The imperative of expertise: why and how the professionalisation of policymaking transforms political parties?

Ville Aula, Vesa Koskimaa

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Abstract

This study analyses professional policy experts in political parties. While recent studies have described the characteristics of ‘unelected politicians’, the drivers for their emergence and impact on democracy have not yet been fully elaborated. We examine these aspects via Finnish party elite interviews (n=79). We challenge the traditional party professionalization narrative where parties’ increasing publicity management efforts diminish intra-party democracy (IPD) and parties’ political ambitions. We find that in addition to campaign, media, and democratic needs, political parties in Finland are concerned especially by their policymaking capacity that has shifted to experts of public administration and lobbyists, and which parties seek to strengthen with the recruitment of more political employees. This elevates the role of partisan policy professionals within political parties, a perspective that has been downplayed in party organisation literature. We call this the imperative of expertise and conclude that while it likely limits traditional IPD, it can improve representative democracy by enhancing parties’ policy control against the technocratic tendencies of contemporary democracy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPARTY POLITICS
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • political parties
  • party organisation
  • expertise
  • policymaking
  • intra-party democracy

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3

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