Cracking the whip: the deliberative costs of strict party discipline

What happens when strict discipline is required to keep party coherence? DPhil student, Udit Bhatia, writes for the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.


This article explores the deliberative costs incurred when political parties rely on strict discipline to attain unity. I begin with a brief discussion aimed at clarifying the notion of strict party discipline. The second section explores how such discipline affects the formation, expression and reception of dissenting views. In the third section, I go on to outline two approaches towards deliberation in Parliament: the epistemic approach and the political justification approach. I argue that the impact of strict party discipline on dissenting views entails costs on legislative deliberation conceptualised in either way. The fourth section highlights how intra-party deliberation could potentially mitigate the deliberative costs outlined in this article. Finally, I turn to the implications of my analysis for assessing party discipline, and then I take a closer look at the case of India’s anti-defection law, demonstrating why the deliberative costs outlined in this article are particularly severe there.