ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Panel Details
Back to Panel Details

New Parties – New Party Members?

Participation
Parties and elections
VIRTUAL017
Karina Kosiara-Pedersen
University of Copenhagen
Kristina Weissenbach
University of Duisburg-Essen

Abstract

The centrality of political parties in representative democracies stems from their role as entities that nominate candidates for public elections and is what distinguishes them from other political organizations, such as interest groups or movements. Particularly since the ‘heyday’ of mass parties in the 1950s and 1960s, strong normative claims that political parties should be membership organizations have prevailed. This has shaped the character of party organization research, which has traditionally focused on political parties as membership organizations. Party membership figures are in general in decline (see e.g. van Haute et al. 2018), and both new and established parties are blurring the distinction between members and other supporters, mobilizing and granting the latter rights and duties within the party (Katz and Mair 1995; Gauja 2015; Scarrow 2015) and, at the same time, diminishing classic membership rights and routinized organizational behavior of the party base (Lefkofridi and Weissenbach 2019; Weissenbach 2020). In particular, digital technology enables a reshaping of membership/affiliate relations. Internet-based technology and online organizing has become increasingly ubiquitous, several new parties have been established including new forms of participation, flexible and project-based membership or other ways of supporting, and established parties at least operate various organizational membership functions on digital platforms (Karpf 2012; Bennett and Segerberg 2013; Margetts et al. 2015; Gibson and Ward 2009; Chadwick 2007; Karpf 2016; Achury et al. 2018; Gibson et al. 2017; Weissenbach and Beyer 2020). Nevertheless, party scholars have skeptical assessments of how meaningful these outreach strategies really are for party elites, party members and voters or even for parties as an organization (Chadwick and Stromer-Galley, 2016; Gauja, 2016; Gibson et al. 2017). The purpose of the workshop is to show how new and established political parties, in light of declining membership figures and the transferal of rights and obligations to new forms of affiliation, provide a participatory linkage between the electorate and the elected beyond Election Day. How are parties mobilizing their supporters, engaging them in policy development and recruitment of candidates for public offices? (How) do these new forms of party membership affect the institutionalization of political parties? (How) do new forms of membership change internal party decision making processes and the relationship between party elite and party base? It is important to address these questions in an upcoming workshop, because currently scholars who work at the intersection of party institutionalization and party change, party membership and linkage observe the national breakthrough of new parties from the whole political spectrum in established democracies. This offers the possibility to trace the institutionalization and new membership forms of these parties now. Many of those parties follow a different understanding of how to satisfy demand for different kinds of democratic linkages and a different understanding of what party membership actually means. This affects established parties and puts pressure on them to enhance engagement and change their mobilization strategies – which leads to fundamental questions regarding contemporary party democracy in Western Europe.