Varieties of democracy, non-democratic alternatives, and democratic innovations

Main researcher: Zdenka Mansfeldová, PhD.
Institute of Sociology
Collaborator:Petra Guasti, PhD. (Goethe University Frankfurt a.M.)

What is the nature of citizen-politician linkages in the 21 century? This question is highly relevant today due to the crisis of representative democracy, decreasing trust in political elites and democratic institutions. At the same time, established parties are faced with the threat of populism. Ideologically footloose voters and weakening of traditional cleavage structures undermine programmatic appeals typical for the post-War era in Europe. In an era of rapid economic changes and globalization that cut across national boundaries., the linkage mechanism between the represented and their representatives are undergoing a transformation

Herbert Kitschelt (2000) famously outlined three types of citizen-politician linkages: programmatic (linkages based on policy proposals), clientelistic (targeted delivery of goods and services in exchange for votes) and charismatic (symbolic, based on charisma and personality traits of political leaders). Kitschelt challenged previous research that posited the programmatic linkage to be the only mechanism capable of safeguarding accountability and responsiveness (Lipset and Rokkan 1967, Mair 1997). Reflecting on the challenges of the globalized economy, dealignment and the crisis of the welfare state, Kitschelt has shown how, in the absence of a functioning welfare state, clientelistic linkage can functionally substitute programmatic ties, especially in new democracies (2000: 873).

The rise of populism and the emergence of new forms of media also highlights the increasing importance of the charismatic linkage in the post-modern era. Populists around the world utilize charisma. Personalized linkages with voters are built using direct forms of online communication to foster a closer relationship with the people that bypasses traditional political parties (Moffit 2016). Populists create an illusion of responsiveness, whiles simultaneously erode horizontal and vertical accountability to centralized political power (Bustikova and Guasti 2019, Hegre, Bernhard, Teorell 2019).

The dynamic of citizen politician linkages was also explored in Eastern Europe in a seminal book Post-Communist Party Systems by Kitschelt et. all published in 1999 by Cambridge University Press. The workshop will reflect upon and revisit the events of two decades that have passed since the publication of this book through the lenses of citizen politician linkages. It will bring together prominent scholars of political transformation who co-authored the book in order to reflect on the book’s legacy, impact and relevance for today’s research. Therefore, all authors of the book will be invited – Herbert Kitschelt, Zdenka Mansfeldova, Radek Markowski and Gabor Toka to take part in a round table on Post-Communist Party Systems: Revisited.

The discussion will be centered around three sets of broader topics:

  1. Where are we now? How did post-communist party systems change in the last two decades? Do we need to significantly readjust our initial expectation about their (relative) stability?
  2. How did we get here? How did the nature of party competition and representation change in the light of increasing volatility, the emergence of new actors, and the rise of political violence?
  3. Where are we going? What is the future of catch-all parties and social democratic parties? Are they able to adapt to the transformation of the political landscape resulting in fragmentation, polarization, and dominance of identity politics?

The round table will anchor the discussion. Three panels that explore the proposed topics in a greater depth will follow. The panels will give platform to the generation of younger scholars who will share their thoughts on the impact and relevance of the propositions outlined in Post-Communist Party Systems twenty years later.