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Are political parties still the most important political organizations in politics? Or are they, as some charge, powerless and intellectually bankrupt? Although political parties have been the main vehicles of mass politics during the twentieth century, their role in the twenty-first is not at all clear.
Challenges to Political Parties: The Case of Norway addresses these issues by examining the role of parties in Norwegian politics over the last twenty years. Because Norway has been a stable country with relatively few of the tensions present in other democracies, it is easier to see in this environment how parties are adapting to the many constraints of the modern world. The framework developed in this collection by a number of leading Norwegian and international social scientists sheds light on the strength of the party system worldwide.
Norway, indeed, exhibits the same stability observed elsewhere in the world. Voters are increasingly eschewing strong party identification and show-ing fickleness through vote-switching. There has been a dramatic decline in political trust among the electorate, and contempt for politicians has become a prominent topic for the media. Yet the story also reveals the adaptability of the party system. Like entrepreneurs, parties are either adapting to meet voters' needs or new, more responsive parties are emerging to compete against entrenched, older organizations. The party system may be changing, the contributors to this volume argue, but party government is likely to be the central form of democratic governments for some time to come.