20 January 2011

New Parties in the New Europe

"Live Fast, Die Young: The Short and Curious Life Cycle of New Parties in the New Europe" was the title of a talk that incited me to SSEES on a Thursday evening.

SSEES, that's the UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies if you want it in full, runs a number of interesting lectures relating to Central Europe but I get to fewer than I would like as they normally start at the student-friendly 5pm when I'm still chained to my desk. I could make this one as it started at the more worker-friendly time of 6pm.

For reasons that were never made clear, we actually met in a cramped lecture room in the building next door to SSEES which was bit of a challenge to squeeze in to and also deprived us of the promised wine and nibbles. Luckily the talk was diverting enough to overcome those difficulties.

The speaker was Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause from Wayne State University, USA who betrayed his nationality through his accent and his constant referral to the countries under discussion as being in Eastern Europe when it was made very clear to me when working there that they are in Central Europe. The name of the time-zone they are in is a clue here.

Professor Deegan-Krause took us through a model that he and colleagues have been working on that attempts to explain how political parties grow and die in the New Europe where each election see the emergence of new parties and the gradual decline of old ones.

The talk explored some of the types of parties that emerge, e.g. those that focus on fighting corruption or those that are built around a charismatic leader.

It then explained some of ways that these parties decline. For example, parties fighting corruption when elected can be tainted with the same corrupt tag that the electorate applies to all politicians and the party become part of the problem rather than the solution and so it withers and dies.

Elements of the birth/death model were interesting and illuminating but I found the model itself unconvincing and quite possibly unnecessary.

I asked a simple question at the end, and that was "so what?" and Professor Deegan-Krause was kind enough to say that that was something that they wanted to look at in further research, e.g. the correlation between party volatility and outcome metrics like voter participation or economic growth.

I'll be interested to see how that turns out.


  1. Glad you liked the talk - Kevin is good speaker and we were keen to have him talk at SSEES.

    Room and building change (and size) was due to non-availability of any room in SSEES Building on a Thursday evening, the only day Kevin was in London.

    Sorry, I didn't manged to excise reference to wine from the posters our administrator did: wasn't practical to serve in the Anthropology builidng. Normal service will be resumed for other events held at SSEES,

    I'll see if we can put the time back for events next year to accomodate people with jobs such as yourself...

  2. Sean, thanks for the update. I do appreciate that administrative things do not always work. Previous visits to SSEES had gone OK and I'm sure future ones will too.

  3. I agree that it is an interesting subject, but for a professor to still be stuck in the old cold war terminology, in particular on this subject, is rather comical. Americans eh, what do they know? ;-)


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