WORKSHOP ON POLITICAL PARTIES, POLICY AND ISSUE COMPETITION

WORKSHOP ON POLITICAL PARTIES, POLICY AND ISSUE COMPETITION

Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris

Wednesday 30th March 2011

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Promoters:

Simon Persico (simon.persico@sciences-po.org), Centre d’études europeennes, Sciences Po, Paris

Caterina Froio (caterina.froio@eui.eu), European University Institute, Florence

The Workshop on Political Parties and Issue Competition will be held on Wednesday 30th

March 2010 at Sciences Po, Paris, France.

Deadline for submitting your proposal: Wednesday 23rd February workshop-parties-policies-issues-cfp

This workshop will explore the role of political parties in contemporary democracies by focusing

on the interaction between party politics and public policies at both national and European levels.

The link between political parties and public policy sits at the heart of representative democratic

theories. As stated by May (1978,1) representative democracies are characterized by “a

continuous correspondence between government’s decisions and the will of the citizens”. By

selecting representatives, aggregating preferences, devising policy proposals and implementing

public policy, parties are supposed to play a key role in this process. Therefore, Western political

regimes are funded on parties’ double capacity to implement the public policies for which they

have been elected, and to distinguish themselves at this task.

When assessing these statements in empirical terms, many issues and doubts arise, which are

closely linked to the concept of responsiveness: how can citizens’ priorities be expressed by

parties? How should parties act in order to be responsive? Do party manifestos matter to

government policy? Answering this question requires to analyze both the demand side (1) – what

is the relationship between voters’ preferences and a party’s proposals? – and the supply side (2)

of responsiveness – what is the relationship between parties’ preferences and policy outputs?.

(1) Implementing public policy is not the only goal that political parties pursue, but debate over

the most desirable policies is an integral part of party competition. Parties decide to tackle some

policy issues and to take a position on them. Hence, this workshop will firstly focus on the policy

content of party competition: what are the dominating issues in political campaigns (Laver 2001,

Klingemann et al. 2007)? Do dimensions of interparty conflict evolve through time (Mair 2000,

Kriesi et al. 2006, Martin 2007)? What strategy do parties pursue when selecting and emphasizing

policy issues (Saglie 1998; Blomquist and Green-Pedersen 2004; Marks et al. 2007)? Are certain

issues owned by any particular party or type of parties (Green-Pedersen 2007; Meguid 2008;

Hobolt and DeVries 2010)? What methodological approaches are best suited to treat these

questions (Volkens 2007; Laver and Benoit 2007)?

(2) What is more, this workshop will concentrate on the partisan influence hypothesis, for which

the literature has followed three main directions so far. First of all, classical interpretations of the

“partisan hypothesis” suggest that alternation in power leads to policy change. These studies are

mainly based on the one side, on the analysis of the political character of public spending and the

allocation of public budget (Castles 1982, Castles and McKinlay 1979, Blais, Blake and Dion

1993, 1996, Cameron 1978 Swank 1988, more recently Klingemann et al. 1994, Brown and Owen

2000, Boix 2000). Secondly, other authors show that changes in internal structures of political

parties (Panebianco 1988, Katz and Mair 1994) or changes in the environment (political space) in

which parties act (Inglehart 1973, 1990, Kriesi et al. 2006) lead to a weakening of partisan

ideological priorities and to a weakening partisanship of policy outcomes. Thirdly, public policy

perspectives argue that politics does not play any significant role in policymaking and that other

factors like demographic and economic conjuncture (Cutright 1965, Wilenski 1975, Haniff 1976)

or the role of bureaucracies (Heclo 1977) or external events (Baumgartner and Jones 1993) can

better explain changes in policy outputs that government partisanship. This workshop aims at

carrying these debates through renewing the analysis of partisan influence: at what stage of the

policy process parties are more likely to impact public policy (Carmine and Stimson 1983;

Baumgartner and Jones 2003; Baumgartner, Brouard and Grossman 2009)? What variables need

to be taken into account when measuring the impact of parties? This is true for the choice of

dependent variables (budgetary evolutions, choice of instruments…) or independent variables

(party strategies, electoral cycles…)? What are the interactions between parties and other policy

actors (Mulé 1997; Zittoun 2001)? How do ideas circulate between different policy arenas?

This workshop will hence gather several strands of international research in the field of political

parties, party competition and party systems (Comparative Manifestos Project, European Network of

Political Texts, Comparative Agendas Projects, Euromanifestos Project…) and will be inclusive of different

approaches, methodologies and conceptions of the link between party politics and policies. The

implications of this workshop may provide important information about the conditions leading

to policy change in different polities, by focusing on the interaction between politics and the

context. It also has ramifications for studies on party competition in general and on the

Europeanization of party competition.

Please contact us if you have questions about any aspect of the organization of the workshop.

Paper proposals (400 words) can be submitted until Wednesday 23rd February

2011, and sent to the workshop’s promoters:

Simon Persico : simon.persico@sciences-po.org

Caterina Froio : caterina.froio@eui.eu

http://www.agendas-france.fr

References

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