Assemblies - Performance of assemblies - Assemblies in decline

5 important questions on Assemblies - Performance of assemblies - Assemblies in decline

What are the principal factors of the decline in assemblies?

- Emergence of disciplined political parties
- The growth of 'big' government
- The organizational weakness of assemblies
- The rise of interest groups and media power.

How had mass-membership parties weakened assemblies?

1. Transition from loose factions to disciplined party groupings undermined the ability of individual members to represent constituents as trustees by exercising their own judgement and conscience.  --> parties, rather than assemblies, thus became the principal agents of representation (operating through the doctrine of the mandate).

2. Party loyalty, assemblies have little impact on voting (debate becomes sterile or ritualized).

How has 'big' government influenced the role of assemblies?

The growth in the role of government has usually been associated with a redistribution of power from assemblies to executives.
- increase in size/status of bureaucracies.
- Greater emphasis on process of policy initiation and formulation (developing broad and coherent government programmes is beyond individual assembly members. They mostly just scrutinize and critisize now).
- 'big' government means that policy is increasingly complex and intricate. Higher expertise is needed --> possessed by 'professional' bureaucrats.

How is lack of leadership of influence to the weakening position of assemblies?

Organizational weakness. Egalitarian and fragmented character of assemblies weakens their capacity to provide leadership and take concerted action.
Leadership tends to be provided by parties and through assemblies. It often has been the executive that has been able to respond to this need for leadership.

How has the rise of interest groups threatened assemblies?

1. Groups have provided public with an alternative mechanism of representation. More effective.
2. Organized interests have become more prominent as representatives and as sources of expert advice and information.
3. The susceptibility of assemblies to lobbying has undermined their legitimacy (assembly members seem more motivated by their own self-interests).
4. Media has displaced assemblies as the major forums for political debate.

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