Three Theories of the Origin of Parties

Political writers do not agree among themselves regarding the causes and forces which create political parties. Broadly speaking, three theories are offered to explain their origin. They are the theory of human nature, the theory of ideological motivation and the theory of economic or class conflicts.

The Theory of Human Nature.

According to this theory, parties arise because human nature is fundamentally split into two tendencies, conservatism and progressivism. Some people are instinctively, conservative and want to leave things as they are. They dislike change and oppose progress. On the other hand, some persons are instinctively progressive and want to make changes, as they are dissatisfied with the status quo or the existing order of things. “These two tendencies of human nature produce two kinds of parties, the parties of the Right and those of the Left, the conservative and radical or progressive parties. This is psychological explanation of the rise of different political parties.

According to Lord Bryce, four factors maintain political parties. “Whatever its origin.” he writes, ‘every party lives and thrives by the concurrent action of four tendencies or forces, which may be described as those of Sympathy. Imitation, Competition and Pugnacity. Even if intellectual conviction had much to do with its creation, emotion has more to do with its vitality and combative power.” These forces of human nature preserve the unity and continuity of a party.

As regards the changes in political parties, it is said human habits and temperament change with age and circumstance. Young people are always radical, emotional and idealistic. They love change and dislike the old order. But grown-up people with advancing years become conservative and dislike change. They look back to the old order with which they are habituated and are critical of progress and change, innovations and reforms. Thus most individuals begin as radicals and revolutionaries in their youthful days but become conservative as they become old and settled in life with an established social status, wealth and property. Thus age and circumstance change political views and party affiliations of the individuals.

Theory of Ideological Motivation.

This theory briefly means that ideas move men that political parties arise and become organised because men differ in their beliefs, ideas, convictions and outlook on life or in their philosophy of life. In the past, religious beliefs and dogmas divided people into different parties, whereas in present days, political philosophies or ‘isms’ and social ideologies divide them. In backward and under­developed countries, religion still plays a great part in the growth and differences of political parties, while in industrially advanced and progressive countries, social and political ideologies create different parties. Thus a political party is an association of those persons who have similar ideals, beliefs and purposes which they seek to achieve by collective action and control of the government.

Theory of Economic or Class Conflicts.

This theory emphasizes the economic factors and motives in the growth and differentiation of political parties. It explains that parties grow up and become divided as a result of the conflict of economic interests of various classes, sections and groups in the nation and society. Differences in wealth and possessions, in economic outlook of the people and economic conditions, are the vital forces behind the formation of political parties. Thg ‘haves’ form one party and the ‘have-nots’ another. Men of property and wealth do not like social or economic changes and, therefore, organise conservative political parties. The poorer and propertyless classes are eager for social and economic changes, for they have nothing to lose by change. They form radical parties. Karl Marx was the first great writer to show the determining influence of economic or material conditions on the political life of a people. People think as they live. Politics is, no doubt, not all economics, but it remains a mystery without it.


Each of these theories contains a Clement of truth. Political parties are complex phenomena. One factor alone docs not produce them. Human nature, ideas and economic conditions all determine the growth of parties and their divisions into various forms and kinds.

    1. khan
      • khan
    2. jd wahid wazir

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