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Why Dominant Parties Lose
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  • Page extent: 368 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.64 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 324.2
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: JF2051 .G75 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • One party systems
    • Opposition (Political science)
    • Democratization--Mexico
    • Presidents--Mexico--Election--2000
    • Comparative government

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521877190)

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Why have dominant parties persisted in power for decades in countries spread across the globe? Why did most eventually lose? Why Dominant Parties Lose develops a theory of single-party dominance, its durability, and its breakdown into fully competitive democracy. Greene shows that dominant parties turn public resources into patronage goods to bias electoral competition in their favor and virtually win elections before election day without resorting to electoral fraud or bone-crushing repression. Opposition parties fail not because of limited voter demand or institutional constraints but because their resource disadvantages force them to form as niche parties with appeals that are out of step with the average voter. When the political economy of dominance-- a large state and a politically quiescent public bureaucracy—erodes, the partisan playing field becomes fairer and opposition parties can expand into catchall competitors that threaten the dominant party at the polls. Greene uses this argument to show why Mexico transformed from a dominant party authoritarian regime under PRI rule to a fully competitive democracy. He also shows that this argument can account for single-party dominance in other countries where the surrounding regime is authoritarian (Malaysia and Taiwan) and where it is democratic (Japan and Italy). The findings have implications for Mexico’s political future, the formation of new political parties, transitions to democracy, and the study of competitive authoritarianism.

Kenneth F. Greene is Assistant Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. His research on regimes, political parties, and voting behavior has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, PS: Political Science and Politics, Política y Gobierno, Foreign Affairs en Español, and edited volumes. He has served as Co-Principal Investigator on two National Science Foundation grants for elite and voter survey research in Mexico, won a Fulbright-García Robles fellowship, and held visiting positions at the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002.


Part I. The Macro Perspective: 1. A theory of single-party dominance and opposition party development; 2. Dominant party advantages and opposition party failure, 1930s–90s; Part II. The Micro Perspective: 3. Why participate? A theory of elite activism in dominant party systems; 4. The empirical dynamics of elite activism; Part III. Implications: 5. Constrained to the core: opposition party organizations, 1980s–90s; 6. Dominance defeated: voting behavior in the 2000 elections; 7. Extending the argument: Italy, Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Prize Winner

Winner, 2008 Best Book Award, Comparative Democratization Section, American Political Science Association


"In this scholarly tour de force, Greene combines original formal models and other careful methods in developing a novel and persuasive argument for the longevity and decline of dominant parties. This book contributes significantly to our understanding of Mexican politics, the comparative study of competitive authoritarian regimes, and party formation."
-Jorge I. Domínguez, Harvard University

"Kenneth Greene’s book contributes major insights to the comparative study of dominant party regimes, whether in an authoritarian or a democratic regime context, by showing why political activists cannot easily form a credible challenger to the incumbent party and linking this to political economic institutions and performance."
-Herbert Kitschelt, Duke University

"Kenneth Greene has produced an excellent and important contribution to the literature on the persistence and decline of dominant party systems in general, and on the Mexican case in particular. His resource theory of single-party dominance is married to an innovative model of the political behavior of party elites to show how the incumbent’s patronage advantages make opposition parties undercompetitive. This well-argued and evidenced study will be of interest not only to Latin Americanists, but also to scholars of party system development more broadly."
-Marcus J. Kurtz, Ohio State University

"Why Dominant Parties Lose asks great questions about how some political parties become dominant and why they cease being dominant after an extended period of time. Greene answers these questions in a creative and skillful manner, with theoretical insight and empirical rigor. Based on many years of careful research, the book fruitfully illuminates the Mexican case and effectively places it in a broader theoretical framework."
-Scott Mainwaring, Kellogg Institute for International Studies

"Kenneth F. Greene [...]make['s] important, original contributions to this debate and to the broader analysis of political parties, elections and democratization. [...]Greene provides an important insight into the internal dynamics of opposition parties and the challenges they confront in dominant-party systems."
-Kevin J. Middlebrook, University of London, Perspectives on Politics

“…this is a scholarly tour de force in its formal models, applied statistical work, qualitative case studies, and vision of party formation and regime transition.”
Jorge I. Domínguez, Harvard University, Political Science Quarterly

“In this fascinating study, Kenneth F. Greene identifies the factors that perpetuated ‘dominant party authoritarian regimes’ (DPARs) in Mexico and other nations, such as Taiwan and Malaysia, despite the existence of competitive electoral systems…Greene has forged a unified and compelling theory that explains much of Mexican political history from 1929 to the present. Why Dominant Parties Lose will undoubtedly set the parameters for future debates on the nature of the Mexican political system and inform broader comparative discussions on party system formation.”
Adrian A. Bantjes, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Comparative Political Studies

“Greene offers an important, well-written book that attempts to explain why dominant political parties are able to sustain their predominance and why those same parties eventually lose power…While focusing on Mexico’s party system, he nevertheless addresses other dominant party systems, giving the analysis greater generalizability and broader appeal. This book opens a window into a neglected area in the democratization literature--dominant party authoritarian regimes. The book also makes a strong contribution to the general literature on political parties. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
P. M. Sanchez, Loyola University Chicago, Choice

Why Dominant Parties Lose is a well crafted book that contributes significantly to the literature on Mexican politics, party systems, political transition and comparative political regimes… He develops a sophisticated theory of single-party dominance and opposition party development that features formal modeling, quantitative analysis, and qualitative fieldwork… In sum, this is a great book, featuring an extensive review of the vast literature in the field, great mastery of the theoretical and methodological tools available in the discipline, a carefully argued case for the author’s significant contribution, all of which delivered in self-possessed and dispassionate prose.”
Yvon Grenier, St. Francis Xavier University, Canadian Journal of Political Science

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