[Marxism] Jan-Werner Müller reviews ‘Ruling the Void’ by Peter Mair · LRB 22 May 2014

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 26 09:22:36 MDT 2014


The party’s over
Jan-Werner Müller

    Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair
    Verso, 174 pp, £15.00, June 2013, ISBN 978 1 84467 324 7

The word ‘party’ – as in ‘political party’ – is in bad odour across the 
West, though for different reasons in different places. In the United 
States, everyone from the president down seems to lament the 
polarisation of politics and the rise of partisanship. But then 
hostility to parties is nothing new in American history; ‘if I could not 
go to heaven but with a party,’ Jefferson wrote, ‘I would not go there 
at all.’ Europeans tend to be less in thrall to the ideals of the one 
indivisible nation. They worry about the opposite problem: that the 
parties are all the same. So there’s a problem when parties have 
distinct ideologies, and there’s a problem when they don’t. What, then, 
do we really want from them?

Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void offers some disturbing answers to this 
question. We remain in the dark about the strategies Mair might have 
recommended to address the crisis of Western democracy – he died of a 
heart attack in 2011 before his book was finished – but his brilliance 
as a political scientist comes through clearly, as does the magnitude of 
the challenge posed by the passing of the ‘age of party democracy’.​* 
Modern democracy, Mair tells us, simply cannot work without parties, so 
that when parties cease to play their proper role, democracy itself is 
at stake.

full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n10/jan-werner-muller/the-partys-over



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