Greene's resource theory of single party dominance

Master Thesis


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Single-party dominance (SPD) is a phenomenon that has puzzled many scholars within the field of political science, as it does not fit into the standard dichotomy of democracy versus dictatorship. Kenneth Greene’s Resource Theory seeks to explain prolonged electoral dominance in these systems by looking at resource asymmetries between the governing party and the opposition. Greene applies his theory to democratic and non-democratic SPD systems alike. In order to expand knowledge in the field of SPD research, this thesis has provided a critical analysis of Greene’s theory using South Africa under the ANC within the timeframe of 1994 to February 2018 as an illustrative case. The thesis concluded that the Resource Theory could not be used for explaining ANC dominance, and indicated that resources have a limited power to explain SPD. As such, the aim of the thesis is to uncover theoretical weaknesses of the theory. Firstly, it is argued that the theory is weakened by the use of subjective and sometimes arbitrary concepts which hamper testability. The main theoretical flaw identified is Greene’s assumptions of the nature of such systems, in which he sees the dominant party as one unit. I argue in this research that this assumption renders the theory unable to predict the consequences of factionalisation within the dominant party. Three main factors are identified to justify why resources have limited explanatory power. Firstly, factionalisation leads to intra-party competition for state resources, and these factions become dependent on a steady stream of resources to sustain themselves. This competition can become so fierce that the economy suffers. When resources become less available, these conflicts intensify. Consequently, the dominant party starts deteriorating from within and misconduct can no longer be concealed from the public. As the government becomes less responsive in terms of providing public goods in combination with increased public awareness, voter dissatisfaction also intensifies. This eventually leads citizens to abandon their allegiance to the party. The research study shows that resources are not independent from external and internal environments, indicating that asymmetric resource advantages alone cannot explain why these systems exist over longer periods of time.