Democracy Without Associations

Transformation of the Party System and Social Cleavages in India
Pradeep K. Chhibber
A demonstration of how political parties and state policy can make some social divisions more salient than others


India's party system has undergone a profound transformation over the last decade. The Congress Party, a catch-all party that brought independence in 1947 and governed India for much of the period since then, no longer dominates the electoral scene. Political parties which draw support from particular caste and religious groups are now more powerful than ever before. Democracy Without Associations explains why religious and caste-based political parties come to dominate the electoral landscape in 1990s India and why catch-all parties have declined. Arguing that political parties and state policy can make some social divisions more salient than others and also determine how these divisions affect the political system, the author offers an explanation for the relationship between electoral competition and the politicization of social differences in India. He notes that the relationship between social cleavages and the party system is not axiomatic and that political parties can influence the links they have to social cleavages. The argument developed for India is also used to account for emergence of class-based parties in Spain and the electoral success of a religious party in Algeria.

Democracy Without Associations will interest scholars and students of Indian politics, and party politics, as well as those interested in the impact of social divisions on the political system.

Pradeep K. Chhibber is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Associate Director, Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . this important volume makes a useful contribution to the study of Indian politics by highlighting the centrality of political parties to the dynamics of the Indian polity. . . . More broadly, Chhibber's arguments contribute to the study of comparative party systems by suggesting that the level of associational life is an important variable in the evolution of party systems and by demonstrating that in the context of weak associational life and strong state activism, partisan competition can transform the nature of a party system."
    —John Echeverri-Gent, Univ. of Virginia, American Political Science Review, December 2000
  • ". . . an ambitious study of one of the most important topics in contemporary South Asian politics. Its historical scope and the range of public-opinion data which it examines make a unique contribution to the literature. . . ."
    —Peter Mayer, University of Adelaide , Australian Journal of Political Science, Volume 35, No. 2 (2000)
  • ". . . propounds a new and controversial thesis concerning the decline of the Congress Party in India. . . . Chhibber also explains the rapid rise of the Bartiya Santa Party as caused not by religiosity but by religious nationalism because it has been able 'to forge a coalition between the middle class, the forward castes, religious groups and those voters who had preferences over the policies of the national government.' . . . This unconventional and provocative analysis of Indian politics is highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, students, and faculty. "
    —L. P. Fickett Jr., Mary Washington College, Choice, March 2000
  • " . . meticulously researched. . . . [O]ne of the main contributions of this study is to question what the author calls the 'axiomatic' relationship between social cleavages and political parties where cleavages necessarily influence parties and not vice versa. In moving the focus of the study from political sociology to comparative politics, and in the process, asserting both the relative autonomy and creativity of the political process with regard to political norms, institutions, and processes, Professor Chhibber adds both theoretical depth and empirical rigour to this important political phenomenon. The book would provide much insight both to the specialists of South Asian area studies and to the students of the comparative study of party systems."
    —Subrata K. Mitra, University of Heidelberg, Democratization, Spring 2000
  • ". . . an invaluable piece both for the India specialist and the comparative political party and party systems audience."
    —Csaba Nikolenyi, Univ. of British Columbia, Pacific Affairs, Winter 2000

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
  • 20 drawings, 33 tables.
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  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02396-7

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