The study of Western European cabinets
Title: The study of Western European cabinets
Citation: European Journal of Political Research, 1988, Vol. 16, No 2, pp. 115-123
We are still relatively unfamiliar with the structures and modes of behaviour of Western European cabinets and we need first to identify the range of the differences which exist with respect to two major dimensions along which cabinet governments can be located (collective v. hierarchical decision-making and political representation v. administrative and/or specialist skills). A valuable test can be obtained by considering in detail the cases of a number of countries in which the traditions of cabinet government are known to be different from those of the British model, both because of the existence of coalitions and because of specific traditions of ‘administrative’ and even ‘bureaucratic’ government. Marked variations emerge with respect to four elements: ministerial expertise, the large autonomy of ministers, the authority of the prime minister or chancellor, and the relatively limited influence of the council of ministers as a deliberative body. Cabinet government is a flexible machinery which has given rise to a number of different models corresponding to different traditions and to different conditions in which the political system operates.
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