Theses Doctoral

"From Parliamentarism to Party Democracy: Parties, Parliaments, and Leaders, Weber to Kelsen"

Ragazzoni, David

My dissertation manuscript studies the democratic theories of three protagonists of European political, legal, and social thought in the first half of the 20th century: Max Weber (1864-1920), Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), and Hans Kelsen (1881-1973). It explores, contextualizes, and compares their respective accounts of how the advent of mass democracy transformed the theory and practice of representative government, in terms of both its overall legal framework (the State) and its internal institutional and political actors (Parliaments, parties, and leaders).

At the same time, it places these three authors in the broader horizon of early 20th-century anxieties about the “changes” of liberal parliamentarism and the unprecedented challenges posed by mass politics, reconnecting their work to public and scholarly discussions among leading social scientists and intellectuals in the 1920s and 1930s. Sitting at the crossroads of history and theory, the dissertation seeks to highlight the distinctiveness of each author’s normative account of democratic leadership – Weber’s agonistic, Schmitt’s plebiscitary, and Kelsen’s procedural vision – and the largely competing ways in which each of them made political parties foundational to such visions. Urging the readers to capture the enduring echo of these three visions in our present, the dissertation also alerts them to their potential for rethinking the relationship between parties and leaders in early 21st-century representative democracies.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2027-06-24.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Urbinati, Nadia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 3, 2022