Moderate political conflict is an important prerequisite for the successful functioning of any democratic society. It depends upon the existence of individuals open to conversion on specific issues and willing to be recruited into political parties and groups. The supportive influence of conflict increases where individuals are subject to cross-pressures through overlapping memberships and where a variety of cleavages cross-cut one another. Rather than resulting in disintegration, the diversity of political conflict tends to promote cohesion, since an individual may be a member of a majority on one issue and a member of a minority on another.1 In a comparative context a bi-polar conflict, that is one which sustains two distinct and self-perpetuating communities ranged around a single allpervasive cleavage, is rare. Extremism is likely to flourish because of the system’s inability to resolve negotiable political issues and be encouraged by the tendency of the two groups to isolate their respective followers from conflicting stimuli, a process achieved by further intensifying the saliency of the dominant cleavage.2


Political Party Electoral System Political Group British Government Irish Unity 
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    S. M. Lipset, Political Man, (London: Heinemann, 1971) pp. 87–9.Google Scholar
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    Robert A. Dahl, Regimes and Oppositions, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973) pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
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© Ian McAllister 1977

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  • Ian McAllister

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