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Michelle Hale Williams, "Kirchheimer's French Twist: A Model of the Catch-All Thesis Applied to the French Case," Party Politics, 15 (September 2009), 592-614.

First paragraph:
France served as one of the representative cases in Otto Kirchheimer's formulation of the catch-all party-type when he heralded the transformation of the West European party system in 1966 (Kirchheimer, 1966). Along with parties in West Germany, Italy and the UK, the French parties provided a focus for Kirchheimer, as they exhibited many of the characteristics associated with the catch-all party. Yet, as Kirchheimer was writing in the 1960s, at the dawn of the French Fifth Republic, many of the developments in the French party system over the last 40 years may not have been anticipated. In this article, I consider the degree to which predictions of the catch-all thesis have odel isolating implications of the catch-all thesis for empirical testing, then apply the model to the French case, evaluating indicators over time. The conclusion suggests confirmation of the catch-all thesis prediction in France but not according to the logic suggested by Kirchheimer.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Levels-of-analysis process model of the catch-all thesis
Figure 2. Estimated party membership 1940s to post-2000
Table 1. Abstention rate from 1958 to 2007
Table 2. Vote-share percentage as a reflection of floating voters
Figure 3. Party positions based on manifestos
Figure 4. Mainstream party positions compared with the median voter
Table 3. Effective number of French parties 1945-2007
Table 4. First-round vote-share percentage to each party bloc
Table 5. Composition of government coalition viewed through ministerial partisanship 1958-2007
Table 6. Summary of findings at each level of analysis

Next to Last Paragraph:
In sum, the complexities of the bipolar multiparty system (Cole, 2003: 25; Fauvelle-Aymar and Lewis-Beck, 2005: 164) and its competing centripetal and centrifugal tendencies appear to account for conflicting results on the indicators at different levels of analysis. At the levels reflective of French individuals and their society, the thesis fails. However, in its predictions at the party and party system levels, confirmation can be found. French institutions reflect presidentialism pressures pronouncedly. One implication of these findings may be that for France ideology exists rather independently of the party system. The importance placed on parties by Kirchheimer as the vessels and perpetuators of ideology may have been misplaced in the French case.

Last updated October 2009