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The Crisis of Party Democracy, Cognitive Mobilization, and the Case for Making Parties More Deliberative

The Crisis of Party Democracy, Cognitive Mobilization, and the Case for Making Parties More Deliberative

by Carlo Invernizzi-Accetti, City College of the City University of New York & FabioWolkenstein, Goethe University Frankfurt

This paper develops a normative proposal for addressing the present crisis of party democracy on the basis of an analysis of the crisis’ underlying causes. Against the widespread tendency to interpret the crisis of party democracy as the consequence of a form of de-politicization that has individuals retreat from the public into the private sphere, we argue it is best understood as the outcome of a form of cognitive mobilization that makes hierarchic and bureaucratic party structures of the past unattractive for present-day individuals. In light of this, we contend that political parties would attract more active participation if they allowed more space for individual self-expression and bottom-up influence. We distinguish between two forms of intra-party-democratization: ones based on a merely aggregative conception of democracy and ones involving deliberative means of member-empowerment. We argue that the former without the latter may have the opposite of the intended result and therefore recommend a deliberative model of intra-party democratization focusing on the two-way processes of communication between the leadership and the base. We highlight this model’s distinctive strengths from a theoretical point of view and defend it against several objections.

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American Political Science Review / Volume 111 / Issue 1 / February 2017, pp. 97-109

Carlo Invernizzi-Accetti