This paper deals with the puzzle of contemporary parties. After having discussed the most relevant, classical contributions on the party types, the paper underlines that parties are now still holding a central position in the system. They have grown stronger and more powerful thanks to their interpenetration with the state but they have lost full legitimacy. Their passage towards cartelization has been accomplished at the cost of diluting the collective and symbolic benefits that they were used to distribute to the members and the voters. The increased resources that parties can now distribute thanks to their colonisation of the state do not counter the negative impact of the loosening of affective/ideological bonds previously established with their constituencies. Even the most recent attempts at "opening and including" a larger number of members and voter in the decision-making process has not yet proven effective. The puzzle of contemporary parties liens in the contradiction between a larger openness and increased resources vis-à-vis declining legitimacy and attractiveness.