ECPR Joint Sessions
Université catholique de Louvain, Mons, Belgium, UCL Mons
8 - 12 April 2019

Political Parties and Deliberative Practices: Use and Abuse

Parties and elections
Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Vincent Jacquet
Université catholique de Louvain
Workshop Co-Director
Sorina Soare
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali, Università di Firenze

Outline of topic:
In the last two decades an increasing number of scholars argue for the development of deliberative practices to cure the malaise of representative democracy (Cooke, 2000, Gastil and Levine, 2005, Smith, 2009, Geissel and Newton, 2012). These practices aim to gather together lay citizens to discuss salient political issues in order to understand policies, improve the quality of decision-making and to distil deliberation in the broader public sphere (Goodin and Dryzek, 2006, Fishkin, 2009, Curato and Böker, 2016). So far, the deliberative forms have been extensively scrutinized in the literature with a focus on their input (e.g. who participates, what is the aim of deliberation, when is it organized), throughput (e.g. what happens during deliberation, how are procedures implemented) and output (e.g. what is the impact, whether the deliberation reached its purpose) (Grönlund et al., 2010, Grönlund et al., 2014, Caluwaerts and Reuchamps, 2015, Reuchamps and Suiter, 2016, Jacquet, 2017). In this context, research focused extensively on the ways in which governments, parliaments or civil society organizations were linked to deliberation. However, the relationship of political parties with deliberative practices has remained widely underexplored.

There are three major reasons for which political parties may engage with deliberative democracy: intra-party democracy, parties’ functions and their public image. First, many political parties have complex organizations in which the rights of members are important (Gherghina, 2014, Van Haute and Gauja, 2015, Scarrow, 2014, Gherghina and von dem Berge, 2017). As such, members make increasing demands to receive a voice in the decision-making process. The use of primaries for candidate selection is used much more than in the past also in Europe (Katz, 2001, Shlomit and Gideon, 2007, Hazan and Rahat, 2010, Sandri et al., 2015) but fails to cover more aspects of intra-party democracy. Newly emerged parties (e.g. M5S in Italy, Podemos in Spain) suggest a new model of organization in which members and sympathizers already receive an important role in the life of the party. In light of these internal and external pressures, political parties may resort to deliberation to increase their intra-party democracy; this issue is particularly relevant in the current context of pressure on party democracy (Papadopoulos, 2013).

Second, political parties may be inclined to use deliberation to fulfil their tasks in contemporary times. For a long period of time, parties were conceived as the democratic belt between citizens and the state, with the essential task to transfer the social demands to the empowered institutions (Duverger, 1954, Kirchheimer, 1966, Sartori, 1976). Deliberative practices challenge this function since they provide people the opportunity to construct and transfer their preferences through channels beyond the traditional avenues provided by parties. In recent times, parties got much closer to the state in order to secure resources and their presence in government (Katz and Mair, 1995). In such cases, deliberative practices may constitute important opportunities for political parties to augment their influence and legitimacy. They could do so by involving citizens in decision-making processes that are contested and require debate before implementation.

Third, and closely connected to the previous two points, political parties could use deliberative practices to alter their image. They face an ongoing erosion of electoral support and popular trust, a decreasing number of members, and low levels of party identification (Norris, 1999, Norris, 2011, Dalton and Wattenberg, 2000, Dalton, 2004, van Biezen et al., 2012). Deliberative forums may provide political parties the ideal tool to send a signal that they made changes, to reinvigorate activism and to reshape the public perception about them. For example, to indicate that they are not the sole decision-makers and their actions rest on informed decisions, parties in office can organize deliberations to (re)connect the population with policies.

This workshop aims to invite scholars to analyze how political parties use or abuse deliberative practices to achieve their goals. To this end, this workshop seeks to achieve four objectives:

1. To tackle theoretically the relationship between political parties and deliberative practices.
2. To analyze and explain the ways in which political parties organize deliberative practices to improve both the internal and external quality of democracy.
3. To identify the parties’ contributions to deliberative democracy at the micro- (individual) meso- (party) and macro level (society).
4. To identify possible ways in which the relationship between parties and deliberative practices can be approached systematically / measured.

Relation to existing research:
For long, the deliberative practices and political parties were two separate fields of inquiry in social and political science. This can be explained by the fact that the normative ideal of deliberation was initially conceived as an alternative to the vote-centric model of democracy. Deliberativists put the communicative process of preference formation at the center of democracy (Chambers, 2003, Cohen, 1989). According to Johnson (2006), this ideal was opposed to the logic of party democracy centered on competition, aggregation and bargaining. The last two decades have nevertheless seen the development of fruitful theoretical insights and empirical research that bring the two notions together. This emerging literature can be structured into three areas, corresponding to the above outlined reasons of parties to use deliberative practices.

The first area of research concerns intra-party democracy. Political parties were traditionally depicted as oligarchical and hierarchical organizations (Michels, [1915] 1968). During the last decades, growing concern on democratization of political parties from the inside has spread in order to make decisions on the central issues more inclusive (Cross and Katz, 2013, von dem Berge and Poguntke, 2017). The most discussed dimension of this democratization refers to the selection of leaders and candidates by party members and followers (Hazan and Rahat, 2010). But some scholars and political actors have criticized this approach and argue for the development of a deliberative model of intra-party democracy (Teorell, 1999, Wolkenstein, 2016a). They propose to focus on preferences formation inside the organization. This trend is supposed to fit with the transformation of political engagement in established democracies characterised by the rise of cognitive mobilization (Invernizzi-Accetti and Wolkenstein, 2017, Dalton and Welzel, 2014). Several political parties have implemented fora of discussion and debates amongst members (see for eg. Wolkenstein, 2016b). Among these practices, the use of information and communication technologies can also be mobilized (Marguetts, 2006). But major questions remain regarding these online and offline deliberations inside parties: Do they meet the standard of equal, reasoned, respectful and open deliberation? Are they consequential, i.e. are they connected to the decisions taken by the part? What does explain that some political parties do organize more deliberations than others?

The second area of research taps in the use of deliberative practices organized by public authorities. A growing number of micro-deliberative practices have been implemented in representative democracy. A diversified panel of citizens, generally randomly selected, is invited to deliberate during one day or more about one public issue and to deliver a report with some recommendations (Grönlund et al., 2014, Fung, 2007). The most standardised forms are deliberative polls, consensus conferences and citizens assemblies (Smith, 2012). The internal dynamics of such events has been extensively analysed in terms of deliberation quality and effects on participants (Fishkin, 2009, Grönlund et al., 2010, Lindell et al., 2016, Caluwaerts, 2012). Nevertheless, the functions and the roles of micro-deliberative practices in the broader political system has been remains largely underexplored (Goodin and Dryzek, 2006). Recent studies have tackled systematically and comparatively the influence of such practice on policy-making process (Geissel and Hess, 2017, Font et al., 2017). One of the aims of this workshop is to pursue this inquiry by focusing more closely on the interaction between micro deliberative practices and political parties: how do political parties use deliberative practices? Does the organization of deliberative practices increase the legitimacy of political parties that decide to do so?

The third area of research addresses the parties’ contribution to the deliberative system. The theory of the deliberation has recently known a systematic turn (Parkinson and Mansbridge, 2012). Some scholars have criticized the overwhelming attention on micro-deliberative events (Chambers, 2009), and developed a perspective about deliberation at a macro level (Dryzek, 2000, Hendriks, 2006, Owen and Smith, 2015). This approach stresses the importance of assessing institutions (courts, elected representatives, associations, bureaucrats, media, and experts) according to how well they perform the functions necessary to promote the goal of deliberation in the whole political system. The major question that follows is what should be the role of political parties in this context. Some defend that parties are essential to reduce and structure the potential of outcomes of the deliberation (Manin, 1987). These actors face each other, and the process of argumentation is submitted to the arbitration of all. Others argue that such organization are the key actors to exercise political justification (White and Ypi, 2011) and deliberative autonomy (Ebeling and Wolkenstein, 2017). But empirical researches are still needed to analyse how parties actually perform these function (or not) in the real world.

Type of Papers required:
We encourage three types of papers:
1. Theoretical papers that discuss the link between political parties and deliberative practices (micro and macro). These papers could refer to the turn created by the deliberative democracy both in the organization and activity of political parties.
2. Empirical papers that scrutinize the causes, forms, and consequences of the use of deliberation by political parties. These may include, among others, the events organized to reinvigorate intra-party democracy, deliberation organized with the aim to alter a policy-making process and the ways in which political parties foster or impede deliberation in the whole political system.
3. Methodological papers seeking to provide a systematic way to assess the use of deliberation by political parties across different political systems.

Both single case studies, comparative analyses (small and medium N) and large N approaches are invited. We have no preference for qualitative or quantitative techniques of analysis. However, we expect papers presenting single case studies to aim at building, testing, or modifying theories instead of being cantered on individual instances. The focus of the workshop is predominantly on established and new democracies in Europe, but valuable contributions from other political settings and geographic areas are welcome.

List of references (used in this proposal):
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CALUWAERTS, D. & REUCHAMPS, M. 2015. Strengthening democracy through bottom-up deliberation: An assessment of the internal legitimacy of the G1000 project. Acta Politica, 50, 151-170.
CHAMBERS, S. 2003. Deliberative democractic theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 6, 307-326.
CHAMBERS, S. 2009. Rhetoric and the Public Sphere: Has Deliberative Democracy Abandoned Mass Democracy? Political Theory, 37, 323-350.
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CROSS, W. P. & KATZ, R. S. 2013. The challenges of intra-party democracy, Oxford University Press.
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Paper List

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