Main Argument: This work attempts to describe the life of political parties, their internal arrangements, and their relations with the public and the political regime in which they are set. Duverger argues that institutions matter as institutions such as the electoral system (among others) shapes the party system. There are two types of effects from a SMP system: mechanical and psychological. Third parties, such as Canada’s NDP, US’s Greens, and Britain’s Liberal Party, are strongly and negatively affected by SMP since their vote share is generally larger than their seat share. This is an example of a mechanical effect of the electoral system. The electoral system also shapes voter behaviour. If there are two moderate candidates sharing 100 000 votes and one radical candidate in the same district pulling 80 000 votes, voters have an incentive to support only one of the moderate candidates. This is an example of strategic voting, a psychological effect of the electoral system.
Method: He does not employ sample surveys, correlational techniques, original socio-political maps, or intensive case studies of the type that has become indispensable in American writings during the past twenty years
== Notes ==
Duverger’s Law: SMP (single member plurality)/plurality electoral systems = 2 party competition
Hallmark: United States
Hallmark Exception: Canada, from early 20th C on.
Party Structure and Party Systems:
– Within the first part, we find chapters on the internal party machinery and hierarchy, on the nature and intensity of participation of the party membership, and on the selection, power, and parliamentary influence of party leaders
– Within the second division, are chapters on the dual-, multi-, and single-party systems, on party size and party alliances, and on the influence of parties upon candidates, public opinion, and the actual constitution of government
– Political institutions-including election systems and party structures-determine political behaviour in important respects
– The profound meaning of party government is not government of the people by the people, but \”government of the people by an elite springing from the people.\”
– Parties arose historically as the masses began to enter politics, and the parties formed the cadres for the political blocs into which the masses became divided
– Democracy today is threatened not by party government but by the present tendencies of parties to acquire centralized and disciplined internal government resembling military, religious, and totalitarian organizations
Critique: It might be worth knowing that Americans balked immediately at the lack of American content in Duverger’s work (his major cases include France, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and Great Britain, and his minor cases include the USSR, Germany, Italy and the US). Presumably, many US scholars prefer what Schattschneider, a contemporary of Duverger’s, argues based on US data
– Americans, as a result, define “party systems” as the fortunes of a particular political party (i.e. the realignment literature (which has been totally destroyed by David Mayhew)), and the rest of the world takes a more holistic view (number of parties elected to a legislature, number of parties effectively contesting elections, changes in party organisation, etc…)
Critique: Duverger (and Lijphart; Mair; Carty; Carty, Cross and Young, etc) argue that party systems have to do more with party structure than party fortunes