Party Rhetoric and Practice: A Normative Perspective from Political Science

Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 15)


Political parties have most of the time behavior which comply with their discourse, but in some circumstances they cannot avoid to face the problem of gaps between their rhetoric and their practice, which threaten to undermine their credibility. In the first part of the chapter we look at these gaps in focusing on five functions that rhetoric plays in relation to practice: the function of displaying, the function of concealing, the function of justification, the function of contestation and the function of correcting discrepancies. The gaps between rhetoric and practice could have beneficial effects when they are recognized and are subject to a corrective process. In the second part of the chapter some measures of self-correction by parties are proposed that could close the gap associated with each one of the five functions.

The purpose of this chapter is to present some comments on gaps between the discourse and the practice of political parties. This separation is one of the main reasons for the loss of credibility of political parties and for reduced electoral participation, a problem which affects how our political systems function. This is why there is a need to study the problem and to recommend corrective measures that can solve it.

Despite it being important, efforts to tackle the problem have mainly produced studies which criticized the gaps or which gave a summarized opinion about the issue. There have been few in-depth analyses of this subject and the majority of them were done before the year 2000 (see in particular Bok Etchegoyen Pratte Schwartzenberg 1998).

It must be noted that political parties often have practices which comply with their rhetoric. There are also cases where the gap between parties’ platforms and parties’ practices has beneficial effects, mainly when it is recognized and is subject to a self-correction process. This self-correction process will be part of the corrective measures, which we shall suggest at the end of the chapter. However, we shall concentrate mainly on the gap between the rhetoric and the practices of parties, which is not acknowledged, by focusing on the functions that rhetoric plays in relation with the practices.


Political Party Political Parti Political Practice Liberal Party Opposition Party 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de science politiqueUniversité LavalQuebécCanada

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