Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis

Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis


In this rich and broad-ranging volume, Giovanni Sartori outlines what is now recognised to be the most comprehensive and authoritative approach to the classification of party systems. He also offers an extensive review of the concept and rationale of the political party, and develops a sharp critique of various spatial models of party competition. This is political science at its best -- combining the intelligent use of theory with sophisticated analytic arguments, and grounding all of this on a substantial cross-national empirical base. Parties and Party Systems is one of the classics of postwar political science, and is now established as the foremost work in its field. This edition includes a new preface by the author, and a new introduction by Peter Mair.


This work was conceived in two volumes. The first one appeared in 1976, and the second one never appeared. The manuscript of the second volume was stolen, and for a number of reasons I had no other copy. As the years went by it became increasingly evident that I was unable to rewrite a text that I had already written. I thus decided to recombine in a new, single volume an abridgement of the 1976 volume with an equally abridged reconstruction of the missing part of the argument (the stolen text). In order to force myself to pursue this plan I allowed the original volume to go out of print. I have long regretted that stupid decision, for it was plainly stupid to believe that I had found a way of circumventing the mental block that had blocked me from the outset, and indeed for good.

The paradoxical outcome of these twists and turns is that while the English original of the work has long disappeared from the market, its several translations are still in print and have eventually thrived (in Spain Partidos y Systemas de Partidos has obtained some nine to ten reprints). In the meantime the book received in 1997 an 'outstanding book award' of the American Political Science Association, and should appear in a Chinese translation in 2005.

To be sure, the data part of the book is dated; but its theoretical part, which is by far its major and distinctive component element, is not. In 1999 Peter Mair contributed to a series of articles called 'Volumes of Influence' (ECPR News, 10.2, Spring 1999) asserting that [in terms of classifications and typologies, as well as broad theory, there has really been nothing of note since Parties and Party Systems; and in this sense Sartori really did put the debate to rest.] More recently Jocelyn A.J. Evans published an article whose title is 'In Defence of Sartori' (Party Politics, no. 2, pp. 155–74). Now, if one needs to be defended then one must also have attackers. Thus the book appears to be still alive and kicking.

Indeed I welcome very much this new edition. I have been feeling very silly for having killed the Cambridge University Press text prematurely. I thus wish to thank my new publisher, inter alia, for making me feel better about my silliness.

I am also pleased by the news that the journal West European Politics has decided to publish the original text that I wrote in 1967 on the classification of parties and party functions, and that would have formed the basis for a large part of the planned second volume. This will be now published for the first time in English in West European Politics vol. 28, no. 1, January 2005.

Giovanni Sartori, Firenze 2004 . . .

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