In his most recent article “Bringing agency back into the study of partisan politics: A note on recent developments in the literature on party politics“ Reimut Zohlnhöfer and Georg Wenzelburger present some new ideas about recent developments in the literature on partisan effects on policy-making.
The authors start from the observation that several recent studies have called for an “electoral turn” in partisan theory. These studies suggest that scholars should strive for establishing a party–voter link on the micro-level depending on the policy area at stake, because the traditionally stable relationships between parties and certain groups of voters are decreasing.
In their contribution, Zohlnhöfer and Wenzelburger add to this literature by claiming that the “electoral turn”-literature seems to downplay other sources that may be responsible for partisan effects on public policies. While they acknowledge that vote seeking motives are still important, the authors argue that political actors and their preferences should not be considered mere agents of voter preferences. Regarding the effect of partisan ideology on public policies from an “agency-based” approach, party positions and the policies parties adopt in government can also be developed on the level of party members or policy-makers themselves.
The article suggests that future research on the role of parties in policy-making should focus on a systematic assessment of the empirical implications of the model and define the conditions under which this approach works best.