Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Political Party Fragmentation: A Pejorative Term?

By Ludovico Feoli

At a recent workshop a group of scholars analyzing the post-electoral state of a particular party system expressed concern about utilizing the term “party fragmentation.” Typically employed to describe an increase in the effective number of political parties represented in a legislature, it conveys, according to these scholars, a negative connotation–a partition into “fragments”, a certain brittleness. This claim holds that the term stems from a traditional preference for majoritarian institutions, which are more decisive, over more plural ones. Instead, these critics assert, plural representation is the very basis of democracy and an increase in the number of parties reflects the direct inclusion of more social sectors. To them, this does not represent “fragmentation” but a move towards a better form of democracy, a “consensual democracy”.

How valid are these claims? Can greater pluralism–expressed in a greater number of parties–be equated with greater democratic quality?

If we value “survivability” of the regime we must ponder the effect that the number of parties has on political stability. For if the proliferation of parties affects regime stability, opening the possibility of its degeneration into a non-democratic state, or a state of anarchy, what does this tell us about the virtues of increasing the number of parties? Would it not be right to consider this a “fragmentation”?

Linz reminds us that, in presidential regimes, extreme multiparty systems exacerbate conflict between the executive and the legislature, which in the absence of an institutional “escape valve” can lead to a breakdown, given the fixed nature of presidential terms. Extreme multiparty systems can also worsen polarization, diminishing the effectiveness of democratic government and leading to an opposition that encourages “irresponsibility and the politics of outbidding, culminating in the collapse of the center of the political spectrum” (Coppedge 2012, 96). Fixing the point of inflection at which the number of parties becomes “extreme” is difficult, and there are other factors that interact to determine the fate of a regime. But these are tendencies that can be plausibly posited to be likely as the number of parties increases.

From Arrow’s theorem we know that there is a tradeoff between social rationality–understood as the ability to reach collective decisions that are coherent–and the concentration of power. When actors are many and their preferences heterogeneous, the probability of reaching collective decisions diminishes. Institutional rules that foster the aggregation of interests have the virtue of working against this tendency. They are not counter to pluralism, understood as diversity, as all groups can be represented. As Pitkin holds, representing means acting in the interest of the represented, in a manner responsive to them, and democratic mechanisms enable that this happens accountably. On the other hand, institutional rules that foster the disaggregation of interests must account for the difficulties they entail in terms of collective action.

To the degree that an increase in “veto points” favors gridlock, the resulting stasis has implications for the quality of democracy. The inability of a regime to adequately respond to and satisfy the needs of its constituents erodes its legitimacy and, ultimately, its popular support. The resulting sense of malaise can lead to perceptions of government unfairness and erode the public trust. Under these circumstances, citizens may be more willing to dispense with democratic institutions when a messianic savior, or the military, offer deliverance through direct intercession.

So, while the notion of increased pluralism and government by consensus are intuitively appealing, they do harbor dangers for democracy. These dangers, as we have seen, relate to the stability and quality of democratic regimes. But, more fundamentally, the notion of consensus is dangerous in itself because it is indeterminate. What exactly do we mean by consensus? How is it reached?

Conceptually, these dangers increase with the number of political parties, which is why an increase in their number is not necessarily an unqualified good, and it is proper to refer to the phenomenon as fragmentation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research

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Congreso de Jornaleros: Experiences and Perspectives from Immigrant Workers in New Orleans

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The Congress of Day Laborers, an organization of immigrant workers and families founded by the day laborers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, is a leadership pipeline for hundreds of members into public life and social movement participation. A panel of immigrant leaders from Congreso will share how they have formed alliances across the community and influenced elected officials, as well as how students can help build a more tolerant society.

For more information please email Kate Rose (Vice President, BridgeTulane) at krose4@tulane.edu.

This event is sponsored by BridgeTulane, the Payson Graduate Program, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Department of Anthropology and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

Newcomb Art Museum to host Archivist Panel for installation EMPIRE

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On Wednesday, April 25, join the Newcomb Art Museum for an incredible panel, moderated by Rebecca Snedeker, with the archivists of the various collections across Tulane as they discuss their responsibilities as cultural curators and the role od archives on campus.

In celebration of the New Orleans Tri-centennial, Newcomb Art Museum has on display an exhibit entitled EMPIRE, an immersive art installation by Los Angeles-based artists Fallen Fruit, from April 13, 2018 to July 7, 2018 on Tulane University’s uptown campus.

In EMPIRE, Fallen Fruit intentionally includes historical records, ephemeral artifacts, artworks and objects culled from various archives across Tulane’s campus and recontextualizes them in the museum. The archives include those from the Amistad Research Center, Hogan Jazz Archive, the Latin American Library, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane Law Library, Tulane University Archives, Middle American Research Institute, Newcomb Art Museum, Newcomb College Institute, Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection/Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute and Southeastern Architectural Archive.

This panel is free and open to the public.

Featuring

Kara Olidge, Executive Director
Amistad Research Assistant

Alaina Hébert, Associate Curator of Graphics
Hogan Jazz Archive

Leon Miller, Head of the Louisiana Research Collection

Caroline Parris, Collections Manager
Middle American Research Institute

Sierra Polisar, Art Collections Manager & Registrar
Newcomb Art Museum

Chloe Raud, Head of Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff library Special Collections
Newcomb Art Institute

Justin Mann, Collections Manager
Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection
Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute

Kevin Williams, Archivist
Southeastern Architectural Archive

Ann Case, University Archivist
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Tulane University Archives

Learn more about the installation by visiting the Newcomb Art Museum’s website. The exhibition has also been featured in the Tulane Hullabaloo and Tulane New Wave.

Chantalle Verna to Present Research on U.S. and Haitian Relationships in Post-Occupation Haiti

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Join us at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies in welcoming Dr. Chantalle Verna for a talk on her book Haiti and the Uses of America: Post- U.S. Occupation Promises on April 26, 2018, at 6:00 PM.

In her book, Dr. Verna makes evident that there have been key moments of cooperation that contributed to nation-building in both countries. Dr. Verna emphasizes the importance of examining the post-occupation period: the decades that followed the U.S. military occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and considering how Haiti’s public officials and privileged citizens rationalized nurturing ties with the United States at the very moment when the two nations began negotiating the reinstatement of Haitian sovereignty in 1930. Their efforts, Dr. Verna shows, helped favorable ideas about the United States, once held by a small segment of Haitian society, circulate more widely. In this way, Haitians contributed to and capitalized upon the spread of internationalism in the Americas and the larger world.

Dr. Verna received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University and is currently a professor in the History Department in Florida International University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Dr. Verna focuses on the culture of foreign relations, specifically concerning Haiti and the United States during the mid-twentieth century.

Co-sponsored by: Department of History, Graduate Studies Student Association, Newcomb College Institute and XUTULAC (the Xavier and Tulane Latin American & Caribbean Studies Partnership).

Fridays at Newcomb to host Sabia McCoy-Torres for talk on the anthropology of dance

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Join us in welcoming Sabia McCoy-Torres who will present on her research in a talk titled, Shifting the Lens from Harm to Pleasure: What We Learn from Women in Dancehall. Sabia McCoy-Torres is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at Tulane University. She has a Ph.D. in social and cultural anthropology from Cornell University. Her research focuses on the English and Spanish speaking African Diaspora, race, gender, sexuality, transnationalism, and popular music and performance. Geographically, her work is based primarily in the United States and Coast Rica. Dr. McCoy-Torres’s work has been published in Transforming Anthropology and Black Music Research Journal.

The lecture includes a free lunch and is open to the public.

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: caipirão

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Bate Papo! Celebrate the end of the semester with a caipirão happy hour at the local watering hole. We’ll meet outside and quench our thirst while cramming for an exam or two or simply procrastinating. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at mloveles@tulane.edu.

Decoding the Purity of an Icon

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Join us for paintings and installations by Mexican artist Belinda Flores-Shinshillas in collaboration with the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies this March.

The Webster’s dictionary defines purity as “being free from or unmixed with any other matter.” Decoding the Purity of an Icon is a series of 10 oil female portrait paintings on canvas and 2 installations thought by Flores-Shinshillas to convey the message of recording an individual’s appearance and personality, using the tradition of iconography for veneration of purity and spirituality beyond the representation of the feminine subject. These works of art have been approached in a contemporary manner, making these portraits much more than pure representation.