Electoral Systems and Political Theory

Professor Daniel Weinstock (McGill University)

Dr Matteo Bonotti (Cardiff University)

In recent years there has been a growing interest, among political theorists, in the normative dimensions of partisanship and party politics. Alongside the influential work of Nancy Rosenblum (2000; 2003; 2008; 2014) and Russell Muirhead (2006; 2010; 2014), other authors have addressed such diverse issues as partisanship in the history of political thought (Ball 1989; Scarrow 2006), intra-party democracy (Teorell 1999; Wolkenstein 2015), partisanship and public justification (White and Ypi 2011; Bonotti 2014), the moral and political obligations of partisans (White 2015; Bonotti 2012), and transnational partisanship

However, little attention, in this growing body of literature, has been paid to the institutional framework in which political parties are located, and which may significantly shape the kind of party system in which individual parties and partisans operate. One of the key elements of this institutional framework is the electoral system. Two questions are especially important in this connection. First, what normative values ought to underlie electoral design? And, second, on the basis of the existing empirical evidence on the effects of electoral design, how can electoral systems enable partisans to fulfil those moral and political duties (e.g. towards their fellow partisans, towards citizens in general, towards the state) that much of the existing normative literature on partisanship ascribes to them? While some of the existing literature on electoral systems does engage with some of the normative dimensions of electoral design (Dummett 1985; 1997; Diamond and Plattner 2006; van der Hout and McGann 2009), very few political theorists have addressed these questions (exceptions include Beitz 1989; Christiano 1996; Weinstock 2015). This workshop aims to fill this gap in the literature, and to complement the existing normative research on parties and partisanship by refocusing the attention onto this key element of the institutional framework in which parties operate.

The workshop will especially be of interest to democratic theorists but proposals from political theorists working in other areas, or political scientists with a strong interest in normative issues, are also welcome. The workshop invites papers from scholars of all levels, from PhD students to full professors. Papers addressing the following broad topics are

  • Democratic values and electoral design
  • Electoral systems and different conceptions of representation
  • Electoral systems and democratic deliberation
  • Intra-party democracy and electoral design
  • Electoral systems and public justification

If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please submit an abstract of 200-300 words to daniel.weinstock2@mcgill.ca and BonottiM@cardiff.ac.uk by Thursday 12 May 2016.