WORKSHOP ON POLITICAL PARTIES, POLICY AND ISSUE COMPETITION
Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris
Wednesday 30th March 2011
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Simon Persico (email@example.com), Centre d’études europeennes, Sciences Po, Paris
Caterina Froio (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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 : email@example.com
Caterina Froio : firstname.lastname@example.org
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