Peter Mair, Party System Change. Approaches and Interpretations. (1997).

Main Argument:_ Mair stresses the necessity to examine party organization separately from party system. He looks to party-as-organization and the structure of competition as more pertinent to party system persistence/change. Traditional party organization theory is based on a continuum between elite, mass, and “catch-all” party organization types, however, Mair advances his cartel party theorem, which holds that parties supported by the state have emerged in response to changing fiscal climates.

_Method:_ This is a collection of article that highlights the need to reconceptualise the party system. Cases are mainly drawn from Western Europe. Also uses quantitative analysis to demonstrate his point.

== Notes ==

_Three Arguments:_

–  First, the idea that declining parties leads to electoral volatility is misconceived –> This myth persists because parties’ ability to adapt is overlooked; “old” parties survived the major social upheavals and context chance of post-WWII era

–  Second, parties have adapted their organisational structures and finally, the structure of party competition is key to understanding a given party system and its change –> Mair argues that Lipset and Rokkan’s “freezing”/cleavages hypothesis (that the party systems of the 1960s were in place in the 1920s) holds

–  Third, changing the party in power is NOT the same thing as party system change –> Party system change is about party organisation and the structure of party competition



–  Until now Kirchheimer’s catch-all party has been the prevalent mode of party organization

–  He insists on the autonomy of politics, on the ability of parties to affect, not only reflect, the social and institutional environment

–  The persistence of past cleavages is seen as the result of deliberate party adaptation to new forces, and planned efforts to control the character of social and political change

–  While the party on the ground (i.e. party membership) declines, the amount of a party dedicated to public office and its own central office increases

–  Declining party membership allows for the loosening of links between party leaders and society

–  This allows for more flexibility on the part of parties for coalition building and policy development

–  Electoral volatility is largely a matter of the shifting of votes between parties within the same ideological camps, rather than a significant change of votes across the continuing cleavages between Right and Left



_The Cartel Party Thesis:_

–  Cartel parties, however, have come to rely on financial support from the state

–  This state-party connection is emphasized in this conception of a new type of party organization

–  A cartel party system has an increased number of parties in office, and none of the major/old parties are ever out of it

–  Parties receive public financing, and the rules/laws work to help parties survive and increase their ability to resist newcomers

–  Parties, therefore, become apparatuses of the state rather than links between the state and society

–  It is worth noting that some scholars such as Ingrid van Biezen (2004) argue that parties serve a vital democratic function and ought to be integrated into the state in such a way



_Critiques of the Cartel Party Thesis:_

–  The cartel party thesis can be critiqued for over-extending system level characteristics to individual parties (Koole 1996)

–  Katz and Mair argue that while the idea of a “cartel” may better describe the system, but the system impacts internal party organisation, changing it enough to warrant calling such parties “cartel parties”

–  A narrowing ideological spectrum of partisan competition in the 1990s, coupled with the decline of mass party organizations, encourages partisan promiscuity, both in voter loyalties and elite coalition building


*Note: This book mainly reprints, with revised and reorganized material, articles that have appeared elsewhere (i.e See Katz & Mair)