French Politics

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 58–68

Maurice Duverger and the Study of Political Parties

  • Joseph A Schlesinger
  • Mildred S Schlesinger
Review Article

DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.fp.8200085

Cite this article as:
Schlesinger, J. & Schlesinger, M. Fr Polit (2006) 4: 58. doi:10.1057/palgrave.fp.8200085


Over a half century's experience with Duverger's Les Partis Politiques offers an opportunity to test his theory. His explanations for the numbers of parties survives as Duverger's Law, while his predictions for the development of the ‘membership party’ have not. Since the two rest on divergent explanations of electoral politics, the success of one and the failure of the other present an excellent test of our theories of electoral politics. Duverger's explanation of the numbers of parties understands free elections as markets in which candidates and voters alter their behavior as they try to get as close as possible to their preferred outcome. Duverger, in contrast, saw party organization as a product of ‘social forces’, notably the composition of the electorate. The ‘cadre’ party was the product of limited suffrage, while universal suffrage would lead to the ‘mass-based membership’ party. Given that the latter never developed, we argue that the logic Duverger applied to the numbers of parties also applies to their organization. We note how periodic free elections create markets where individuals pursue three fundamental political drives: ambition, choice, and benefits; whatever political organization develops, must respond to these three drives.


parties markets ambition choice benefits 

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph A Schlesinger
    • 1
  • Mildred S Schlesinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceEmeriti, Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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