The Party’s (Not Quite) Over: A New Framework for Analysing Power in Political Organisation

Paper delivered to the 2013 Political Studies Association Conference in Cardiff.  A copy of the written version can be found on the Conference Website

By Danny Rye

Despite rumours of their decline, political parties are still central to political analysis. In particular, they are excellent sites for the analysis of political power because as well as vehicles for its pursuit, the party is itself a locus of power struggles and relations. It therefore provides a means of advancing theoretical claims about how power operates in the modern world.

My approach challenges the assumptions and modalities underlying the study of political organisations which too often lacks explicit or systematic theorisation of power and has failed to keep up with developments in theory about power and power relations.

I propose a new approach to the analysis power by means of an innovative theoretical framework. Power is understood as a rich, multi-layered concept, combining key strands from diverse intellectual traditions: behaviouralist, Weberian, structural and Foucauldian accounts. I draw on these approaches to construct an account of parties as social and cultural organisations, disciplinary structures and complex networks of people and practices.

This paper consists of a summary of my theoretical framework which was delivered to the Political Studies Association annual conference held at Cardiff City Hall on 27 March 2013.  In my forthcoming book Political Parties and the Concept of Power to be published by Palgrave later in 2013, this framework is combined with original field research, adding up to an original, challenging approach to researching power that accounts for individuals, rules, organisation and structure, party culture as well as the everyday mundane details and routines of party life.

A full copy of the paper can be found here.