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Karl Loxbo, "The fate of intra-party democracy: Leadership autonomy and activist influence in the mass party and the cartel party," Party Politics, 19 (July 2013), 537-554. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Similar to Robert Michels' (1962) classic 'iron law of oligarchy', party scholars generally assume that elites gradually establish control over party organizations at the expense of members and activists (e.g. Duverger, 1954: 133-5; McKenzie, 1963; Kirscheimer, 1966; Janda, 1983; Panebianco, 1988). This idea is particularly pronounced in contemporary research (Allern and Pedersen, 2007: 69). Several prominent scholars argue that modern party organizations have forsaken ideals and practices associated with the mass party -- for example participation, deliberation, and leadership accountability (e.g. Hopkin, 2004: 645). Over the course of time, parties have instead transformed into internal cartels controlled by career professionals (e.g. Katz and Mair, 1995, 2009; Mair, 1997; Katz, 2001; Blyth and Katz, 2005). Although new, inclusive procedures for candidate selection appear to empower rank and file members (e.g. Rahat et al., 2008), such reforms are regularly claimed to be attempts by cartel party leaders to exclude activists from policy-making (e.g. Mair, 1997: 113-14, 146-52; Katz, 2001: 290; Katz andMair, 2009: 759). Accordingly, when comparing policy-making in the mass party with the elites striving for autonomy in the cartel party,1 mainstream party research tends to hypothesize, implicitly or explicitly, that intra-party democracy has declined, if not disappeared altogether (but see Scarrow and Gezgor, 2010). However, in this article, I wish to argue that this widely-purveyed hypothesis is too sweeping and is, at least partly, empirically unfounded

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Share of articles about pensions authored by party leaders/official journalists (C3.1), 1954-9 compared with 1992-7 in Aktuellt i politiken (per cent of all articles each year).
Figure 2. Share of articles only propagating for official party policy (C 3.2),1954-9 compared with 1992-7 in Aktuellt i politiken (per cent of all articles each year).
Figure 3. Share of articles neglecting ideological trade-offs (C 3.3), 1954-9 compared with 1992-7 in Aktuellt i politiken (per cent of all articles each year).

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of conclusions) This article has scrutinized the widely-purveyed hypothesis which states that intra-party democracy has declined since the glory days of the mass party -- in contemporary research, most known as the cartel party thesis (e.g. Katz and Mair, 1995, 2009; Blyth and Katz, 2005). Drawing on a comparison between two internal policy-making procedures within the Swedish social democratic party (SAP), one in the 1950s and the other in the 1990s, the article weakens this idea. If intra-party democracy is in a general state of decline, I argue that the comparative case study in the article should provide most likely conditions for confirming this tendency. Yet the results show that SAP party leaders in the 1990s, in a critical situation where they should have had strong incentives to obfuscate and control, instead had considerably less leverage over policy deliberations and activists than their predecessors in the 1950s. Moreover, the propaganda in the party press -- pointed out as a primary tool for oligarchic control (Michels, 1962: 149) -- seemed to constitute a potent instrument for agenda control in the 1950s, but had evidently slipped out of the hands of the leaders in the 1990s. Hence, in this case, intra-party democracy has improved, not declined, over time.

Last updated November 2013