Legislatures have one core defining function: that of giving assent to measures that, by virtue of that assent, are to be binding on society. In practice, they have usually performed other roles as well, such as debating measures or the conduct of public affairs. They have existed for centuries. They span the globe. Most countries have one: federal states have several. Commentators throughout the 20th century bemoaned the "decline" of legislatures, yet the number shows no sign of declining: if anything, the reverse is true. Their prominence increased in the 1990s because of developments in central and eastern Europe. The increased prominence of legislatures has prompted a greater scholarly interest in their existence and what they do. The literature that helps advance our understanding of legislatures as a particular species of institution is sometimes excellect but it is notable for its scarcity. There is little literature that provides a straightforward description and analysis of the role of parliaments in western Europe. The volumes in this series seek to advance our understanding of those parliaments.
They do so by examining the relationship between parliaments and the three principal actors in a liberal democracy: governments, pressure groups and citizens. This, the third volume in the series, explores the relationship between parliaments and citizens.