Assessing Party Organizational Change: Participation, Representation and Power

24 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2013

See all articles by Susan E. Scarrow

Susan E. Scarrow

University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Paul D. Webb

University of Sussex

Date Written: 2013


In this paper we propose a new approach for examining the nature and impact of party organizational structures and resources. The main novelty of our proposed approach is to divide organizational capacity into ten separate dimensions. Rather than establishing ideal types or additive measures of institutionalization, both of which assume symmetrical development in different areas of party life, our separate dimensions recognize that parties may develop differently in different areas, and allow for the possibility of trade-offs between dimensions. Inspired by past research on party organization as a dependent and independent variable, we employ these dimensions to formulate specific hypotheses about the institutional circumstances that are associated with different forms of party organization, and about how party structures can affect patterns of political participation and representation. In doing so, we make a case for a study of party organizations that is more concerned with systematic testing of causal links in mid-level theories rather than on creating new labels or non-falsifiable ideal type maps. In addition, through carefully structured most-similar systems comparisons, we wish to address the question of the relative importance of structure and agency in the development of party organizations. These analytical dimensions have been developed to guide a multi-country initiative, the Political Party Database Project (PPDB), which is gathering the party organizational data that is essential for testing such hypotheses. The intent of the research group is to make this data freely available to encourage the inclusion of party organizational attributes in more general theories of representation and electoral behavior. In this paper we introduce the theoretical and practical parameters which are guiding this data collection effort, and we outline several research questions which we intend to examine with help of the newly available data.

Keywords: Party organization

Suggested Citation

Scarrow, Susan E. and Webb, Paul D., Assessing Party Organizational Change: Participation, Representation and Power (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN:

Susan E. Scarrow (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )

TX 77204-3011
United States

Paul D. Webb

University of Sussex ( email )

Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QN
United Kingdom

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