The evolving relationship between civil society and political parties: The British Labour Party’s turn to community organising
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This thesis is concerned with the changing relationship between political parties and civil society, focusing on the turn to community organising by the British Labour Party in the aftermath of its 2010 General Election defeat. It documents the model of community organising developed by Movement for Change (M4C), the application of this model within the Labour Party, and the impact of this model on the Labour Party’s relationship to civil society. This thesis finds its theoretical home in debates about the role of political parties in modern democracy, the ability of parties to represent the myriad interests of civil society, and the extent to which parties with strong linkages to place-based forms of civil society associations are capable of bridging the divide between society and the state. Additionally, this thesis contextualises the Labour Party’s turn to community organising within a history of the party’s relationship to civil society from the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, focusing on the ideas of Eduard Bernstein, Anthony Crosland and those associated with Blue Labour. Empirical material within the thesis was collected during a twelve-month period of participant observation within M4C between September 2012 and September 2013. This provided data on M4C’s community organising projects in Southampton and Cardiff. Through the development of these cases the thesis considers the potential for creating a collaborative space beyond the institutional boundaries of the party in which actors from the party and civil society deliberate on issues of common concern, development campaign strategies together, and take action to affect change. The examination of this space allows this thesis to argue that the organisational capacity of a political party is enhanced when it forms strong links to civil society associations engaged in a tradition of place-based political organising, as well as offering a means by which political parties can evolve in response to external challenges they are likely to face in the future.
- Theses