Scholars of comparative politics have long examined political parties as organized vehicles of mass mobilization, interest mediation, and policy formation. But with mounting evidence that parties in the twenty-first century serve different purposes, how are we to understand the role of traditional, mainstream parties today? This talk examines factors driving a decline in traditional party organization, which includes an erosion of social and intermediary groups, insufficient state capacity, delegation of party functions to private interests, and ideological convergence between the mainstream parties. It argues for more rigorous conceptualization of the role parties serve in representative democracies, and greater theoretical examination of the link between parties and governance outcomes.
Didi Kuo is the Program Manager of the Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. Her research interests include clientelism, democratization, and party politics, and she is completing a book manuscript on business interests and patronage in the nineteenth-century United States. She received her PhD in political science from Harvard University, an MSc from Oxford University, where she studied as a Marshall Scholar, and a BA from Emory University.