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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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    Paper provided by The Ratio Institute in its series Ratio Working Papers with number 113.

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    Length: 13 pages
    Date of creation: 24 May 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0113
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    1. 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, 08.
    2. 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.
    3. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
    4. Harold Demsetz, 1981. "Barriers to Entry," UCLA Economics Working Papers 192, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. 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.
    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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