The party scene: New directions for political party research in foreign policy analysis

Stephanie C. Hofmann, Benjamin Martill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Research on political parties and foreign policy has grown in recent years in response to disciplinary and real-world changes. But party research still bears the imprint of earlier scepticism about the role of parties. The result is scholarship which is disaggregated, which avoids difficult cases for parties, and which has focused more on showing that parties matter relative to structural accounts of foreign policy-making. This article takes stock of recent research on political parties, party politics and their role in foreign policy-making. We argue that it is time for party research not only to embrace the question of whether parties matter but also how, when and where they matter. This requires a move away from most-likely cases and the realist foil towards an embrace of the complexity of party positions. Building on International Relations, comparative politics and foreign policy analysis scholarship, we suggest four avenues deserving of greater scholarly focus: 1) ideological multidimensionality; 2) parties as organizations and the role of entrepreneurs; 3) parties as transnational foreign policy actors; and 4) the interaction between parties and the changing global order. We propose how these literatures can help identify new research questions, contribute to theory development and help define scope conditions. This will hopefully help scholars establish benchmarks for judging the efficacy of parties in foreign policy-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305–322
Number of pages18
JournalInternational affairs
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ideology
  • party
  • organization
  • party leadership
  • party environment
  • Comparative Politics and International Relations nexus


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