Advertisement

Acta Politica

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 68–91 | Cite as

Party members in a pillarised partitocracy. An empirical overview of party membership figures and profiles in Belgium

  • Emilie van HauteEmail author
  • Anissa Amjahad
  • Arthur Borriello
  • Caroline Close
  • Giulia Sandri
Original Article

Abstract

This study examines the pillarised and partitocratic nature of Belgian political parties via an empirical overview of their party on the ground. Two main research questions guide the study: To what extent can party membership figures in Belgium be considered as ideal-typical of pillarised or partitocratic parties? And how does the social and political profile of party members in Belgium correspond to what one might expect from pillarised or partitocratic parties? The study relies on two types of data set: party membership figures since WWII and membership survey data of the four ‘dominant’ relatives in each party family in Belgium. The article shows contradicting results. Although party membership figures have nuanced the idea of partitocratic and pillar parties, the analysis of the profile of party members has produced more conclusive results. The members of some parties (PS, CD&V) still display a strong encapsulation in their sociological world, report specific reasons for joining, as well as lower levels of activism than in other parties. The pillar parties in Belgium seem to have reached a paradoxical situation in which their anchorage in civil society is still very strong, yet it relies on a shrinking social basis. These results raise the question of the incentives that parties offer to their party on the ground to mobilise citizens for participation. They indicate a need to look more systematically and empirically at this neglected aspect of party organisation, as it provides important information for the debate on party decline.

Keywords

Belgium party members party activists membership composition incentives ideological stance 

References

  1. Clark, P.B. and Wilson, J.Q. (1961) Incentive systems: A theory of organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly 6 (2): 129–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Daalder, H. (2001) Parties: Denied, dismissed, or redundant? A critique. In: R. Gunther, J.R. Montero and J. Linz (eds.) Political Parties. Old Concepts and New Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 39–57.Google Scholar
  3. De Winter, L. (1996) Party encroachment on the executive and legislative branch in the Belgian polity. Res Publica 38 (2): 325–352.Google Scholar
  4. De Winter, L. (2000) Political Corruption in the Belgian Partitocracy: (still) an endemic disease. EUI Working Papers 31: 1–36.Google Scholar
  5. De Winter, L., Della Porta, D. and Deschouwer, K. (1996) Comparing similar countries: Italy and Belgium. Res Publica 38 (2): 215–235.Google Scholar
  6. De Winter, L. and Brans, M. (2005) Belgium: Political professionals and the crisis of the party state. In: J. Borchert and J. Zeiss (eds.) The Political Class in Advanced Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Delwit, P. (2011) Still in decline? Party membership in Europe. In: E. van Haute (ed.) Party Membership in Europe. Exploration into the Anthills of Party Politics. Brussels, Belgium: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, pp. 25–42.Google Scholar
  8. Delwit, P. (2012) La vie politique en Belgique de 1830 à nos jours. Brussels, Belgium: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.Google Scholar
  9. Deschouwer, K. (1994) The decline of consociationalism and the reluctant modernisation of Belgian mass parties. In: R.S. Katz and P. Mair (eds.) How Party Organize. Change and Adaptation in Party Organizations in Western Democracies. London: Sage, pp. 80–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Deschouwer, K. (2009) The Politics of Belgium. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Heidar, K. (1994) The polymorphic nature of party membership. European Journal of Political Research 25 (1): 61–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Katz, R.S. and Mair, P. (1995) Changing models of party organizations and party democracy: The emergence of the Cartel party. Party Politics 1 (1): 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lijphart, A. (1981) Conflict and Coexistence in Belgium: The Dynamics of a Culturally Divided Society. Berkeley, CA: Institute of International Studies, University of California.Google Scholar
  14. Luther, K.R. (1999) A Framework for the comparative analysis of political parties and party systems in consociational democracy. In: K.R. Luther and K. Deschouwer (eds.) Party Elites in Divided Societies. London: Routledge, pp. 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Maes, M. (1988) De ledenaantallen van de politieke partijen in België 1945–1987: een documentaire studie. Leuven, Belgium: KUL.Google Scholar
  16. Mair, P. and van Biezen, I. (2001) Party membership in twenty European democracies: 1980–2000. Party Politics 7 (1): 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Neumann, S. (1956) Modern Political Parties. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Poguntke, T. (1989) The ‘new politics dimension’ in European green parties. In: F. Müller-Rommel (ed.) New Politics in Western Europe. The Rise and Success of Green Parties and Alternative Lists. Boulder/London: Westview, pp. 175–194.Google Scholar
  19. Poguntke, T. (2002) Party organizational linkage: Parties without firm social roots? In: K.R. Luther and F. Muller-Rommel (eds.) Political Parties in the New Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 43–62.Google Scholar
  20. Rüdig, W. (2005) Green party members and grassroots democracy: A comparative analysis. Paper presented at the 3rd ECPR General Conference, Budapest.Google Scholar
  21. Sandri, G. and Pauwels, T. (2011) The role of party members in Belgian and Italian parties. In: E. van Haute (ed.) Party Membership in Europe: Exploration into the Anthills of Party Politics. Brussels, Belgium: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, pp. 129–146.Google Scholar
  22. Scarrow, S. (1996) Parties and their Members. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Scarrow, S. and Gezgor, B. (2010) Declining memberships, changing members? European political party members in a new era. Party Politics 16 (6): 823–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Seiler, D.-L. (1992) Les partis politiques dans le Bénélux. ICPS Working Papers, 48.Google Scholar
  25. Seiler, D.-L. (2000) Les partis politiques. Paris, France: A. Colin.Google Scholar
  26. Seyd, P. and Whiteley, P. (1992) Labour's Grassroots. The Politics of Party Membership. Palgrave: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  27. Seyd, P. and Whiteley, P. (eds.) (2004) Special Issue: Party Members and Activists. Party Politics, London: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. van Biezen, I., Mair, P. and Poguntke, T. (2011) Going, going, … Gone? The decline of party membership in contemporary Europe. European Journal of Political Research 51 (1): 24–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. van Haute, E. (2009) Adhérer à un parti. Aux sources de la participation politique. Brussels, Belgium: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.Google Scholar
  30. van Haute, E. (2011) Joining isn’t everything: Exit, voice, and loyalty in party organizations. Paper presented at the Carty Festschrift Workshop, 19–20 May, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  31. Verba, S. and Nie, N.H. (1972) Participation in America: Social Equality and Political Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  32. Walgrave, S., Caals, T. and Suetens, M. (2005) Ministerial Cabinets and Partitocracy. A career pattern study of ministerial cabinet members in Belgium, Working Paper.Google Scholar
  33. Whiteley, P. (1995) Rational choice and political participation. Evaluating the Debate. Political Research Quarterly 48 (1): 211–233.Google Scholar
  34. Widfelt, A. (1999) Linking Parties with People? Party Membership in Sweden 1960–1997. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilie van Haute
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anissa Amjahad
    • 1
  • Arthur Borriello
    • 1
  • Caroline Close
    • 1
  • Giulia Sandri
    • 1
  1. 1.Political Science, Universite libre de Bruxelles, Centre d’étude de la vie politiqueBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations