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Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy

Chilling account of the end of party democracy, by the leading political scientist
In the long-established democracies of Western Europe, electoral turnouts are in decline, membership is shrinking in the major parties, and those who remain loyal partisans are sapped of enthusiasm. Peter Mair’s new book weighs the impact of these changes, which together show that, after a century of democratic aspiration, electorates are deserting the political arena. Mair examines the alarming parallel development that has seen Europe’s political elites remodel themselves as a homogeneous professional class, withdrawing into state institutions that offer relative stability in a world of fickle voters. Meanwhile, non-democratic agencies and practices proliferate and gain credibility—not least among them the European Union itself, an organization contributing to the depoliticization of the member states and one whose notorious ‘democratic deficit’ reflects the deliberate intentions of its founders.

Ruling the Void offers an authoritative and chilling assessment of the prospects for popular political representation today, not only in the varied democracies of Europe but throughout the developed world.

Reviews

  • “Every so often one comes across a book, a poem or a work of art that is so original, perfectly crafted, accurate and true that you can’t get it out of your head. You have to read or look at it many times to place it in context and understand what it means. ... Peter Mair has written what is by far and away the most powerful, learned and persuasive anti-EU treatise I have come across. It proves that it is impossible to be a democrat and support the continued existence of the European Union. His posthumous masterpiece deserves to become a foundation text for Eurosceptics not just in Britain, but right across the continent.”
  • “Peter Mair was one of the leading scholars in the area of comparative politics. He was especially noted for his path-breaking work on change in both political party organizations and party systems … and his insights into the intersections of politics and society were always worth hearing and reading.”
  • “Peter Mair was one of the true greats of European political science, and one of the leading lights in the field of comparative politics. This was the most brilliant of minds and the most prolific of scholars.”

Blog

  • General Election 2017: Essential Reading



    “Strong and stable!” is Theresa May’s slogan for the upcoming election, empty words for most considering the current Tory landscape of soaring cuts, poverty and inequality.

    Here we present our essential reading: featuring leading voices dealing with issues ranging from privatisation, inequality, capitalism, neo-liberalism, socialism, migration, and more.

    All these books are 50% off until May 15 at midnight (UTC). Click here to activate your discount.

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  • The desire for a leader

    Sophie Wahnich's reflection on the first round of the French presidential election was first published in L’Obs on 27 April. 



    What I take from the campaign and the result on 23 April is French people’s increasingly powerful desire for a leader. The three figures who dominated the debates expressed this same aspiration: Marine Le Pen, of course, but also Emmanuel Macron, acting solo against the parties, and finally Jean-Luc Mélenchon, even if he claims not to be doing so.

    This aspiration to be led by a powerful incarnating figure is a worrying one. For the people crying out for this are often the same ones who often refuse themselves to engage in the invention of the society of tomorrow. The desire for a leader often goes hand-in-hand with a refusal to take responsibility. Certainly, the presidential election encourages this. In my view, this desire is a symptom of the present day world, and is not specific to France.

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  • Let’s lose interest in elections, once and for all!

    This text by Alain Badiou first appeared on the Mediapart blog. Translated by David Broder.



    I understand the bitterness of those remonstrating after the first round of the elections, particularly those left disappointed by Mélenchonism. That said, whatever they do, or say, there was no particular aberration, no swindle, in this vote.

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