The Weight of the Past: Political Parties’ ‘Genetic’ Heritage and the Ease of their Organizational Professionalization

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Abstract

How do political parties react organizationally when the competitive context changes? Are all parties equally accustomed to adapting? In recent decades, the emergence of an electorally volatile and publicity-oriented style of politics has pushed Western parties to replace member-centred mass organizations with centralized ‘media agencies’. However, as has long been speculated, parties’ ‘genetic’ heritage may condition their adaptive capacity and threaten their competitiveness. This study presents the first comprehensive quantitative test of the impact of party ‘genetics’ on the ease of parties’ organizational professionalization in the cartel party era (1983–2018). It utilizes uniquely fine-grained time-series data on the financial and staff resources of central party offices to compare the adaptive processes of two ‘genetically’ distinct major Finnish parties – a social democratic mass party and a conservative cadre party. The study finds that although both parties have professionalized under strong external pressure, the ‘genetically’ election-driven cadre party case adapted much faster, and the member-oriented mass party case continues to invest much more in its membership organization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jun 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

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