review of Party Patronage and Party Government

“One of the edited volume’s key findings is that the role of parties in controlling political patronage has declined. Instead power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of individual politicians. This has significant implications on party organisation as specific party elites, such as leaders and government ministers -the party in public office- have increased their power over the party in central office, which has traditionally been in charge of political appointments. Not only is the strength of vertical linkages within parties substantively reduced, but power now tends to be ‘top-heavy’ (albeit with some exceptions) with elites enjoying greater autonomy, and personal loyalties proving more important than party loyalties.

“Crucially, the underlying logic of political patronage has also changed over time. The increased professionalisation of the civil service combined with declining party membership, increased media scrutiny of political appointments and a trend towards the privatisation of the public sector have given prominence to control as the primary motivation behind patronage appointments. Parties and individual politicians engage in patronage practices in order to ensure the efficient management and implementation of decision-making. Patronage is less directed towards reward, which tends to be associated with electoral politics; and appointments are mostly made on the basis of professional expertise and sourced from channels outside of the party. Political parties are now understood as ‘networks’ lacking strong party identity and operating in complicated multi-level systems of governance. In the absence of a strong hierarchical organisation, coordination becomes the chief task for parties, and patronage evolves into a party-building mechanism, a tool for party organisational survival and success.”

review of Party patronage and party government in European democracies, Petr Kopecky, Peter Mair and Maria Spirova (eds.) Oxford University Press, 2012

Full review here


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