Miller Center

Colloquium - Parties as Political Institutions in American Political Development

Daniel Galvin
November 9, 2007
12:30PM - 12:30PM (EST)

Daniel Galvin
Daniel Galvin

Daniel Galvin, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University

Political parties figure prominently in studies of American political development; they are depicted as integral to many of the most significant turning points in American history. Remarkably, however, little effort has been given to understanding how, exactly, party structures and operations change, and under what conditions we might expect to see different kinds of changes in the parties. The reason is that the approach most political scientists have taken to studying parties over the last century has given us only limited purchase on parties as institutions of political significance in their own right. As parties are generally depicted as reflections of change rather than themselves integral to the processes through which they change, their own capacities to generate, obstruct, or redirect change seldom receive direct attention. What escapes investigation is the possibility that each party has its own rhythm and pattern of development, that each follows its own internal logic, is on its own historical trajectory, and has its own capacities to mediate and negotiate change in politically significant ways. This paper aims to take a first step toward addressing these shortcomings by treating parties as political institutions with identifiable mechanisms of reproduction and change.

Daniel Galvin, a former Miller Center Fellow, is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. His research interests include the American presidency, political parties, and American political development. He is currently examining how variations in presidential behavior can help to explain the uneven paths of organizational development in the Democratic and Republican parties in the modern period. His research has appeared in Polity, Journal of Contemporary Thought, and The New York Times. He also co-edited Rethinking Political Institutions: The Art of the State with Ian Shapiro and Stephen Skowronek (New York University Press, 2006).

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