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The New Roles of States and Territorial Scales

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The New Roles of States and Territorial Scales


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Political Parties and Global Democracy

This paper examines the place of political parties and party systems in providing democracy for the more global world of the twenty-first century. It argues that recent intense globalisation has by no means rendered political parties and party systems irrelevant. However, political parties have lost substantial democratic impact by failing to move on with today’s more global times. Parties could regain considerable stature as democratic forces if they altered a number of practices in line with emergent polycentric governance of a more global world. The paper advances a number of suggestions that could concurrently address the general stagnancy of political parties and the overall underdevelopment of global democracy.

What is the place of political parties and party systems in providing democracy for the more global world of the twenty-first century? If contemporary globalisation has shifted the contours of governance – that is, the ways that societal rules are formulated, applied and reviewed – do political parties need to reinvent their organisation and practices to fulfil their democratic role? If so, what kinds of adjustments are required? Or has globalisation so transformed politics that party formations have become obsolete in the democratic process, no longer being able to deliver adequate public participation in, and public control over, the decisions that shape collective destinies?

This paper argues that the past half-century of intense globalisation has by no means rendered political parties and party systems irrelevant. However, political parties have lost substantial democratic impact by failing to move on with today’s more global times. Official circles and civil society quarters have generally made considerably more progress to recognise, and adjust their activities to, the shift from a statist towards a polycentric mode of governance that has accompanied contemporary globalisation. In contrast, political parties have for the most part retained a now obsolete statist-territorialist-nationalist modus operandi. Parties could regain considerable stature as democratic forces if they (belatedly) altered a number of practices in line with emergent polycentric governance of a more global world.

The paper also advances a number of measures that could benefit party organisations and wider democracy alike. Greater attention to global affairs, global rules and global institutions by parties could contribute significantly to their revival as democratic players. In turn, more globally oriented political parties could provide a much-needed boost to the broader democratisation of globalisation. The current general stagnancy of political parties and the overall underdevelopment of global democracy would thereby be addressed at the same time. Reinvigorated party systems are not a panacea for public participation and public accountability in global politics, but they could bring major advances.

Source: CSGR Working Paper No 200/06. April 2006


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