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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

  • Making Sense of the Brexit Referendum: writers on the crisis

    In The Brexit Crisis: A Verso Report  an ebook available for free download  leading writers provide their thoughts on the EU referendum. Includes contributions from Étienne Balibar, William Davies, Akwugo Emejulu, John R. Gillingham, Peter Hallward, Laleh Khalili, Stathis Kouvelakis, Sam Kriss, Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, Lara Pawson,  Wolfgang Streeck, and more.


    Ed Everett / Flickr

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  • The Will to Leave?

    Brexit campaigners won by dividing, not uniting, the British working class. Peter Hallward teaches philosophy at Kingston University, and is the author of a forthcoming book entitled The Will of the People and the Struggle for Popular Sovereignty.This essay first appeared in Jacobin



    There’s been a lot of talk, the last few days, about the need to respect “the sovereign will of the British people.” A simple question was asked, a simple answer was recorded.

    Like the main party leaders on both sides of the referendum, most commentators on the Left seem to agree with Owen Jones, that whatever happens there can be no argument for “reversing the expressed democratic will of the British people — what is done is done.”

    The people have spoken. Don’t the basic principles of democracy require that our government now simply do what we’ve told it to do?

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  • Brexit, the anti-Grexit

    First published in Libération. Translated by David Broder.



    Far be it from me to minimise the dramatic consequences the UK’s vote will have for the British as well as for Europe. But I am struck by the way in which the French and foreign newspaper headlines present us how things are "After Brexit…" With very few exceptions all of them seem to take it for given that a divorce has indeed taken place. In reality, while we are certainly entering into a turbulent period, the outcome is not at all clear.

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