Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 13, issue 2

Ingrid van Biezen and Petr Kopecky, "The State and the Parties: Public Funding, Public Regulation and Rent-Seeking in Contemporary Democracies," Party Politics, 13 (March 2007), 235-254.

First paragraph:
LaPalombara and Weiner observe in the opening sentence of their seminal volume that '[t]he political party is a creature of modern and modernizing political systems'. In such systems, 'the political party in one form or another is omnipresent' (LaPalombara and Weiner, 1966: 3). The political party, they argue, is 'a symbol of political modernity'; parties emerge 'whenever the activities of a political system reach a certain degree of complexity' (pp. 3, 4). They thus echo Schattschneider's oft-quoted assertion (1942: 1) which emphasizes the centrality of political parties for contemporary systems of representative democracy.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Relationship between parties and the state
Figure 1. Corruption of political parties

First Paragraph of Conclusion:
Political parties and the state live together in close symbiosis in contemporary democracies. We have analyzed the party-state relationship along three different dimensions. First, the widespread availability of public subsidies to political parties demonstrates that, despite their recent introduction, state subventions have rapidly become a ubiquitous phenomenon in contemporary democracies. Second, whereas the state in liberal democracies traditionally stayed away from intervening in the internal affairs of parties, the regulation of party activity and behavior through public law and the constitution is much more common today, indicating that parties are more extensively managed by the state than they were in the past. Longitudinal and cross-national data on these dimensions are not available, at least not on the global scale we have dealt with here. However, these findings support existing research, which has drawn attention to the increasingly close linkage between parties and the state, and suggest a near-universal trend in the process of party transformation, by which parties in contemporary democracies have become best understood as part of the state rather than the representative agents of civil society. Finally, our analysis shows a pervasiveness of practices of party rent-seeking, which suggests that parties are to a considerable degree in control of the state and state resources. The combined result of these phenomena is that the 'reach' of the party system, as Daalder(1966) once put, increasingly permeates the institutions of the state.

last updated February 2007