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Party System Institutionalization, Party Collapse and Party Building

  • Scott Mainwaring

This essay reviews five important recent books on party system institutionalization, party collapse and party building. The first section analyses broader lessons about party system institutionalization derived from these books. What have we learned about how party system institutionalization varies over time and space and about its causes? All five volumes underscore the difficulty of institutionalizing democratic party systems in contemporary Asia, Africa and Latin America. At the same time, they demonstrate that there have been some successful cases of party building and party system institutionalization. In all three regions, variance across countries is great. The three books on Latin America show that sharp conflict and programmatic differences are good for institutionalization, partially countering earlier arguments about the perils of polarization. Across regions, erstwhile authoritarian ruling parties have sometimes helped to forge institutionalized party systems under competitive regimes. The rest of the essay analyses the three single-authored books in some detail and provides brief overviews of the two edited volumes.

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Scott Mainwaring is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Contact email:

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
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