Because party competition is at the core of democratic politics, it is one of the principle means
of establishing nation state legitimacy. But how robust is it in the contemporary, transformed
state? Political party systems have been in flux since the 1970s, when the lines of conflict
around which they were established began to lose their significance. The fact that this process
is mediated by the welfare state has, to date, been neglected in analyses of party systems and
welfare states. Research on changes in party systems often emphasizes the effects of standard
long-term social trends, while neglecting the welfare state's influence on those trends. Comparative
welfare state analyses, for their part, examine the role played by political parties in
the development of the welfare state, but treat them as an independent variable, ignoring the
effects that welfare state changes can have on the party system.
We will examine how restructuring the welfare state affects social structures and electorates'
party preferences, and, ultimately, influences party systems. We'll focus on the two historically
most important conflicts in Western European politics: between labor and capital, and
between church and state. In the first case, the shift to a service economy has generated voter
blocks with new interests in labor market and public employment policy. Likewise, the waning
of church-state conflict has reshuffled voter alignments and, in particular, made women's
social policy concerns more relevant for party competition.
The countries selected for study - Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy - employ the various configurations of welfare state and party system typical of Western
Europe. For each country, we’ll conduct statistical analyses of voting behavior in crucial voter blocks: service industry workers and women. These results will be incorporated into a detailed analysis of reform processes and their political consequences. Finally, we will consider whether restructured welfare states and their newly adapted party systems stabilize and reinforce each other like they did in the constellations of welfare states and party politics that prevailed in the decades after World War II.
Final report 2015 in German
Project application 2011-2014 in German