Political Parties: who needs them?


Posted on 17 February 2012

Professor Kurt Richard Luther will be giving the latest lecture in Keele University’s series of professorial Inaugural Lectures on Monday, 27 February, 2012. Professor Luther, Comparative Politics at Keele, will be speaking on “Political Parties: Who Needs them?”

Political parties have for over 100 years played a central role in the theory and practice of modern democracy, constituting a vital link between the demos and the politicians to whom the exercise of the affairs of the state is temporarily entrusted. There is thus much to be said for Schattschneider’s 1942 dictum that ‘democracy is unthinkable save in terms of … parties’. Yet political parties have always been contested institutions. The media frequently portrays them as at best untrustworthy and at worst corrupt, whilst even nuanced academic analyses assert that they are becoming increasingly redundant. Drawing on his work on contemporary western European party politics, Professor Luther will explore current research into the changing role of political parties, identify the main challenges they face and consider their likely future shape. He will conclude with proposals for the future direction of party research, arguing amongst other things for the adoption of a more-actor-centric approach.

Kurt Richard Luther is Professor of Comparative Politics and Convenor of the Keele European Parties Research Unit. He studied Politics and Languages in the UK and in Germany and wrote his PhD on the development of federal thought and practice in western Europe. His subsequent research topics include the role of political parties in federal states, causes of party system change, the politics of party elites in Europe's deeply divided 'consociational' democracies, right-wing radical parties, party strategy and the organizational adaptation of political parties to European integration. His co-edited books include Political Parties in the New Europe: Political and Analytical Challenges (Oxford University Press, 2005) and The Europeanization of National Political Parties: Power and Organizational Adaptation (Routledge, 2007). An international expert on Austrian politics, he was in 2008 appointed Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna and in 2009 awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Arts by the Federal President of Austria.

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett. Admission is free; no ticket is required.

The other lectures in the series are:

Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, Professor Robert Ladrech, Politics, "Political Parties and the European Project"; Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, Professor Robin Jeffries, Astrophysics, "A star is born"; Tuesday, 8 May, 2012, Professor Carole Thornley, Management, "Why are the low-paid always with us?"; Monday, 11 June,  2012, Professor Andy Hassell, Medicine, "The patient with arthritis, the medical student and the rheumatologist: influencing tomorrow's doctors".