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Notes on the 'Freezing Hypothesis'

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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.

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  • Erlingsson, Gissur, 2007. "Notes on the 'Freezing Hypothesis'," Ratio Working Papers 113, The Ratio Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0113
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    File URL: http://www.ratio.se/pdf/wp/ge_freezing.pdf
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    1. Carles Boix, 1999. "Setting the rules of the game: The choice of electoral systems in advanced democracies," Economics Working Papers 367, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Demsetz, Harold, 1982. "Barriers to Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 47-57, March.
    3. Joseph Willey, 1998. "Institutional Arrangements and the Success of New Parties in Old Democracies," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 46(3), pages 651-668, August.
    4. Richard Schmalensee, 1978. "Entry Deterrence in the Ready-to-Eat Breakfast Cereal Industry," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 305-327, Autumn.
    5. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    6. Mueller, Dennis C., 1997. "First-mover advantages and path dependence," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 827-850, October.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Party systems; 'freezing hypothesis'; party formation;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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