Yael Yishai, "Bringing Society Back
In: Post-Cartel Parties in Israel," Party Politics, 7
(November 2001), 667-687.
Understanding the relationship between society and political
parties is crucial for the cognizance of processes taking
place within both entities. In their seminal paper,
published in 1995, Katz and Mair offered a key for such an
understanding in the form of the cartel model. Three
conditions were identifies as providing incentives to the
emergence of cartel parties: a political culture marked by
inter-party cooperation, a tradition of state-party
rapprochement and a practice of party patronage (p. 17).
Once established the cartel party is characterized by a
shift of focus from civil society to the state. As suggested
by the authors, 'the movement of parties from civil society
towards the state could continue to such an extent that
parties become part of the state apparatus itself' (Katz and
Mair, 1995:14). The most noticeable precondition, and
outcome, of this process pertains to the parties' financial
resources. The shift from civil society to the state is
feasible because parties found an alternative to membership
dues. Cartel parties, furthermore, depend highly on state
subventions on which they themselves decide. The heavy
reliance on the state has implications, among other things,
for the parties' organization, with growing
professionalization and bureaucratization. The cartel
generates a self-defensive mechanism enhanced by the
predication of state subvention on prior electoral
performance, the restriction of ballot access and the
imposition of registration requirements. These procedures
are expected to result in the exclusion of competitors and
the consolidation of the existing power structure.
Table 1: Budgetary balance of political parties (in million
NIS) 1998-9 p. 677
Table 2: Number of parties in the Knesset 1949-99 p.
To sum up, the return of society to the partisan arena
reveals the pitfalls of the cartel. Allying with the state
has not proved effective in terms parties' objectives.
Perceived as archaic and stagnated institutions with a low
prestige and declining legitimacy, parties had to cope with
growing expenses, fiercer competition and declining
fortunes. Civil society, on the other hand, enjoyed the halo
of a grassroots activity, devoid of 'political' interests, a
true manifestation of participant democracy. It constitutes
the emblem of community life untarnished by dirty politics.
Under these circumstances the return of civil society to the
partisan scene seemed an inevitable consequence.