Political parties are key players in modern mass democracy. But the old system of strong, ideologically flexible catch-all parties on the centre-left and centre-right, leading to a centripetal form of party competition, seems to crumble all over the Continent. New parties have emerged, advocating often times radical left-wing libertarian or right-wing nationalist programmes, garnished with populist rhetoric and anti-EU and anti-globalization messages. This seminar seeks to understand the extent to which European party systems have actually transformed themselves since the 1970s or 1980s and to what extent these changes have translated into new logics of party competition. These new lines of conflict may pit nationalists and internationalists, mainstream parties and populists and/or libertarians and authoritarians against each other. To the extent that such new lines of conflict are discernible, we will try to understand how they are, or are not, related to the old cleavages that used to shape party competition.
The first part of the seminar discusses a number of theoretical approaches to party competition, explores the structure of party systems in the “golden age” of the 1960s and 1970s, and then turns to a set of theoretical approaches that may explain the emergence of new parties and the transformation of party competition (globalization/Europeanization, value change, crisis of representation and democracy). On this basis, student research groups will use the second part of the seminar to pursue small research projects on specific aspects of party system transformation in European countries. The seminar will wrap up with presentations and a discussion of the results of these research groups.
In order to pass the seminar, students are required to prepare the weekly reading assignments, participate in one of the research groups and write a seminar paper on a topic related to the seminar.
Crotty, William S./Richard S. Katz (eds.), 2006: Handbook of Party Politics. London: Sage.
Mair, Peter, 2014: On Parties, Party Systems and Democracy. Colchester: ECPR Press.