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About this book

A systematic and comprehensive introduction to contemporary party politics in democratic states and evaluation of whether, and to what extent, parties are - as is often claimed - in crisis or decline.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Political parties are the most important organisations in modern democratic states. That is the simplest and most straightforward reason for reading, and indeed writing, a book dedicated to the study of political parties. There are many reasons why parties are important. If we want to know why so few women become legislators; if we want to know why one person and not another gets to lead a country; or how much of a choice we have on the ballot paper, we need to look to political parties for most of our answers. The importance of political parties is captured by Schattschneider’s oft quoted claim that ‘modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties’ (1942, p. 1). No modern democracy has been made to work without political parties. Modern democracy is party democracy. One of the few attempts to build a ‘no-party democracy’, Uganda, is really little more than a thinly veiled one-party state and struggles to live up to most definitions of democracy.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 2. Party Systems

Abstract
One of the main concerns of political parties in their day-to-day activities in democratic countries is other political parties. The vast majority of a party’s efforts are devoted to competing with other parties for power and influence. However, depending on the details of the political system of a country other political parties can also be potential, usually short term, partners against common opponents. In short, one of the key issues we need to understand when looking at political parties is what patterns exist in the interaction between them. The politics of a country is clearly going to be very different if there are only two parties competing, compared to there being for example a dozen roughly equal parties struggling for power. One of the main tools used to analyse how parties interact is the concept of party systems.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 3. Theories of Party Development

Abstract
Understanding the origins and early development of parties is a critical aspect of the study of party organisations. The main reason for wanting to understand the origins of political parties is that the way a party emerged has a major impact on its organisation for decades afterwards:
a party’s organisational characteristics depend more upon its history than upon any other factor. The characteristics of a party’s origins are in fact capable of exerting a weight on its organizational structure even decades later. Every organization bears the mark of its formation, of the crucial political-administrative decisions made by its founders, the decisions which ‘moulded’ the organization. (Panebianco, 1988, p. 50)
This is not to say that parties do not change as they clearly do. The point is that once a party has become ‘institutionalised’, to use Panebianco’s term, or set in its ways, it often takes a considerable amount of effort to change it. Parties, as with most established organisations, are ‘small c conservative’ in that they change only gradually and often reluctantly. To understand the current shape of parties it is, therefore, necessary to also understand how they originated and developed.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 4. Ideology

Abstract
One of the most important and influential ideas of what political parties are or should be is that they are the organisational embodiment of an ideology. It is a common assumption that the whole point of a party is that it has a vision of ‘the good society’ and its main purpose is to make that vision a reality. Indeed, a common criticism of modern political parties is that many of them, especially those that manage to get into government, have lost their ideological foundations and are interested in power and government perks not to change things, but for the personal benefits that such power brings. In other words, having an ideology is assumed to be at the core of what a party should be, and the absence of ideology is a key criticism of (some) political parties.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 5. Party Members, Activists and Supporters

Abstract
The mass party as described by Duverger is often seen as the standard of what a political party should be: an organisation based on a mass-membership organisation, open to anyone who is willing to support the goals of the party. In the mass-party model, party members are the life and soul of the party — not only campaigning on the streets to get their candidates elected, but also keeping those candidates in touch with the views and demands of the voters once elected. Clearly, from this perspective party members are an important element of party politics and, therefore, something requiring our attention.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 6. Candidate Selection

Abstract
The last few weeks before an election usually receive inordinate levels of attention from the media. However, in many respects this part of the electoral process is to some extent the least important in terms of deciding who gets to run the country. It is widely recognised that the ‘long campaign’ — basically, the period of time from the morning after an election until the next one — is what decides elections, not the last few weeks that make up the ‘short campaign’. The problem is that even the long campaign is only half the story when it comes to deciding which specific individuals get to run the country. The other half is the process of selecting the candidates for election.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 7. Policy Making

Abstract
Ideology is often seen as sitting at the heart of what a party is, or at least should be — that is, a body of people united by the pursuit of a common vision of the ideal society. As we saw in Chapter 1, this was Edmund Burke’s definition of a political party. Chapter 4 also illustrated that ideology is not necessarily the prime motivating force behind a political party. However, regardless of what drives the people behind a political party — an ideology, ethnic or religious loyalties or the desire to control the resources of the state for the benefit of themselves and their followers — this driving force will have to be turned into practical action. In a democratic society such practical action will usually take the form of policy proposals. Policy making is therefore an important part of what a party does — it is the process through which the driving force of a party is turned into practical real life action.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 8. Campaigning

Abstract
As we have seen throughout this book, political parties are multifaceted organisations. They contain a wide range of internal actors — leaders, activists, inactive members, casual supporters, indirect members, and affiliated organisations such as trade unions. These actors will have an equally wide range of goals. Hence, parties can be geared towards anything from the realisation of abstract goals to the cynical pursuit of power and personal aggrandisement. However, the winning of seats in parliament must be seen as one of the central activities of any serious party organisation. Indeed, going by the definition of a party used in this book (as discussed in Chapter 1), the act of fielding candidates for publicly elected office is what distinguishes parties from other political organisations. This definition of a political party has led Farrell and Webb (2002, p. 102) to conclude that: ‘Given this symbiotic relationship between parties and elections, it is important to have a clear idea of how parties operate in elections and elections affect parties.’
Robin T. Pettitt

9. Government

Abstract
One of the defining features of a democratic state is the free competition for government power. In modern democracies that competition is centred on political parties. When citizens vote they do so mainly to determine which party’s or parties’ politicians will be able to enter government office. By and large, voters tend to be concerned more with the party affiliation of a particular government minister, rather than his or her individual qualities. In short, the long-term job security of any minister is determined by the fate of their party, not their individual (in-)competence. It is, therefore, important to understand how party politics interacts with how governments are formed.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 10. The Internationalisation of Party Politics

Abstract
This book has so far focused mainly on party politics as it has played out on the national stage. However, to complete the picture it is worth looking beyond the nation state. Indeed, political parties have long endeavoured to engage with politics beyond the national. This is not just in the sense that, to be credible all parties need to have something to say about the foreign policy of the state in which they are operating. There is more to it than that. Parties have in various ways tried to go beyond the national, not just in terms of their policies, but also in how they work as organisations. The internationalisation of party politics has a long history. The creation of various international affiliations between parties goes back to the 1800s. Further, in 1983 Goldman wrote (perhaps somewhat prematurely as we shall see) that there were tendencies in evidence which ‘taken together, appear to predict the emergence of a transnational or world party system’ (p. ix). This chapter will first look at the earliest and longest running attempt at internationalising party politics: party internationals. It will then consider Europarties in the context of the European Union. Having looked at these two examples of organisational internationalisation it will look at how parties have responded to the issue of globalisation. Finally, it will look at the internationalisation of campaign consultancy.
Robin T. Pettitt

Chapter 11. The Future of Party Politics

Abstract
This final chapter will look at the future of the academic study of party politics and consider what the big areas of research are. It will also try to evaluate one of the big questions in party politics: are parties as a collective in crisis?
Robin T. Pettitt
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