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An Ideal of Nonfactionalism for Party Politics

This article joins a growing body of scholarship on political parties in arguing that democratic party politics should be concerned with avoiding the problem of factionalism. But existing responses to this problem have relied too heavily on conceptual distinctions between parties and factions. The dangers of factionalism cannot, in practice, be separated from the celebrated benefits of party politics. Both are rooted in the same aspects of social psychology. Consequently, I argue that we should understand the ideal of nonfactionalism as the management of a set of chronic and ineradicable concerns about how group conflict can undermine the specific forms of political unity appropriate for a liberal democracy. This ideal is negative, focused on avoiding pathological forms of party politics rather than conforming to a particular positive model. It is also plural, encompassing several related normative concerns. And it is systemic, assessed at the level of party systems.