Anika Gauja's comparative study of the politics of party organisation


New in the Oxford University Press Comparative Politics series, Party Reform offers a novel perspective on party scholarship, and develops the concept of 'reform' as distinct from evolutionary and incremental processes of party change.

Analysing ten years of party reform across democracies including Australia, the UK, Canada and Germany, its author Anika Gauja examines what motivates political parties to undertake organisational reforms, and how they go about this process.

Anika reveals how parties' perceptions of social trends shape reform agendas, and how these relate to competitive demands and pressures for organisational change from within. She also shows how declining memberships have had a fundamental effect on how political parties 'sell' organisational reform.

The book focuses on four key reform initiatives that begin to blur the traditional boundaries of party: the introduction of primaries, the changing meaning of party membership, issues-based online policy development, and community organising campaigns.

Using these cutting-edge developments as primary examples, Anika provides a framework for understanding why, and how, reforms occur, and how this might influence our conception of modern political parties as vehicles for participation and representation.

Speaking to ECPR about her book, Anika told us:

Party Reform is a book that originated in my desire to understand the reported “crisis” of political parties in advanced industrial democracies, and how parties, as organisations, are responding to it.

For many years, the decline of formal party membership has been a significant concern for scholars worldwide. At the same time, political parties have also become more introspective: releasing organisational reviews and introducing well-publicised reform agendas to modernise their structures and processes.

In writing this book I wanted to investigate what this process of reform actually means: what reform hopes to achieve, the problems it responds to, and who drives it.

My research has always been very “hands on” – I study parties in depth through a range of methods that include interviews and ethnographic observation, as well as surveys and documentary analysis.

The comparative analysis in this book presents an opportunity to analyse – from the parties’ perspective – what is going wrong, what is being done about it, and what challenges this holds for the future of parties as collective organisations.’


About Anika

‘I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney.

My research interests centre on the comparative analysis of political parties in modern representative democracies: assessing the continuing relevance of parties as mechanisms for citizen participation in politics and their ability to represent diverse and conflicting interests. 

I am particularly interested in how political parties adapt to organisational, technological and social change. I also research in the areas of comparative party law and electoral regulation.

My current research project (funded by the Australian Research Council) looks at the evolving nature of party membership – the dissolution of traditional boundaries between financial members and supporters, as well as the challenges for parties of embracing more individualised and fluid forms of political engagement.'


Keywords: Party Members, Party Systems

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