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Party membership and activism in comparative perspective

Whiteley, P (2009) 'Party membership and activism in comparative perspective.' In: UNSPECIFIED, (ed.) Activating the Citizen: Dilemmas of Participation in Europe and Canada. UNSPECIFIED, 131 - 150. ISBN 9780230575943

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Cross-national research into party membership has been hampered in the past by the lack of comparative data on the voluntary dimension of party organization. With the emergence of comparative data sets such as the World Values Survey, the European Social Survey, and the International Social Survey, this state of affairs is increasingly being remedied. It is now possible to get a clear picture of how voluntary activity in political parties is faring in many contemporary democracies. One important finding from recent research into European political parties is that a long-term decline in membership and grassroots party activism has been occurring over the last quarter of a century (see Siaroff, this volume, as well as Katz et al., 1992; Seyd and Whiteley, 1992; Scarrow, 2000; Mair and van Biezen, 2001; Webb, 2002; Whiteley and Seyd, 2002). This development has important implications for the future of democracy, since it is not clear if political parties can continue to play a key role in sustaining civil society in the absence of a voluntary dimension to party activity. This is because parties that lack volunteers run the risk of becoming highly dependent on the state and in effect becoming absorbed into a state-sponsored cartel (Katz and Mair, 1995; Detterbeck, 2005). If this happens, then political parties are likely to turn into, in the words of one researcher, ‘public utilities’ (van Biezen, 2004).

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Clare Chatfield
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2013 09:30
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2021 11:15

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