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“The major parties of the Federal Republic of Germany provide better models of the ‘catch-all party’ (Kirchheimer) than do those of the French Fifth Republic and post-war Italy.” Discuss

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The CDU and SPD: Unequalled models in Kirchheimer's perspective.
    1. The CDU: The first European party which fitted in Kirchheimer's 'catch all' party model.
    2. Relying on the ethos of social responsibility and a commitment to the market economy.
    3. UNR domination of the French political scene.
  3. A proper 'catch-allism' for France and Italy.
    1. The French 'semi-presidential' political regime.
    2. The main candidates for the French Presidential elections of April 2007.
    3. The Federal Republic of Germany.
  4. Bibliography.

The Post war period was characterized by move towards spreading secular and mass consumer-goods societies. This note is valid in the Federal Republic of Germany, the French Fifth Republic, and post-war Italy. This major turn in societies had to be understood by political parties and translated in changes in their organizations and ideologies. Older party types such as the old-style bourgeois party of individual representation became the exception. While some species continue to survive, they do not determinate the nature of the party system any longer. Another classical type of party, the mass integration party, product of an age with harder class lines and more sharply protruding denominational structures, was also likely to evolve , in order to suits more the evolution of societies. Kirchheimer contrasts the catch-all party with the mass party model . The catch all party ?abandoned attempts at the intellectual and moral encadrement of the working class, turning more fully to the electorate scene in an effort ?to exchange effectiveness in depth for a wider audience and immediate electoral success. The narrower political task and the electoral goals of the catch-all party differ sharply from the all embracing concerns of the mass party; today the latter is seen as counter-productive since they deter segments of a potential ?nation-wide clientele'2. The catch-all parties in Europe appear at a time of de-ideologization which has substantially contributed to their rise and spread. De-ideologization in the political field involves the transfer of ideology from partnership in a clearly visible political goal structure into one of many sufficient but by no means necessary motivational forces operative in the voters' choice . Kirchheimer held the mainstream parties German parties, to be particularly good examples of ?catch-all' parties.

[...] While the UNR has dominated the French political scene throughout the 1960's by pitching its appeal above narrow partisan claims and looking rather to national issues to attract a wide base of support[9], it never led to the foundation of another so-called ?catch all party' in the opposition. In Italy too, the dominance for nearly five decades of the apparently ?catch-all' Christian Democrats (the DCI) has not fostered the emergence of an alternative catch-all party. Moreover, one should emphasize the fact that De Gaulle's UNR was far from being ideologically neutral. [...]

[...] While France's political system is fostering the emergence of ?catch-all candidates' and Presidents, the ?catch-all' feature in Italy has been expressing itself through the help of mass Medias and a strongly national orientation. As politics are more and more turning into a market where electors can be considered as consumers, we might discover in the close future, more and more ways and strategies to ?catch' the electorate. Bibliography Otto Kirchheimer, Catch-All Party?, in Peter Mair The West European Party System, (McGraw Hill, 1990). [...]

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