(Re)Construction of Christian Democratic party identity in Germany and The Netherlands

Oppelland, T. & Voerman, G., 2014, In : Historisch-Politische Mitteilungen : Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik. 21, p. 139-158 20 p.

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olitical parties need some form of collective identity, probably even more than most other social groups, because they are extremely open organizations which have very little control over who joins them; because most party activism is voluntary; and because parties are very heterogeneous social groups with widely differing goals between office-seekers (professional politicians) and policy-seekers (rank and file) (Wiesendahl). In order to generate active political support, to overarch the different policy goals between the party wings and to unite the party under something that all members and supporters have in common, parties need a collective identity. Traditional bases of identity are interests, ideologies, or charismatic leaders.
But today, in individualized, secularized, and globalized societies, classes and milieus are either disintegrating or lacking in common interest and political parties are forced to adapt to social change. That raises a lot of questions: Are political parties still tied to the original identity of the time of their creation, as Panebianco suggested, or can identity be re-constructed successfully? Does the process of adaption to social change necessarily lead to "identity crises" (Christian Junge), particularly for traditional catch-all parties? What are or would be the consequences of failed identity re-construction for the party and for the political system?
These questions are linked to several dimensions of the section "Politics and Identity", such as identity politics, identity conflicts, the influence of social change and shifting political behaviour on collective identities, and the relation of collective identity of political parties and the persistence of political systems.
Papers with different approaches to these questions are invited: either quantitative or qualitative empirical studies of party members' identification in times of identity change; comparative or single case studies of parties in the process of identity re-construction; or studies of historical examples of (un)successful attempts to change a party's identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalHistorisch-Politische Mitteilungen : Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Germany, Netherlands, Christian democratis party, identity

ID: 14899688