Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Parliaments
The empirical study of legislatures is a highly developed and dynamic part of Political Science as a discipline. The field of legislative studies is rapidly growing and evolving, creating important linkages with other established areas of scholarship such as electoral studies, elite studies, European Union studies, the study of political behaviour, of authoritarian regimes and democratic transitions and, not least, to normative and positive political theory.
Not only are legislatures ubiquitous bodies, they present political scientists with numerous intriguing puzzles, which have motivated research with implications for institutional analysis beyond the field of legislative studies itself. Why, and how, have these ancient assemblies, established in pre-democratic times and often characterized by aristocratic forms of behavior, procedures and symbols, survived the transition to mass democracies? How have they adapted? Why do they still exist, after all the diagnoses of anachronism, decline, irrelevance and dysfunctionality? Why have they not been abolished in the light of widespread popular indifference even in those democracies that look back at a long-standing history of parliamentary government? What explains the similarities and differences in legislative rules, powers and recruitment? How do legislatures interact with other aspects of the political system. And, perhaps most intriguingly, what are the policy and other consequences of variation in how legislatures are organized and function?
In short, legislatures pose a number of non-trivial puzzles which will form the basis of panels within this section. At the same time, they have always been relatively public and transparent bodies offering good opportunities to researchers interested in questions of institutional design, institutional adaptation, as well as rule-bound and strategic behavior. A great deal of information is available to researchers about the legislatures’ constitutional powers and internal rules as well as about their members’ backgrounds, public statements, revealed preferences and behavior in and around the chamber. Today, many legislatures provide excellent on-line access to records of plenary meetings, committee sessions and the entire legislative process. This may explain why legislative studies have become such an important and increasingly dynamic sub-field of political science.
Shane Martin (PhD, Dublin City University, 2002) is Reader in Comparative Politics at the University of Leicester, UK. His research focuses on how electoral incentives shape representatives’ preferences, the internal structures of legislatures and executive oversight. Recent research by him has appeared in the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Legislative Studies Quarterly, The Journal of Legislative Studies, Political Studies, West European Politics, Irish Political Studies and Politics and Religion. He is co-editor (with Kaare Strøm and Thomas Saalfeld) of the Oxford Handbook of Legislative Studies (Oxford University Press 2014). He was founding Co-Convenor of the ECPR Standing Group on Parliaments and was founding Co-Director of the European Summer School on Parliaments.
Bonnie N. Field (Ph.D. in political science, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002) is Associate Professor of Global Studies at Bentley University (Massachusetts, USA). She is an Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard, a Visiting Researcher at the University of Barcelona, Faculty Fellow at the University of California, Irvine, Visiting Fellow at UCI's Center for the Study of Democracy, and Fulbright Senior Researcher in Spain. Her research focuses on political parties, political institutions, and regime democratization in Europe and Latin America. She has published in Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Party Politics, Democratization, South European Society & Politics, Electoral Studies, and PS: Political Science and Politics, amongst other journals. She is the editor of Politics and Society in Contemporary Spain (with Alfonso Botti, Palgrave 2013), Spain's 'Second Transition'? (Routledge 2011) and Democracy and Institutional Development (with Kerstin Hamann, Palgrave 2008).