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Restrained change: party systems in times of economic crisis

Casal B�rtoa, Fernando; Weber, Till


Till Weber


The recent global financial crisis has been a serious stress test for representative democracies. Voter support has supposedly become more volatile, fragmented, and polarized, leaving elites with an intricate mix of economic and political challenges. However, a closer look at a new data set of European party systems during three major crises (1929, 1973, and 2008) reveals that the reality is less dramatic than the popular impression suggests. We propose a novel theory of party-system change that explains both the impact of economic crises as well as the robustness of party systems to more serious destabilization. Since voters and elites are risk averse, economic crises tend to disturb party systems that are generally “restrained” but, at the same time, help consolidate more complex systems. This explains why party systems rarely fall apart, nor do they reach ultimate stability. We provide quantitative evidence and qualitative illustrations of “restrained change” in various party-system dimensions.


Casal Bértoa, F., & Weber, T. (2019). Restrained change: party systems in times of economic crisis. Journal of Politics, 81(1), 233-245.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 17, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 28, 2018
Publication Date Jan 1, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 29, 2019
Journal Journal of Politics
Print ISSN 0022-3816
Electronic ISSN 1468-2508
Publisher University of Chicago Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Issue 1
Pages 233-245
Keywords Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
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