introduction by Peter Mair
Some five or six years ago, I was asked by the editor of the then ECPR News, James Newell, to contribute to a series of short articles about 'volumes of influence' – a series in which contemporary scholars would 'reflect on the volume that most influenced their intellectual development.' In my case, the choice of volume was not difficult. Despite having been schooled in and suitably impressed by the traditional classics of comparative politics and political behaviour, there was really only one volume which I felt to have been intellectually unmissable, and without which my own work would probably have followed a very different trajectory: Giovanni Sartori's Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis, Volume 1, first published by Cambridge University Press in 1976, and, until now, long out of print.1
I first discovered Sartori's work on parties and party systems in the early 1970s, when I was beginning my academic career. An earlier version of his typology of party systems had already appeared in English in Joseph LaPalombara and Myron Weiner's very influential and standard-setting volume, Political Parties and Political Development, alongside equally path-breaking chapters by Daalder, Kirchheimer and Rokkan.2 Another version had appeared somewhat later in Erik Allardt and Stein Rokkan's Mass Politics,3 and the eventual 1976 volume had long been promised. I bought it as soon as it appeared, and was simply bowled over. This was an extraordinarily comprehensive work – wide-ranging, tightly argued, and solidly grounded in empirical reality. It was also developed with an exceptionally high degree of conceptual clarity and rigour. As I grew to know Sartori's work more generally, I came to realise that this sort of conceptual rigour was his trademark. When first encountered, however, it was an eye-opener, as well as a great stimulus.
The volume also proved of great benefit in a more instrumental sense. I was then doing some research on the development of the Irish party system, and Sartori's framework offered an ideal way of approaching the topic. Once I read his book, I quickly applied it to a lengthy paper on Ireland that I was preparing for my first ECPR Joint Sessions, scheduled to take place in Berlin in 1977. A version of that paper was later published in Comparative Politics4 and it did me no end of good; for that reason also I think fondly of Parties and Party Systems.
Although first published in 1976, Parties and Party Systems originally dates