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Jennifer K. Smith, "Campaigning and the Catch-all Party: The Process of Party Transformation in Britain," Party Politics, 15 (September 2009), 555-572.

First paragraph:
Forty years ago, Otto Kirchheimer (1966) famously observed that mainstream political parties in Western Europe had begun to temper their ideological commitments, restructure their organizations and loosen their ties to traditional constituencies, with significant consequences for the established practice of politics in their respective countries. Kirchheimer's insight was general as well as specific: he observed particular adaptations being made by the major parties of his day (adaptations he collected under the rubric of the 'catch-all party'), and, more broadly, he observed parties as adapters, organizations adjusting their structures and strategies to suit the changing circumstances in which they found themselves.

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Last Paragraph:
A more important problem than the uniqueness of each national context may be the possibility that the argument I derive from Kirchheimer's reasoning is dated. Should we expect that only parties with catch-all electoral strategies will develop the organizational characteristics Kirchheimer identified as 'catch-all'? There are good reasons to think the answer may be 'no'. One is that campaign transformation in countries like Britain has given rise to groups of practitioners with strong incentives to market their techniques as broadly as possible, including in countries with quite dissimilar societal and political contexts. Diffusion has also taken place within countries: today, for example, all British parties poll, including ones (the Greens, UKIP) that likely have little interest in strategic (re)positioning for a broad audience. Like the mass party before it (Duverger, 1954), the catch-all organizational form may spread further through 'contagion', at the same time as it fails entirely to overwhelm its original hosts.

Last updated October 2009