Pol35
Parties and organisational power: understanding variation in party organisation and intra-party politics

Convenors:
Michaela Collord (New College, University of Oxford)
Discussant:
Sa'eed Husaini (University of Oxford)
Stream:
Politics and International Relations
Location:
Appleton Tower, Room M1
Wednesday 12 June, 16:15-17:45

Short abstract:

This panel is focused on a recent wave of party research in Africa, which takes parties' internal organisation seriously, examining the different ways they are structured and how power is contested by the various actors who comprise them.

Long abstract:

Following a period of relative neglect, political parties have returned to centre stage in the study of African politics. With this growing interest comes a desire to move past an over simplified, "neo-patrimonial" view of parties as uniformly weak, subordinated to a common logic of personalised patron-client exchange and "big man" dominance. Rather, Africanists are increasingly taking seriously parties as organisations. They are examining the interaction between formal structures and informal ties, the contestation surrounding internal party elections and nominations procedures, as well as the complex, negotiated relationships between party elites and grassroots activists. This recent work recalls, either directly or more implicitly, a "classical" tradition in the study of parties, one on which an earlier, post-Independence Africanist literature drew heavily. As Panebianco (1988) summarised, this tradition focused on the close empirical study of the internal organisational dynamics of parties, and particularly on "the dimension of organizational power, explaining the functioning and activities of organizations above all in terms of alliances and struggles for power amongst the different actors that comprise them." This panel invites submissions—be they from anthropologists, political scientists or historians—examining the organisation and internal dynamics of African parties, incumbent or opposition. The aim is to further our understanding of the diverse ways parties are organised, how the internal distribution of power is contested, whose interests are prioritised, and how this affects patterns of political mobilisation and inter-party competition more broadly.