The value of political parties to representative democracy

Ann-Kristin Kölln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Political parties play a major role in democratic processes around the world. Recent empirical research suggests that parties are increasingly less important to citizens. Simultaneously, classic and contemporary theories of representative democracy specifically still minimally incorporate accounts of party benefit. This article attempts to reconcile normative political theory on democratic representation with party politics literature. It evaluates party democracy’s value in comparison with its next best theoretical alternative – pluralist democracy with individual representatives – along two different paths. It argues that parties are not flawless, but party democracy is preferable over pluralist democracy. Parties increase predictability and the transparency of policy outcomes. This, in turn, facilitates better accountability between voters and their representatives. In addition, parties save politics from becoming a dispersed and even possibly a contradictory set of actions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-613
JournalEuropean political science review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2015


  • IR-93828
  • METIS-308441


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