How Parties Organize: Change and Adaptation in Party Organizations in Western Democracies


Edited by: Richard S. Katz & Peter Mair

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  • Dedication

    In memory of Rudolf Wildenmann


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    • Luciano Bardi Dipartimento di Politica, Istituzioni e Storia, Università di Bologna
    • Lars Bille Institute of Political Science, University of Copenhagen
    • Kris Deschouwer Centrum voor Politicologie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
    • David M. Farrell Department of Government, University of Manchester
    • Richard S. Katz Department of Political Science, The Johns Hopkins University
    • Robin Kolodny Department of Political Science, Temple University
    • Ruud A. Koole Department of Political Science, University of Leiden
    • Peter Mair Department of Political Science, University of Leiden
    • Leonardo Morlino Facoltà di Scienze Politiche, Università di Firenze
    • Wolfgang C. Müller Institut für Staats- und Politikwissenschaft, Universität Wien
    • Jon Pierre Department of Political Science, Göteborgs Universitet
    • Thomas Poguntke Fakultät für Sozialwissenschaft, Universität Mannheim
    • Jan Sundberg Department of Political Science, University of Helsinki
    • Lars Sväsand Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen
    • Paul D. Webb Department of Government, Brunel, University of West London
    • Anders Widfeldt Department of Political Science, Göteborgs Universitet

    Preface and Acknowledgements

    This volume emerges from a long-standing international research project on party organizational change and adaptation. The project was devised with two principal goals. The first was simply to document the nuts and bolts of organizational developments since 1960 in twelve Western democracies, and thereby to fill what had been a major gap in the data base from which analysts of party politics have been able to develop their ideas. This goal was largely accomplished in the first volume of the project series, Party Organizations: A Data Handbook on Party Organizations in Western Democracies, 1960-90 (Sage, 1992), which focused almost exclusively on what we called ‘the official story’, drawing primarily on party and party-related documents and reports in order to outline party rules and structures as well as to record data concerning membership and finance.

    The second goal of the project, once having established the official story, was to move beyond it by adding politics to the raw data, and hence to understand the contexts in which parties develop their organizational structures and the reasons why they change or why they remain the same. There are two complementary ways in which this problem can be addressed. One is on the basis of a country-by-country analysis, which is the approach adopted in this, the second volume of the series; the other is on the basis of a cross-national analysis, which is the focus of a projected third volume in the series.

    There are a number of reasons why it is useful to begin with a country-by-country approach. The authors of these chapters were themselves responsible for the original data collection, and so they are particularly sensitive to what these data mean within the different national contexts and to how they should be interpreted. In this sense they are very well placed to offer what might be called the ‘real [national] story’. Moreover, while the unit of analysis throughout this project has always been the individual political party, we are also very much aware that each party is part of a party system, and that these party systems are structured on a national basis. Thus while some adaptations in party organizations might be expected to derive from factors which affect most, if not all, Western democracies, such as the mass media revolution or the peculiarities of post-industrial society, and while other adaptations may be specific to individual parties, there nevertheless remain many stimuli to which parties must respond which differ across countries but which are shared by all parties within the same country. In this sense, the national context clearly matters, with different parties within each country being subject to the same national regulations, operating within the same constitutional and social structures, and sharing the same electoral market.

    Given that the studies in this volume are the first to use the wealth of systematic empirical data which has been gathered by this project, they offer a unique insight into party development over the past thirty years. It is for this reason that we felt it inappropriate to tie the contributions down by means of strict preconceptions or models. Rather, each of the authors was given a free hand to organize their contribution as they saw fit, and each was encouraged to emphasize whatever was deemed most central to an understanding of the individual cases. For reasons of space, the authors were also asked to avoid reporting details of the data which are already available in the data handbook. At the same time, however, regardless of the individual emphases, a common purpose was asserted by requiring each author to address a number of key questions or themes. Thus the authors were asked to assess the prevailing conceptions of party, both from the points of view of the parties themselves as well as from the point of view of the state, and were also asked to assess the development of parties as membership organizations, which involved looking at the extent of party membership, at the role of ordinary members in party decision-making, and at the relative importance of members to the organization as a whole. Other common themes concerned the development of party as a professional organization, including the size and organization of party staff and the role of professional advisers and consultants; the development of party finance, with particular reference to the relative importance of the members and of the state as sources of party revenue; and the relationships between the various components of party, with particular reference to the standing of the parliamentary party. More generally, authors were also asked to address the problem of changes, if any, in the relationship between the parties, civil society and the state.

    The project from which this volume derives was first developed within a Research Group of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), and subsequent meetings of the project members in both the University of Limerick and the University of Leiden were held on the fringes of the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops. For both of these reasons, we would like to thank the ECPR for its long-term support. The project was funded primarily by the American National Science Foundation under grant number SES-8818439, with additional financial support being provided by the Forschungsstelle für Gesellschaftliche Entwicklungen (FGE) of the University of Mannheim, as well as by various national foundations. We are grateful to all of these organizations for their generous help. Thanks are also due to our departments in Johns Hopkins and Leiden, which wittingly or unwittingly provided much of the material infrastructure and support which was required to link researchers from so many different countries.

    Finally, we would also like to record a special thanks for the help which we received from Rudolf Wildenmann, who, in his various capacities as chairman of the ECPR executive, as director of the FGE and as a long-term friend and adviser to us both, offered this project his constant support, both practically and intellectually. Rudolf saw and seemed pleased with our first volume, the data handbook, but sadly died before this particular volume was completed. Like many other political scientists throughout Europe, we owe much to Rudolf, and we now dedicate this book to his memory.

    Richard S.Katz

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