Chapter

Party Organization and Party Performance: The Case of the French Socialist Party

Serenella Sferza

in Political Parties

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780199246748
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599385 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199246742.003.0007

Series: Comparative Politics

 Party Organization and Party Performance: The Case of the French Socialist Party

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Much of the literature on parties centres on decline and failure, but recently the decline hypothesis has come under attack on both empirical and theoretical grounds, and this has exposed major shortcomings in dominant views (models) of party development, which mostly have offered an externalist view of party development and cast political parties as passive takers of their environment. This view of parties is markedly at odds with the considerable leeway attributed to other political actors and organizations, and whatever the solution to this impasse maybe, it clearly requires looking at party development not only from ‘without’, but also from ‘within’, in ways that capture the two‐ways link between intra‐party politics and resources and inter‐party competition; this perspective brings back not only intra‐party politics as a crucial political arena but also parties as central political actors. Explores this possibility by applying the emerging ‘new’ organizational approach to the trajectory of the French Socialist Party (SFIO, the Section Française de l’lnternationale Ouvrière, until 1971, PS afterwards), which, in the 1970s, staged a spectacular renaissance, and within a decade brought it from near extinction to power—although since then, policy and moral failures have dissipated much of this popular enthusiasm. However, the left's victory at the 1997 elections, the popularity of the current Socialist‐led government, and the weak challenge posed by new politics formations, suggest that much of the capital the PS accumulated in the previous decade remains in place. Provides an internalist account of the PSs jagged trajectory in four parts: the first summarizes externalist approaches to party development; the second analyses the trajectory of the PS over the last three decades in terms of the match and mismatch between party organization and the environment; the third looks at regional variations within this national pattern; and the fourth discusses the resilience of factionalism and draws the implications of this case for the study of political parties.

Keywords: case studies; externalist analysis; factionalism; France; French Socialist Party; internalist analysis; inter‐party competition; intra‐party politics; party decline; party development; party models; party organization; party performance; political parties

Chapter.  11635 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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