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Carlos Jalali, Patrícia Silva, and Sandra Silva, "Givers and takers: Parties, state resources and civil society in Portugal," Party Politics, 18 (January, 2012), 61-80. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue1/ ]

First paragraph:
The fortunes of political parties and civil society have seemingly followed starkly divergent paths over the past few decades. Parties have been increasingly described as weakening and losing relevance in advanced capitalist democracies, a perceived 'party decline' that has led some to provocatively ask if we should start 'thinking the unthinkable': democracy without political parties (Dalton and Wattenberg, 2000: 16). Parties' apparent misery contrasts with the buoyancy associated with civil society, increasingly seen as the 'big idea' for a series of social, economic and political dilemmas (Edwards, 2004: 2). Despite the definitional problems that remain with the concept, civil society is associated with a number of positive (and interrelated) outcomes, including successful democratic transitions and consolidations; quality of democracy; political participation and civic engagement; or social capital. Crucially, the expansion of civil society groups--at both a normative and a positive level--occurs in much the same terrain that parties are abandoning, as parties lose their capacity to mobilize citizens.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Total subsidies and sample for each governing period, 1999-2009
Table 2. Government subsidies to CSOs, 1999-2009 (euros)
Table 3. Subsidies granted to CSOs by type, 1999-2009 (%)
Table 4. Percentage of funding granted to individual CSOs by party in government, 1999-2009
Table 5. CSO funding according to location and parties in local government, 1999-2009
Table 6. Mean value of subsidies to CSOs, party membership and parties' annual expenditures, 1999-2009
Table 7. Mean value of subsidies to CSOs and electoral cycles, 1999-2009
Table 8. Political determinants of subsidies to CSOs: Linear regression coefficients

Last Paragraph:
While these conclusions help us understand how parties work, and the usage of state resources to service links with CSOs, they also generate questions--not least, the question of how CSOs interact with parties and the extent to which they act endogenously to mobilize state resources. Answering these questions will help further specify the relationship between parties and civil society. Our evidence is not inconsistent with the possibility of deeper linkages between them, and further research could potentially unveil the partisanship of civil society organizations, as well as further elaborate on the bidirectional nature of exchanges. Moreover, it could highlight the attempts not only by parties but also by civil society organizations to influence decisions and control flows of information and trust that are, as Heaney (2010) puts it, 'scarce commodities in politics'.

Last updated December 2011