POLVOA41/S28 Everything You Wanted to Know about Political Parties - But Never Dared to Ask (POMLFCS1) 5–10 ECTS
Implementation is also a part of open university teaching
Period I Period II Period III Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Degree Programme in Politics
Political Science
Faculty of Management

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course
- Students will have acquired a basic knowledge of the theoretical debate pertaining to parties and party systems
- Students will be familiar with, and able critically to assess the 'crisis of party democracy' thesis
- Students will be equipped to pursue empirical analysis of particular parties and/or party systems

General description

Across the Western world, representative democracy is party-based. Parties provide the essential link between the people and politicians and between parliament and government. At the same time, public confidence in parties as institutions is low to very low and anti-party sentiment has spawned protest parties of both right and left. Accordingly, this course adopts a thematic approach to the political science debate about political parties. Is the party over for political parties? The approach is theory-driven and the illustrative material will draw on a range of European systems.

Indicative Content

1. Classifying Political Parties

Can we speak of party types and, if so, on what basis – their origins, ideology, cross-national links? How can we understand the diversity of new parties, the likes of ethnic parties, anti-immigrant parties and regionalist parties?

2. Assessing Party Change

How and why do parties adapt and change? Can we enumerate a range of party change strategies? Have the historic class/denominational parties succeeded in becoming catchall parties?

3. Assessing Party Decline

Is there a sustainable case for party decline? Do parties really represent the people? Memberless parties; ‘registered supporters’; state subsidies; ‘cartellisation; the normative challenges to party democracy: personalisation, mediatisation, digitalisation.

4. Classifying party systems

What is a party system? Electoral and legislative party systems. Party system change. How great are the differences between modern party systems? Are they all moderate multi-party systems à la Sartori?

Lecture topics

23 October:  Parties: The Debate in Headlines

25 October Party Decline or Party Adaptation?

November 1 Protest Parties, ‘Anti’-Parties and APES

November 6:  How can we classify political parties?

November 8: From Party Politics to Personalized Politics?

November 13: Party Systems and Pariahs

November 15: There are fewer of them, but do parties need members?

November 20: Revisiting the debate about the ‘crisis of party’

Enrolment for University Studies

Email registration essential by 11 October.


David Arter, Teacher responsible


23-Oct-2018 – 22-Nov-2018
Lectures 16 hours
Tue 23-Oct-2018 - 20-Nov-2018 weekly at 12-14, Main building, D13
Thu 25-Oct-2018 - 22-Nov-2018 weekly at 12-14, Pinni B1096


Numeric 1-5.

Further information

Compulsory preceding studies: POLPOP02 Introduction to Political Science, or equivalent studies at sending institution (exchange students).

Students will write an essay (maximum 8 pages of A4) in English or Finnish analysing the pros and cons of the ‘party decline’ thesis in a country of their choice.

5 ECTS for Bachelor's level completion (POLVOA41)
10 ECTS for Master's level completion (POLVOS28)

Further information from the teacher at the beginning of the course.