Comparison and explanation of the political instability experienced by pre-Fifth Republic France, during the Third and Fourth Republics of Weimar, Germany and post-war Italy
The aim of this essay is to understand and analyze the different features of the political instability which occurred throughout the 20th century, in France, Germany, and Italy. This objective can be reached by using the works of Almond and Sartori. Almond's work tries to classify the different systems of government into four main types, regarding their political role structure and their political culture. Thanks to this analysis, we'll be able to compare France, Germany, and Italy to the Anglo-American system which is according to Almond much more stable. The other theory, defined by Sartori, deals with the party systems and is mainly focused on plurality and on the ability of parties to form coalitions or to influence other parties. Obviously, the political instability experienced in France is not the same as the one experienced in Germany or in Italy, but most of the causes of this instability have the same roots. One should notice that the two theories mentioned above work together even if there may be some conflicts between them. However they don't provide a comprehensive explanation of the political instability but they can help use to have a better understanding of the numerous features of this problem.
[...] That's why, to have a better understanding of the political instability in France, Germany and Italy, we must use Sartori's theory which deals with the party system. This existence of ‘polarized multi-party systems' within Western Europe prevented coalition governments from forming, and would often mean that governments lasted no longer than a year, as shown within the Italian nation. In Italy, twenty-eight governments were led by twelve prime ministers between 1945 and 1970. In Germany, the ‘existence of a multiparty system, inherited from the Wilhelmian years, made the task of creating a viable democracy difficult.' The existence of anti-system parties was similarly present throughout France, Germany and Italy, presenting the countries with bilateral oppositions, and ultimately preventing consensus due to forcing the competition of the party system into a centrifugal nature. ‘Centrifugal' drives, which prevail over ‘centripetal drive' in the electorate, are characterized, in Sartori's words, by the enfeeblement of the centre and by a persistent loss of votes to one of the extremes (or even to both). The electoral system of proportional representation accentuated the political instability. [...]
[...] Germany and France achieved stability partially by modernizing their economies, which in turn “performed a ‘social revolution' on the social system that removed those forces that had stunted political development.” This fits in with Almond's model concerning instability in pre-industrial societies. However, the political stability experienced by the 5th Republic within France and modern Italy and Germany is not only the product of modernization, but of many other features. Although Almond's thesis is very relevant in understanding the political instability in France, Germany, and Italy, it remains in some points debatable: indeed this theory is sometimes too deterministic and too simplistic. France, had a long democratic tradition developed over two centuries, but this did not guarantee political stability. [...]
[...] Almond, “Comparative Political Systems” in Journal of Politics (1956) p.396-397 Peter Humphreys, Lecture Notes / Study Pack (2006-2007) p Yves Mény and Andrew Knapp, Government and Politics in Western Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) p.20-25 Guillaume Cuchet, a peur des curés rouges” in L'Histoire (2004) 285 : 24-25 Yves Mény and Andrew Knapp, Government and Politics in Western Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) p.27-31 William Carr, A History of Germany (London, 1968) p.282-283 Henry W. Ehrmann, Politics in France (United States: Little, Brown & Company, 1983) p.96 Yves Mény and Andrew Knapp, Government and Politics in Western Europe (New York: Oxford [...]
[...] The fear of complete system breakdown prevented the centrifugal drives from going too far, thus forcing the legitimisation of anti-system parties. That's why, on this particular feature, Italy stood apart from Germany and France as it did not end in a complete breakdown of the system. Nevertheless, in the end Italy was able to achieve moderate stability As a conclusion, we can say that Almond's and Sartori's theories are both necessary to explain the political instability. Today, France and Italy have moved towards a majoritarian style of government whereas Germany kept its consensual PR system. [...]
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