It is often suggested that political parties are becoming increasingly alike, and that party politics has turned into an elite affair where professionals collude to further self-interest rather than working to represent their constituents' interests.
In recent decades, this diagnosis has come to be associated with Richard Katz and Peter Mair's cartel party theory. Yet so far, their controversial thesis has not been subjected to systematic empirical scrutiny.
In Cartelisation, Convergence or Increasing Similarities? Lessons from Parties in Parliament, newly released by ECPR Press and Rowman & Littlefield International, political scientists led by Henrik Enroth and Magnus Hagevi take on the task, focusing on the Swedish party system.
Collecting new and unique data, the volume casts serious doubt on the validity of the cartel party theory as an explanation for party system change.
'The cartel party theory proposed by Richard Katz and Peter Mair has long dominated the academic scene of party research. For the first time, this controversial theory is now scrutinized and tested in a single research volume. In this book we have gathered a group of researchers with different expertise, in order to evaluate the cartel party theory with a main focus on parties in parliament.
According to Katz and Mair's claims about the party-in-public-office, parliamentary parties are supposed to be on the winning side of the process of cartelisation, so this is a useful area when it comes to testing the core arguments of the theory.
Aside from parties in parliament we also look at internal party democracy and the parties' ability to represent citizens. We consider familiar processes such as europeanization and the professionalization of politics, and we also explore less beaten paths in party research such as political culture, foreign policy and the politicisation of gender. We explicate and assess the rarely discussed but arguably essential normative underpinnings of the cartel party theory. Our main conclusions cast serious doubt on this theory as an explanation for party system change.'
'A forceful attack on the cartel party theory. The authors make efficient use of their Swedish case study for questioning many of the core assumptions and normative judgements of the most influential account in contemporary party research.' — Klaus Detterbeck, University of Göttingen
'The cartel thesis has been remarkably influential. In over two decades, reference to it has been almost obligatory in published research on party politics. Enroth and Hagevi's excellent anthology unpacks the thesis and subjects it to thorough and rare empirical tests. The admirably clear conclusions about representative democracy in a crucial case – Sweden – leave party scholars with much to ponder.' — Nicholas Aylott, Södertörn University
Henrik Enroth is Associate Professor in Political Science at Linnaeus University. He has a broad interest in social and political theory. Recent publications include articles in Party Politics, International Political Sociology, and the edited volume Global Community? Transnational and Transdisciplinary Exchanges.
Magnus Hagevi is Professor in Political Science and leader of Surveyinstitutet at Linnaeus University. His research focuses on political behaviour, political representation, parties, and the sociology of religion. His recent work has appeared in West European Politics, Representation, and the Review of Religious Research.