The Politics of Exit

Review of Peter Mair, Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy, Verso: London and New York, 2013

New Left Review, Vol. 88, July and August 2014, pp. 121-129

Much of what is now mainstream political science tends to be rather boring. Following the lead of American departments and journals, research on issues of real intrinsic interest, such as the changing character of political parties, seems to be stuck in endless attempts to model the choice between office-seeking and policy-seeking, the interaction between ‘vote-maximizing’ parties and ‘utility-maximizing’ voters, the organization of voter preferences or the dynamics of coalition formation — all in timelessly general property spaces, designed to lend themselves to representation by complex sets of formal equations.

There are, however, exceptions. Among the most remarkable of these, until his untimely death in the summer of 2011, was Peter Mair, professor of comparative politics at the European University Institute in Florence. Widely respected, especially on the European side of his profession, Mair preserved a keen understanding of both the history and the purpose of the study of democracy. (…)

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