Myths of Electoral Change and the Survival of the ‘Old’ Parties <sup>1</sup>

Peter Mair

in Party System Change

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198295495
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599804 | DOI:
 Myths of Electoral Change and the Survival of the ‘Old’ Parties  1

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This is the second of three chapters on persistence and change in political parties, and discusses myths of electoral change and the survival of the ‘old’ parties in western Europe. It starts by presenting the three main sources of evidence (trends in aggregate electoral volatility; evidence of the mobilization and success of new parties; (imputed) evidence of the decline of party and the emergence of new forms of interest mediation) that are usually cited against the contemporary applicability of the Lipset–Rokkan ‘law’ on the ‘freezing of party systems’, showing that each of these three patterns of change is more or less rooted in varieties of electoral change. The author then contends in the rest of the chapter that this popular image of electoral change is largely mythical, and lacking in foundation (bearing little or no relation to the actual patterns of electoral alignments in contemporary Europe). It is argued that the empirical evidence suggests that European electorates continue to be stable, that alignments continue to be relatively frozen, and that the old parties continue to survive; in other words, that much of what Lipset and Rokkan contended in the late 1960s concerning freezing, ageing, and stability, still continues to be valid today. The argument is presented in four sections: (1) Levels of Electoral Volatility; (2) The Survival of Traditional Parties; (3) What Sustains the Myths of Electoral Change?; and (4) The Neglect of Party.

Keywords: change; decline of party; electoral alignments; electoral change; electoral volatility; freezing of party systems; new parties; persistence; political parties; stability; traditional parties; western Europe; western party systems

Chapter.  6151 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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