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Koß, Michael (2016): Varieties of Parliamentarism. A Long-Term Comparison of Western European Parliaments. Workshop Analyzing Organization in Parliaments: Causes and Consequences. ECPR Joint Sessions, Pisa, 24. - 28. April 2016.

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Recent studies on legislative organization agree that procedural reforms in legislatures are ultimately driven by the increasing scarcity of parliamentary time which, in turn, largely goes back to increasing levels of public regulation in representative democracies. Explanations of legislative organization for West European parliamentary systems taking the important dynamic between an inclusive suffrage and growing state activity into account therefore need to take the onset of political competition in the late 19th century a their point of departure. This paper provides such a long-term analysis for two important features of legislative organization, plenary agenda control and committee systems. In doing so, it pursues each one conceptual and empirical goal.

Conceptually, the paper aims to present an explanation for the evolution of agenda control and parliamentary committees. Decentralized agenda control and strong committees are regarded as the default response to increasing state activity under an inclusive suffrage. However, the presence of anti-establishment and/or anti-system parties might prompt the centralization of agenda control and inhibits the development towards strong committees. Conversely, the withdrawal of ‘anti’-parties, be it as a result of electoral defeat or a process of moderation, allows to decentralize agenda control and strengthen committees.

Empirically, the paper aims to trace back the evolution of agenda control and parliamentary committees for the 1866–2015 period in three paradigmatic West European cases: the United Kingdom, France, and Sweden. Special emphasis is paid to the degrees to which government control of the agenda and of committees is centralized and to the importance of (the absence of) ‘anti’-parties obstruction for the centralization of control over the agenda and committees.

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