The Political Economy of Polarized Pluralism
The purpose of the article is to argue that polarization, in polarized pluralist party systems, reflects not simply the number and the depth of political cleavages but also changes in contextual conditions. We test whether the polarization of party systems in the French Fourth Republic, the Italian First Republic, the Spanish Republic and the Weimar Republic was influenced by changes in economic conditions. Specifically, we test whether worsening economic conditions led to higher levels of polarization. The data analysis reveals that, with the exception of the Spanish Republic, the levels of party system polarization increase when economic conditions worsen. In the concluding section we address both the theoretical and the practical implications of our findings.