Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 23/Nov/2016;10(3):e0013.

On Parties, Party Systems and Democracy: Selected Writings of Peter Mair

Jairo Nicolau

DOI: 10.1590/1981-382120160003000013

I still have memories of the impact that caused me reading the book ‘Identity, Competition and Electoral Availability: the Stabilisation of Europe Electorates’, 1885-1995, by Stefano Bartolini and Peter Mair (1990), while still doing my doctorate. Today, I consider it one of the most elegant and well-made books of contemporary Political Science. And the reason is simple: the rare combination of a detailed conceptual discussion – particularly the concept of cleavage – and a dense empirical research. The authors collected data from a hundred years of electoral history of the countries of Western Europe, and through the use of an instrument, which today seems relatively simple (volatility index variations) showed that, different from what was supported by ordinary studies, there was a tendency to stability of partisan conflict in these countries, reinforcing the thesis of ‘freezing’ of party systems, suggested by S. Lipset and S. Rokkan.

I gradually became an avid reader of books and articles published by Peter Mair. I learned to appreciate his clear texts, his ability to gather data and to present them directly, his appreciation for the conceptual discussion and, above all, his enormous ability to analyze the changes in the modern political structure. For that reason, I regretted his untimely death in 2011, months after the celebration of his sixtieth birthday.


On Parties, Party Systems and Democracy: Selected Writings of Peter Mair