The Katz & Mair - Koole Debate about 'Cartel Parties'

Essay, 2002

10 Pages, Grade: A-


Table of Contents

1. The concept of the ‘cartel party’
a) The evolutionary approach
b) Features of the cartel party

2. Criticism and Rejoinder
c) State and Society
d) The Party system
e) The Individual party
f) The evolutionary aspect

3. Comments and Assessment

4. Bibliography

1. The concept of the ‘cartel party’

The ‘cartel party’ concept proposed by Richard S. Katz and Peter Mair in Party Politics[1] provoked a debate between the authors and Ruud Koole.[2] In this paper I will redraw and assess this debate concluding with some own remarks.

In their piece Katz & Mair challenge the predominance of the ‘mass party’ or ‘catch-all party’-models in the literature on political parties. The contemporary problems in applying these models are usually being interpreted as a ‘decline of party’. In contrast to that, Katz & Mair propose a new model, the so-called cartel party as an ideal type towards party organization is developing. To illustrate this, the authors draw evolutionary stages of party development underlining in particular the relative position of parties in front of state and civil society and the reflection of that relationship in the inner-party organization, their finances, and the underlying concept of democracy.

a) The evolutionary approach

The earliest parties in the mid/late 19th century, the so-called elite or cadre parties were characterized by very limited network structures sustained by individuals’ initiatives. Electoral competition under limited suffrage was aimed at local constituencies with the elected being viewed as trustees who were part of both civil society and the state in pursuing the national interest. With increasing suffrage mass parties started challenging the established cadre parties. They represented a clearly demarcated sectoral interest of societal groups who were so far not connected to the state and for whom mass parties provided this link in the fight for social reforms. They were characterized by large numbers of members who supported the party with their contributions and decided about policy issues with elected deputes being accountable representatives of the party.

Soon the traditional parties of the right reacted in trying to broaden the base of voters by establishing the so-called ‘catch-all parties’ These parties kept up the claim to represent the national interest but emulated the recruitment of mass party membership. Yet, the membership was not based on social status but on policy agreement and was meant to support parliamentary deputes. With the emergence of the modern welfare state and the dissolution of traditional social cleavages also the late mass parties became undermined and endeavoured to broaden their base.

b) Features of the cartel party

The development of parties in the last decades increasingly matches the Schumpeterian or Downsian model of democracy with parties being driven by a self-interest of enjoying the premium of staying or getting into power.[3] These political entrepreneurs gain their mandate from an electorate whose task is not to choose policies but leaders as brokers of pluralist interests of society. Governing became possible in shifting coalitions. Not mobilization but skillful campaigning determined electoral outcomes also with the spread of the mass media. Consequently the parties increasingly intermingled with the state and tried to manipulate it in their self-interest. Democracy becomes a service provided by the state and the incorporated parties to civil society which loses its controlling and balancing function while party programs increasingly converge. With the parties moving away from civil society and into the state participation no longer plays a decisive role. Mass civil engagement shifts towards single-issue groups. For their costly campaigns the parties need to tap new financial sources which they easily find in the state. Also privileged access to the media is secured this way. Losing elections is no longer decisive with regards to policies (which were converging anyway) but for the survival of a party and its access to crucial state financing on which it increasingly depends for the lack of a large external base. In awareness of their dependence on the state the major contemporary established parties increasingly collude in sharing the resources for their collective survival which at the same time in a cartel-like manner bars newcomers from entering the system. Competition is rather limited and the costs of defeat are being lowered by the state, which provides for all parties.

Katz & Mair point out that this process towards the ‘cartel-party’ is still in its early stages and more visible in countries with traditional cooperation and larger opportunities for state finances and patronage, such as some Scandinavian countries, Germany or Austria. In the wake of this development also the inner-party structures change. Not only the social background of the parties has changed but also the goals of politics which now focus on professional management rather than political or social aims. Within parties the distinction between members and non-members becomes increasingly blurred. Both the leadership who are managing professional capital-intensive campaigns and local deputes seeking representation gain increasing independence in what Katz & Mair call stratarchy. For the growing convergence of programs democracy is increasingly associated with stability, not with change. Since also the traditional interest groups are being absorbed into the state only new, radical and often populist and anti-democratic parties challenge the entrenchment of the system.

2. Criticism and Rejoinder

c) State and Society

In his comment on Katz & Mair’s model Ruud Koole[4] raises some major points of criticism which are then being adressed by yet another piece by Katz & Mair.[5] At first Koole sets about to sketch his own observations with regards to the relationship between (civil) society and the state, which is central to the Katz & Mair piece. Koole explains that the boundaries between civil society and state are increasingly blurred due to the growing state intervention in the last decades. Therefore, the claim of a growing distance between the state and civil society is rather questionable. Moreover, Koole criticizes Katz & Mair for neglecting other significant aspects in the concept of mass parties. If voting was the criterion for civil society the traditional mass parties fighting for mass suffrage were actually reaching into society beyond the narrower boundaries of civil society. With the extended suffrage all parties (also the adapted elite parties) then operated within an enlarged civil society. With the extension of suffrage more people get integrated into civil society while at the same time the welfare state, the growing state bureaucracy and neo-corporatist ‘subcontractors’ of the state penetrate society. Voters lose their ties to parties and volatility grows. Moreover, there is an increasingly diverse interest representation besides parties (single-issue groups, interest groups). But also law cases against the state are being used by citizens to pursue their interests. As the state increasingly overlaps with society, also the parties do, they remain an important link to the state, but no longer the only one. The development towards multiple sources of power away from the state towards a regionalization and globalization of power renders the claim of an absorption of parties by the state and the and insider/outsider- dichotomy even less relevant. Furthermore, Koole argues that the alleged increase monopolized or cartelized power of the parties is a mirage when considering the growth of independent media, which are less and less controlled by parties.


[1] R Katz / P Mair (1995), ‘Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy – The Emergence of the Cartel Party’, Party Politics 1:5-27.

[2] R Koole (1996), ‘Cadre, Catch-all or Cartel ? – A comment on the notion of the cartel party’, Party Politics 2:507-527; R Katz / P Mair (1996), ‘Cadre, Catch-all or Cartel? – A Rejoinder’, Party Politics 2:525-534.

[3] JA Schumpeter (1992), Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, L: Routledge;

A Downs (1957), An Economic Theory of Democracy, NY: Harper & Row.

[4] R Koole, ‘Cadre, Catch-all or Cartel ? – A comment on the notion of the cartel party’, Party Politics 2:507-527.

[5] R Katz / P Mair, ‘Cadre, Catch-all or Cartel? – A Rejoinder’, Party Politics 2:525-534.

Excerpt out of 10 pages


The Katz & Mair - Koole Debate about 'Cartel Parties'
Central European University Budapest  (Department of Political Science)
Political Parties
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
396 KB
Katz, Mair, Koole, debate, Partei, party, cartel, Kartell, Massenpartei, mass party, suffrage, catch-all party, Kirchheimer, Duverger, sozialdemokratisch, social democrat, Arbeiter, worker
Quote paper
Maximilian Spinner (Author), 2002, The Katz & Mair - Koole Debate about 'Cartel Parties', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Katz & Mair - Koole Debate about 'Cartel Parties'

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free