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Party System ChangeApproaches and Interpretations$
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Peter Mair

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198295495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198295499.001.0001

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Electoral Markets and Stable States

Electoral Markets and Stable States

(p.157) 7 Electoral Markets and Stable States
Party System Change

Peter Mair (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This is the first of three chapters on political party systems and structures of competition, and looks at electoral markets in Europe. It begins by clarifying the term ‘electoral markets’ in the context of the chapter, noting first that the competition to be investigated is inter-party competition, which will arise when parties have a market in which to compete (i.e. when there are voters in competition), and is at least in part a function of the size of the electoral market. Second, it notes that when parties confront an electoral market, they have a choice of two not necessarily exclusive strategies –– defensive or expansive; and third, that the size of the markets in general, and the degree of electoral availability, is largely a function of the strength and pervasiveness of the relevant political identities. The first section of the chapter, Developments and Contrasts in Western Europe, looks at the history of the development of political parties in western Europe as a history of attempts to narrow the electoral market through the promotion and inculcation of mass political identities; it concludes that, other things being equal, polities characterized by the presence of strong identities are likely to be less competitive than those where they are not, and will, more precisely, tend to be more consensual. The next section of the chapter, ‘Electoral Markets and Consociational Democracy’, leads on naturally to a discussion of consociational democracies (which are plural societies) in western Europe, and this is followed. in ‘Small States and Large States’, by an examination of the differences in policy style in small states (which are largely consensual) and large states (which are adversarial, with high electoral volatility). The last section ‘Some Implications for the New East European Democracies’, applies the previous discussion to eastern Europe.

Keywords:   adversarial democracies, consociational democracies, development of political parties, east European democracies, eastern Europe, electoral markets, electoral volatility, Europe, inter-party competition, large states, mass political identities, party systems, policy style, political parties, small states, stable states, structures of competition, western Europe

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