Rethinking intra-party cohesion

Stream: Panel 33 - Comparative Politics: Cabinets, Parties and Different Models of Democracy 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Intra-party cohesion is inherently ambivalent. On the one hand, the existence of unified blocs of legislators constitutes an important requisite in many normative accounts of liberal democracy. On the other hand, political parties are not, and have never been, monolithic structures: dissensions and conflicts are frequent, and can even be functional to the party organization. In addition to these normative considerations, the concept of intra-party cohesion itself remains vague. What is intra-party cohesion? Distinct fields of research have examined cohesion in the different faces of the party through various approaches and tools. Researches entrenched in structural approaches of party organizations have examined it through the concept of factionalism (Belloni & Beller 1978; Bettcher 2005; Sartori 1976). Another field has looked at cohesion at the level of party members, in terms of ideological coherence (May 1973) or ‘exit, voice and loyalty’ (Hirschman 1970). A third field of research has dominated the scene in the last decades: that of legislative cohesion, unity or discipline (Bowler et al. 1999; Hazan 2003; Özbudun 1970). Conceptual confusions abound within and between these different fields of research. Besides, they have remained quite impermeable to each other. This paper articulates these fields of research, in order to rethink the concept of cohesion in and between the different faces of the party. The paper provides a comprehensive approach, and builds a theoretical framework that will be useful to any researcher interested in the topic. The paper also discusses the methodological implications and challenges of studying intra-party cohesion.


Caroline Close (Presenter), Université Libre de Bruxelles
Caroline Close is a FNRS Postdoctoral Researcher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), in the Centre for the Study of Politics (CEVIPOL). Her main research interests are party cohesion, party organisation, party ideology, democratic innovations and legislative studies. She is involved in the international MAPP network (Members and Activists of Political Parties). She has recently published an article in Party Politics, entitled 'Parliamentary party loyalty and party family: the missing link?'. From September to December 2016, she will be a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sydney, under the supervision of Anika Gauja.