an elected president and a cabinet that is accountable to the parliament. However, recent constitutional reforms have transformed Finnish politics by strengthening parliamentary democracy. The new constitution, which entered into force in ...

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5. Iceland: Dramatic Shifts

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pp. 158-199

There is a tendency to emphasize the commonalities of politics in the Scandinavian countries, which often are characterized as consensual and deliberative, allowing their parliaments substantial influence in policy-making. Iceland fits this model rather poorly. All the Nordic countries have a mix of Westminster and Madisonian features. Yet, comparatively, Iceland bears per- ...

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6. Norway: From H

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pp. 200-250

Norwegian democracy was born Madisonian, and it is returning to its roots. James Madison was president of the United States when Norway got its radically democratic constitution in 1814. Although there is no evidence that Madison personally influenced the drafting of the constitution, his ideas and the example of the American Revolution certainly did. The Nor-...

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7. Swedish Democracy: Crumbling Political Parties, a Feeble Riksdag, and Technocratic Power Holders?

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pp. 251-294

Swedish democracy is changing once again. The parliamentary democracy originated with a separation-of-powers system that was far from democratic, but the “working constitution” (in Swedish, “den levande författningen”; see, e.g., Mattson and Petersson 2008) gradually became quite similar to the parliamentary democracy ideal type and the Westminster model. Today, ...

Comparative Conclusions

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8. Parties and Party Systems in the North

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pp. 297-328

As discussed in chapters 1 and 2, political parties are absolutely central to the chains of delegation and accountability by which citizens exercise their sovereignty in parliamentary democracies. Parties have frequently been seen as essential mechanisms for communication between state and society—perhaps especially in times of crisis, such as the severe economic ...

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9. East-West Conflict and Europeanization: International Effects on Democratic Politics in the Nordic States

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pp. 329-355

On January 26, 2009, the government of Iceland led by Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned. The resignation came a week after a crowd of at least 2,000 broke windows and threw eggs and yogurt at Iceland’s parliament building to protest the country’s growing economic crisis. The events that led to the fall of the government can be traced to the collapse of the sub-...

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10. The Nordics: Demanding Citizens, Complex Polities

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pp. 356-388

On the surface, there seems to be little reason to worry about the fate of parliamentary democracy in Northern Europe or indeed anywhere else. Parliamentary government is the most common of all democratic regime types, at least in the sense that more people live under this form than under any other. Since World War II, parliamentary democracies have been remarkably ...

Contributors

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pp. 389-392

Name Index

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pp. 393-398

Subject Index

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pp. 399-417


E-ISBN-13: 9780472025503
E-ISBN-10: 0472025503
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472117475
Print-ISBN-10: 0472117475

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: 51 Tables, 20 Figures
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: New Comparative Politics

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Subject Headings

  • Legislative bodies -- Scandinavia.
  • Scandinavia -- Politics and government -- 1945-.
  • Cabinet system -- Scandinavia.
  • Political parties -- Scandinavia.
  • Comparative government.
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