Object of Interdisciplinary
Some Steps Toward Theoretical Integration
Soziologisches Institut der Universität Zurich, Switzerland
Although terms like "national party" hardly need any further clarification, it is unclear which collectivities should be classified as "local political parties." On the one hand, this concept may be applied to groupings that seek formal power within communities or municipalities by nominating candidates for local public offices. Pursuing the same goals and operating within isomorphic institutional and legal settings, such groups may be expected to display similar activities and organizational characteristics as parties campaigning on the state or national level, even in cases where they look more like interest groups or voluntary associations, exist only for short periods, and have no formal links to supralocal party organizations. On the other hand, the term may also be used for precincts and other lowest-level party subunits, even when their sole function is to support supralocal election campaigns and when their territorial extension does not coincide with any political unit of the communal level. In this second sense, the concept "local" refers to the fact that the physical operating field is rather small and recruitment takes place mainly on the basis of spatial proximity.
Empirically, most countries have local parties that combine these two characteristics. Such groupings are really "Janus-faced" ( Lehmbruch 1979), because they have to combine two very different (and often