Government and Opposition


A Historical Institutionalist Approach to Political Party Organization: The Case of South Korea

Olli Hellmann1


The existing literature on party organization is deeply divided over the question of how much freedom of choice decision-makers in a party enjoy in relation to their environment. Although the resulting theoretical deadlock seriously weakens our understanding of party formation and change, no attempt has been made to reconcile the different approaches. This article aims to do just that by offering a historical institutionalist perspective on party organization. Studying the development of political parties in South Korea, it argues that party organizations are best understood as strategic responses to electoral markets. Party organizations reproduce and change, as advantaged factions defend the status quo, while disadvantaged factions work towards organizational reform.


1 The author would like to thank Ingrid van Biezen, Paul Webb and the two anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this article. Any remaining mistakes are nobody's fault but the author's.