Monday, January 29, 2018

Woes of European social democracy

Marcel Pauly gives us an overview, with charts included, on the question, European Social Democracy Extinct? Social Europe 01/26/2018:
Almost everywhere in Europe, social democratic and socialist parties are losing support: last year, the German SPD saw a historic bad result in the parliamentary elections. Its sister parties in France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have even sunk to single digit shares of the vote. European social democracy is fighting for its political survival: since the new millennium, its vote share has fallen in 15 of the 17 countries we examined – sometimes dramatically. ...

In every country there are of course differing, individual reasons for this development. But there are also common roots that can explain the crisis faced by socialists and social democrats in many countries. First, parties have lost many of their core voters. European social democracy, born out of the labour movement of the nineteenth century, had a large support base upon which it could rely for votes: the workers, above all people engaged in manual labour. It is now an ever shrinking demography: the working class is fragmented, the conditions that supported the social democrats for decades across Europe have disappeared.
I have some reservations about his demographic analysis in that he doesn't seem to have a particularly clear version of who and what the "working class" is. That's pretty common in analysis of American politics as well. A big part of that is that political polls don't consistently collect economic data on voters being surveyed. But the stats on educational attainment are more commonly gathered. So American pundits and journalists tend to use not having a four-year college degree as a proxy for "working class." It's certainly not an ideal measure.

This article doesn't deal with the programmatic aspects that affected this process, i.e., the center-left parties adopting neoliberal economic programs: reduction of public services, privatization, deregulation, financialization, reduction of wages, salaries and pensions; weakening of unions; corporate-deregulation "trade" treaties.

The article was originally published as Tot oder lebendig? Spiegel Online 26.12.2017, though the Social Europe version has an additional chart. An English version, Social democrats are having a hard time, also appeared at the European Data Journalism Network 01/10/2018.

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