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Opposition Questions

  • Geraint Parry


‘ONE OF THE PECULIARITIES OF THE SUBJECT OF OPPOSITION IS THAT, although the problem of opposition is one of the oldest, very few works have ever dealt with it specifically and exclusively.’ These introductory remarks to their 1968 volume by Ghiţa Ionescu and Isabel de Madariaga still hold remarkably true, despite a number of subsequent works and collections devoted to the subject. Their explanation was that although opposition is the altera pars of government it is a concept which is necessarily relative to that of power upon which political action centres and around which political science moulds itself.



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1 Ionescu, G. and de Madariaga, I., Opposition, London, Watts, 1968, p. 2.

2 Dahl, R. A. (ed.), Political Oppositions in Western Democracies, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1966. This was followed by > Dahl, R. A. (ed.), Regimes and Oppositions, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1973.

3 Potter, Allen, ‘Great Britain: Opposition with a Capital “O”’, in Dahl (ed.), Political Oppositions, op. cit., pp. 333.

4 See Foord, A.S., His Majesty’s Opposition 1714–1830, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1964, p. 1.

5 Classically on such rhetoric see Skinner, , ‘The Principles and Practice of Opposition: The Case of Bolingbroke versus Walpole’, in McKendrick, N. Quentin, (ed.), Historical Perspectives: Studies in English Thought and Society in Honour of J H. Plumb, London, Europa Publications, 1974, pp. 93128.

6 Dahl, ‘Preface’, Political Oppositions, op. cit., p. xiv.

7 Amongst a growing literature see Fishkin, J., Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1991; Burnheim, J., Is Democracy Possible?, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994; and Gutmann, A. and Thompson, D., Democracy and Disagreement, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1996.

8 The essays in this collection were first presented at a Conference on the Repositioning of Opposition sponsored by Government and Opposition and held at the University of Reading. In addition to the contributors the following delegates attended: Sir Nicholas Bayne, Professor Richard Bellamy (University of Reading), Professor Michael Biddiss (University of Reading), Professor Christoph Bluth (University of Reading), Dr Ken Dark (University of Reading), Miss Sarah Evans (University of Reading), Mr Ken Gladdish (University of Reading), Professor Roy Gregory (University of Reading), Professor Charles Hauss (University of Reading), Dr Jude Howell (University of East Anglia), Dr Barry Jones (University of Reading), Mrs Rosalind Jones (Government and Opposition), Dr Sunil Khilnani (Birkbeck College, University of London), Dr Andy Knapp (University of Reading), Professor Isabel de Madariaga (University of London), Professor Elizabeth Meehan (Queen’s University, Belfast), Dr Patrizia Messina (University of Padua), Professor Kenneth Minogue (London School of Economics), Professor Gordon Smith (London School of Economics), Professor Sir Trevor Smith (Vice‐Chancellor, University of Ulster), Professor Alan Ware (Worcester College, Oxford), Professor Roger Williams (Vice‐Chancellor, University of Reading) and Dr Stewart Wood (Madgalen College, Oxford).

The Editor wishes to thank the Vice‐Chancellor of the University of Reading, Professor Michael Biddiss and the staff of Black Horse House for their help with the conference arrangements.

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Opposition Questions

  • Geraint Parry


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