From an anthropological perspective politics is a form of work that involves power struggles in the face of difference, walking and talking with friends and foes to realise aspirations, share resources and discipline people or thwart opponents’ goals. Within political institutions in democratic systems, these struggles take place in different sites but a key one is political parties. And yet parties – these complex, dynamic and partly hidden coalitions – have been neglected within anthropology with some notable exceptions.
Amidst this era of political chaos, marked by the convergence of multiple economic, political, health and ecological crisis, the question of political organisation has come back as a matter of great urgency. The sheer scale of the challenges we face makes the basic logic of all forms of organisation - namely uniting the force of individuals in pursuit of a collective cause – key to the major mobilisation efforts that are required to address contemporary social problems.
The internal dynamics of political parties were a central concern for the founders of both organization theory and political sociology, yet contemporary research tends to neglect the importance and value of studying these electoral machines from a truly organizational point of view. The present issue seeks to remedy this shortcoming by allowing curious and creative scholars to reimagine what it might mean for organization scholars and activists alike to engage actively with political parties.
When the hope for something else and better perishes, the alternative dies with it [...]. However, belief is necessarily accompanied by doubt. Without doubt belief turns into conviction and blindness. Conversely, without belief doubts very easily develop into cynicism and dejection. The alternative thinker, writer, speaker and practitioner is one who is full of faith but far from faithful. (Schreven et al., 2008: 136)