EU462      Half Unit
Partisanship in Europe

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jonathan White COW 1.09


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in European Studies: Ideas and Identities, MSc in European Studies: Ideas and Identities (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Political Sociology, MSc in Politics and Government in the European Union and MSc in Politics and Government in the European Union (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course examines the idea and evolving nature of partisanship, i.e. stable commitment to a political grouping and its associated political views. It explores whether partisanship may be a necessary, even desirable, aspect of democratic political life, looks at how one might conceptualise its practices, and considers the validity of recent theses concerning its demise in contemporary Europe. The course has three main sections. The first examines the historical appearance of the party in Europe, and of the distinctions drawn with related notions such as 'faction' and 'interest group', and looks at the connection between partisanship and the emergence of democracy. It considers some of the major normative arguments for and against partisanship, and studies the differing conceptions of politics and political disagreement to which these refer. The second section looks at what the practices of partisanship involve, examining inter-party relations and their conventional depiction in terms of Left and Right, the nature of citizen mobilisation, and the structuring of relations within the party between elites and masses. The course's third section looks at the health of partisanship in contemporary Europe, including the challenges posed by cultural change, by the processes of European integration, and by the emergence of new forms of collective action and sites of contestation.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

This essay is 2,500 words.

Indicative reading

Nancy Rosenblum (2008) On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship; Russell Muirhead (2006) A Defence of Party Spirit; Michael Freeden (1996) Ideologies and Political Theory; Antonio Gramsci (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks; Andrew Mason (1993) Explaining Political Disagreement; Chantal Mouffe (1993) Return of the Political; Giovanni Sartori (1976) Parties and Party Systems; Robert Michels (1915) Political Parties; Marcel Gauchet (1994) Left and Right; Colin Crouch (2004) Post-Democracy; Jonathan White and Lea Ypi (2010) Rethinking the Modern Prince: Partisanship and the Democratic Ethos.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.6
Merit 73.5
Pass 8.8
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2012/13: 13

Average class size 2012/13: 12

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 92.7%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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