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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.


  • “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.”


  • The Beating Heart of Macronism

    Logically enough, everything is proceeding in concert. At the very moment of Macron’s election, we discover that La Poste [French post office] is enriching its range of services with a "Check in on my parents" offer, starting at €19.90 a month (there’sseveral options: 1, 2, 4 or 6 visits a week). The person tasked with this will doubtless no longer be called an "agent" (so impersonal and bureaucratic, they’ll say); we will see if La Poste goes as far as calling them "the family friend." They will pop round, have a coffee, and send a little text message to keep the relatives updated. In short — as the prospectus itself says — it "maintains the social bond." In summary: just to maintain the social bond alone costs €19.90 a month. And for a concrete social bond (6 visits a week) it’s €139.90. Even so, ultimately the same also holds for living together.

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  • Performances

    In any case, what sticks out amidst this mass vote is a feeling of absurdity. The absurdity of a mechanism that brings to power a man we know nothing about, and who has grounded his success precisely in his capacity to say nothing (the back cover of his book Révolution has not one line of text, but just a full page photo of Macron himself). The absurdity of a system that gives a crushing majority to such a man, in order to avoid a danger that is largely imaginary. Most of all, the absurdity of a focus on elections that we all feel have nothing to do with our lives, and which we all feel are playing out on a sort of flying carpet, above our heads.

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  • 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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