The Literary Styles of Party Manifestos

It’s sometimes said that nobody really reads party manifestos, yet they are recognized as essential texts in political science. What is more, we often use computers to interact with party manifestos, or code them sentence by sentence — in which case it is easy to lose track of the overall manifesto.

One thing that is lost is the fact that the literary styles (should I call them genres?) of party manifestos vary significantly between parties. Some of the party manifestos read like (PowerPoint) business presentation full of bullet points and phrases that are really just assertions. Quite different are party manifestos that read like essays university graduates are required to write: an argument is developed, and policies are clearly justified with reference to some underlying principle. There are also differences between countries, which begin with the typical length of a party manifesto — anything between a leaflet and a full book-sized manifesto.

Obviously in most applications we don’t care about the literary styles of party manifestos, but there is certainly scope to research this topic a bit more systematically than getting impressions from actually reading party manifestos. There is probably something to learn about the authors of party manifestos.

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