The shift in New Zealand towards the low-membership electoral-professional model of political parties has had particularly important consequences for the way that the public orientate towards the arena of state power. [Read more below]
Mass parties provided linkage to civil society
The previous high rate of party membership helped create a robust connection between civil society and politics: ‘Because mass parties emphasized enrolment and political education, and because they encouraged citizens to extend their political involvement beyond merely voting, they broadened the realm of citizen politics and provided concrete links between politicians and those they claimed to represent’ (Scarrow, 2000: p.79).
A good definition of the term linkage is provided by Thomas Poguntke: ‘the function of linkage has been the same since the advent of democratic politics. Parties need stable means of communicating with their electorates in order to identify, select and aggregate relevant grievances, communicate them to the highest echelons of politics and strive for policies which take account of these political demands’ (Poguntke, 1995: p.3).
This idea of organised parties as vehicles for integrating the electorate was most famously articulated by Sigmund Neumann (1956; 1965) who argued that the construction of strong links between civil society and the state could counter the anomie of mass society. Similarly, Maurice Duverger favoured mass parties because he said they contributed to democratic linkage by providing a ‘closer and more faithful contact between the mass of the people and their ruling elites’ (Duverger, 1963: p.427).
Electoral-professional parties can’t aggregate and articulate societal interests
Now with the rise of the electoral-professional form of organising, this linkage has been eroded, contributing to a number of negative attitudes to public life. The lack of linkage means that political parties have increasing trouble aggregating and articulating the varied interests of society (Tan, 2000: p.12).
[This blog post is to be updated – any feedback or further information is very welcome]