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Thomas A. Koelble, "Economic Theories of Organization and the Politics of Institutional Design in Political Parties," Party Politics , 2 (April, 1996), 251-263.

First Paragraph:
Studies of Congress, according to Shepsle and Weingast (1994), have much to offer comparative analysis. Congressional studies link sophisticated theoretical analysis and close empirical observation to explain patterns of conflict, delegation of authority, policy outcomes and decision-making processes. Building on the work of authors such as Douglass North (1990), congressional scholars bridge the gap between rational choice and institutional analysis, and provide a methodological starting point from which all institutions and organizations can be usefully studied. The 'principal-agent' thesis, put to good use by Kiewiet and McCubbins (1991) in their path-breaking study of the delegation of authority in Congress, provides, so this school of thought claims, a particularly useful general theory of organization.

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Last Paragraph:
This article has examined whether the principal-agent thesis can be usefully applied to the comparative analysis of political parties. As the case studies show, the approach offers avenues for intra-organizational studies of decision-making as well as interesting new ways of thinking about inter-party competition. The disadvantage of the model is that it is extraordinarily focused and assumption driven. For instance, one could argue that it is not always clear who is the principal and who is the agent in a voluntary organization since party representatives often have to delegate authority to their members as well, particularly during election campaigns. It is also not clear whether the model can or ought to be applied in situations involving more than two individuals engaged in a transaction. Similarly, broader influences on the political parties such as cultural movements, ideological debates, shifts in the social structure, or economic conditions which may affect voting patterns are all outside the model. Nevertheless, the principal-agent thesis provides for interesting ways of thinking about intra-organizational relationships and the distribution of power between activists and representatives.