Start Encyclopedia69 Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
dictionary -  encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   




  Social cleavages differentiate groups by a clear social marker. Important cleavages may be marked by racial, ethnic, caste, religious, class, linguistic, sexual and age-cohort boundaries. The principal political significance of cleavages in democratic states is their effect on political alignments or attachments to parties. The impact of a given cleavage is affected by its ‘salience’, and its relationship with all other salient cleavages. The salience of a cleavage is its importance relative to other aspects of an individual\'s identity in a given society: it is used to predict individuals\' attachment to political groups which claim to represent a particular cleavage or set of cleavages. For instance, the salience of religion as a cleavage varies considerably in its effect upon political alignments. In states such as Belgium and the Netherlands the existence of two or more significant religious (and anti-religious) communities led to the emergence of political parties which represented the confessional (and anti-confessional) cleavages; so much so that if a person\'s political party was known so was his or her religion (or lack of it). In the UK, by contrast, religion is not so salient a political cleavage because other cleavages (notably class, region and ethnic origin) take precedence, though religion may be correlated with these other markers. This latter possibility brings us to the importance of the structure of cleavages. Two (or more) cleavages are said to be ‘coincident’ when they encompass the same social group. For example, in a society where all middle-class people are Muslim, and all non-Muslims are not middle class the cleavages of class and religion exactly coincide. In contrast, social cleavages are ‘cross-cutting’ when members of one cleavage are widely distributed between the categories of another cleavage. For example, in a society where there are lower-, middle- and upper-class Muslims proportionate to their overall share of the population then the cleavages of religion and class are cross-cutting. Naturally there are a host of empirical possibilities between purely coincident and purely cross-cutting cleavages; and even when boundaries coincide or cross-cut each of them may not be equally important in their political impact. Some political scientists argue that numerous salient cleavages are associated with multi-party democracy, whereas a single dominant cleavage will be associated with a two-party system. Theories which view cleavages as the primary determinant of political alignments and electoral outcomes are criticized (1) for their inability to account for historical contingencies which alter the strength and formation of various cleavages; (2) for neglecting the importance of electoral systems in shaping political parties; and (3) because voting is increasingly based on specific issue-preferences with traditional cleavages allegedly losing their salience. Pluralist political scientists argue that cross-cutting cleavages are a fundamental source of democratic stability. They believe that where cleavages are coincident and based on racial, religious, ethnic or national markers, then a democratic accommodation is going to be very difficult. BO\'L

See also consociationalism.Further reading Arend Lijphart, Democracy and Plural Societies; , S.M. Lipset and , S. Rokkan, Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-national Perspectives.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>


Other Terms : Multiples | Brahmanic Religion | Contemporary History
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About |
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us