I suspect that many books written by academics arise from a desire to produce the kind of book they wanted to read when they were undergraduates. Certainly, this was an important consideration in the writing of Political Parties and Party Systems. One of the frustrations I had as an undergraduate student in the late 1960s was trying to come to terms with the comparative study of political parties. On the one hand, it seemed impossible to develop a full understanding of the parties in a particular country without some kind of comparative framework within which to set them. On the other hand, getting to grips with the great comparative works--especially Duverger Political Parties and Epstein Political Parties in Western Democracies--seemed to require that the reader already had a good understanding of the parties and party systems of particular countries. The undergraduate reader was overwhelmed by the range of countries covered in comparative studies, and therefore did not know how to begin reading such works in a critical way. It appeared that this was a vicious circle.
Of course, even at the time I realized that no blame whatsoever should attach to the authors. When they had written these books their intended audience had been as much their fellow academics as any possible student readers; both authors had distinctive views about parties that followed from their extensive research on the subject, and both were offering interpretations aimed at shaping the way political scientists think about parties and party systems. Although I would hope that other scholars might see one or two distinctive interpretations of the subject in this book, my main concern is to make it comprehensible to students. Most especially, I want to try to overcome the problem that you cannot understand individual countries without a comparative frame of reference, but choosing between competing frameworks demands that you have a good knowledge of particular countries. My way of trying to overcome this problem is to focus partly on comparative analysis and partly on particular countries. The idea is that the student readers will acquire knowledge of parties and party systems in a few states at the same time as they are developing an understanding of these institutions on a comparative basis.
The book is divided into three sections--the first deals with aspects of parties (ideologies, activists, and organization); the second considers party systems (how we can compare them, what causes differences between them, and change in party systems); the third section looks at aspects of parties moving into gov-