Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges

Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges

Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges

Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges

Synopsis

This book, with contributions from leading scholars in the field, presents a critical overview of much of the recent literature on political parties. It systematically assesses the capacity of existing concepts, typologies, and methodological approaches to deal with contemporary parties. Itcritically analyses the 'decline of parties' literature both from a conceptual perspective and - with regard to antiparty attitudes among citizens - on the basis of empirical analyses of survey data. It systematically re-examines the underpinnings of rational-choice analyses of electoralcompetition, as well as the misapplication of standard party models as the 'catch-all party.' Several chapters reexamine existing models of parties and party typologies, particularly with regard to the capacity of commonly used concepts to capture the wide variation among parties that exist in oldand new democracies today, and with regard to their ability to deal adequately with the new challenges that parties are facing in rapidly changing political, social and technological environments. In particular, two detailed case studies demonstrate how party models are significant not only asframeworks for scholarly research, but also insofar as they can affect party performance. Other chapters also examine in detail how corruption and party patronage have contributed to party decline, as well as the public attitudes towards parties in several countries. In the aggregate, the variouscontributions to this volume reject the notion that a 'decline of party' has progressed to such an extent as to threaten the survival of parties as the crucial intermediary actors in modern democracies. The contributing authors argue, however, that parties are facing a new set of sometimesdemanding challenges. Not only have parties differed significantly in their ability to successfully meet these challenges, but the core concepts, typologies, party models and methodological approaches that have guided research in this area over the past 40 years have met with only mixed success inadequately capturing these recent developments and serving as fruitful frameworks for analysis. This book is intended to remedy some of these shortcomings.

Excerpt

José Ramón Montero and Richard Gunther

Students of democratic politics may have mixed feelings about the value of yet another book on political parties. Some scholars may have concluded that the existing literature on parties is sufficient, and that there is little more that can be learned through additional study in the aftermath of a century of scholarly research on the topic. Others may be led to dismiss further empirical study of parties on the grounds that parties are becoming increasingly irrelevant, since they are failing to respond successfully to a series of challenges, and many of their functions are performed better by less formally organized social movements, by direct contact between politicians and citizens through the broadcast media or the internet, or by innovations in direct democracy. In the view of this group of scholars, parties may be seen as in an inexorable process of 'decline'. Finally, there may be some who have concluded that scholarly research on parties has failed to advance the task of developing rigorous and persuasive theory, and that further efforts along these lines are doomed to fail. Such an assertion might be especially appealing to those scholars who have embraced analytical approaches that place little value on the study of complex organizations or political institutions and who may simply dismiss the study of parties as irrelevant to the development of a more universalistic theory of politics.

We shall begin this introductory chapter by reviewing each of these assertions. It should not surprise the reader to find that we conclude that such negative views are unwarranted. We shall argue that political parties in the early twenty-first century are confronting a number of new challenges, many of which had neither been anticipated nor adequately addressed by the existing literature on parties. And while we acknowledge the general weakness of theory-building efforts regarding political parties, we believe that the continuing importance of parties in all democratic systems, in combination with the extent to which challenges facing contemporary parties have raised a wide

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