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Faculty Research Seminars- "When parties become movements: the movement-ization of established party organizations in Austria, Germany, and the UK"

Picture of Felix Butzlaff. Appears in a black t-shirt, short cropped hair and smiling.
Wednesday, March 8, 2023, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Our Faculty Research Seminars at the Department of Public Policy showcase the ongoing work of our current faculty and PhD Candidates. 


In light of widespread frustration with representative democracy, political parties increasingly  imitate social movements – a phenomenon scholars have conceptualized as movement-party-hybrids or movement parties (Della Porta et al. 2017). Strikingly though, hitherto research on the topic focuses on emerging parties only and reveals little about movement-ization re-shaping traditional party organizations and, therefore, representative democracy. In 39 qualitative interviews with social-democratic and conservative party organizers, I compare how different established parties experience demands for a movement-ization of their organization. Results show that established parties, too, face pressures to provide social movement-like experiences and deformalization, yet their adaptation strategies differ as a function of political orientation, organizational heritage, member expectations, and political discontent. Whereas social democrats envision a more bottom-up and movement-inspired re-organization yet seriously suffer from the tensions this causes among different member and supporter groups, conservatives (if at all) embrace movement-ization as a top-down steered strategic re-branding suggesting elevated policy efficacy.

Felix Butzlaff is Postdoctoral Fellow at CEU's Department of Public Policy since 2023. After studying political science, economics, and international law at Georg August University in Goettingen and Universidad de Chile in Santiago, he earned his doctoral degree at the Institute for Democracy Research at Georg August University in Goettingen. Before joining CEU, he was a postdoc at the Institute for Social Change and Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics in Business. In his research, he is focused on how democracies evolve and especially how institutions and participatory expectations of citizens interact. In his PhD, he focused on protest initiatives of citizens that sought political influence beyond established actors such as political parties. In his further research, he works on how structures and organizations of social movements and political parties seek to adapt to citizens' changing demands to be engaged and incorporated democratically. At the department, Felix is involved in the EU Horizon project Brridge, which connects four European universities in a new network to strengthen democracy research. He has published and edited several books and has authored articles and edited special issues in international journals such as Democratization, Political Studies Review, Political Research Exchange, the European Journal of Social Theory, or Critical Policy Studies. Also, he is currently one of the convenors of ECPR's Standing group on participation and mobilization.