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Re-conceptualizing party democracy (PARTYDEMOCRACY)
Start date: Oct 1, 2008, End date: Sep 30, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The aim of this project is to provide an empirical and theoretical re-conceptualization of political parties and party democracy. The challenge of democratic legitimacy faced by political parties in modern democracies derives principally from their deteriorating relationship with society, which has been accentuated by a growing disengagement of citizens from conventional party politics. However, whereas parties are conventionally being understood in terms of their linkages with society, this project proposes to rethink parties in terms of their linkages with the state and party democracy as based on a conception of parties as public utilities rather than private associations. More specifically, it intends to investigate the contours of such a new conception of political parties and party democracy through a particular focus on the management of parties by the state through public law and regulation. The project will thereby bridge the existing gap between the empirical study of parties and normative democratic theory and integrate the disciplines of political science and constitutional and public law through a systematic and comprehensive longitudinal and comparative analysis of party regulation in post-war European democracies. In doing so, it will push the boundaries of conventional empirical research on political parties as well as the normative paradigms of modern democracy and will contribute to a better, and more meaningful, understanding of the future of representative democracy and the role of political parties within it. In doing so, moreover, it will go significantly going beyond conventional – and ultimately unproductive – approaches which, by proposing the revitalization of historically dated organizational linkages between parties and society as the way forward, implausibly suggest that the irreversible process of party transformation can be put to a halt or turned round.

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