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Political representation in the networked society: the Americanisation of European systems of responsible party government?

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Abstract:

The Internet provides a new technological opportunity structure for political representatives to communicate with constituents. Its potential for decentralised, interactive mass communication allows MPs to bypass intermediary organisations such as political parties and to establish a direct relationship with their constituents. Students of electronic democracy are divided over the political consequences of this technological change in telecommunications. While cyber-optimists envisage a transformation of responsible party government into a more direct, individualised type of political representation, cyber-sceptics adopt a more cautious approach and predict a reinforcement of established systems of political representation in the networked society. This article aims to develop a theoretical foundation as well as to carry out an empirical test of both positions. In the theoretical section, these two contradictory positions are modelled on the assumption that party government is a rationalistic concept. In the empirical section, both positions are tested in a statistical analysis of the use of personal websites in the German Bundestag, the Swedish Riksdag and the US House of Representatives.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1357233042000246855

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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