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Book Reviews

Political parties as organizations


Mildred Schwartz. The Party Network: The Robust Organization of the Illinois Republicans. Madison, Wis.; University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Pp. 320 with directory, bibliography and index. $40 (cloth); $17.50 (paper).

This scholarly work explores the essence of the meaning of political parties as organizations, using the Republican Party of Illinois as a case study. In some respects, though, there are major components of two quite different books here. One teaches us much about the interactions of the Illinois Republican party, especially during the last half of the 1970's and, as such, holds some interest for a broad audience. This material, however, is embedded in a much larger and more ambitious theoretical treatment of political party organizations. The second of these dimensions fits within the political science literature of Samuel Eldersveld and Joseph Schlesinger, two leading scholars who deal with the study of political organizations. This material is rich in conceptual insights and research hypotheses and, as such, should provide students of political science and organiza-tional behavior with a wide array of possibilities for future inquiry. Schwartz takes quite seriously Schlesinger's charge to examine political parties as organizations. Unfortunately, for the casual reader who is only interested in learning more about the Republican party in Illinois, the "pragmatic politics" material is so embedded in the difficult theoretical treatment that the interesting anecdotal and historical information is not accessible without a demanding journey through the whole work. I would recommend to the casual reader the chapters on patronage, ideology and money as perhaps the most rewarding and practical parts of the book. Serious scholars and students of complex organizations will also find a great deal to think about theoretically here, especially in the early chapters.

Schwartz bases her research on a series of interviews with Illinois party and public officials as well as other relevant actors holding office in 1978 and 1980. Over 200 of these ''informants" granted long personal interviews. Apparently these were also fairly unstructured, open-ended interviews; it is never made clear if there were specific questions common to all (a good appendix providing details about the interview protocol would have been helpful on this point). This rich collection of face-to-face interviews was then supplemented with telephone interviews of county chairs and with several aggregate data analyses of election returns, campaign expenditures and voting patterns in the Illinois General Assembly.

Schwartz's major theoretical approach is to treat important party personnel as a set of actors existing in a network of exchanges fueled by (1) power, (2) patronage, (3) ideology and (4) campaign contributions. The actors use these four media of exchange in their interrelationships with each other, and their exchanges hold the organization together in a network of personal interaction.

The resulting picture of diffuse and somewhat amorphous networks existing at various strata of the party, with an emphasis on personal rather than hierarchical relationships, will be a familiar one for scholars conversant with Eldersveld's seminal work. Schwartz stresses that this is not a contribution to the "parties in decline" school of thought. She calls the Illinois Republican party a "robust organization," by which she means that the party thrives on the exchange of valued resources by important people trying to recruit and elect candidates and to govern the state and nation.

. . . Schwartz advances her own rudimentary theory of party organization, termed 'the adaptive theory.' Schwartz's study is an important contribution to the academic debate . . .

In the last chapter, Schwartz advances her own rudimentary theory of party organization, termed "the adaptive party." She first reviews the two dominant models of party organization, which she terms the "strong" or "responsible" party model and the typical American "weak" party model. Both of these models are lacking, according to Schwartz, and she advances four principles of party adaptability as an embryonic alternative theory. Quite naturally, Schwartz determines that the Illinois Republican party fits well within the contours of her model. This is a potentially useful contribution to the academic debate over developing models of political parties.

Overall, Schwartz's study is an important contribution to our understanding of political parties' organization. It will be of less interest and significance to those seeking an analysis of recent events in Illinois politics. Scholars will find much to chew on here; practitioners will not want to stay for the full seven-course meal.

John S. Jackson is dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of political science at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Illinois Issues/October 1990/31

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