Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

By Jack E. S. Hayward | Go to book overview
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countries citizens increasingly turn to the courts when they are angered by the outcome of governmental or parliamentary decision-making. There is some evidence that, along with its increased political role, the judiciary enjoys an increased popularity. Where the role of the judiciary vis-à-vis government is still limited, there are calls to strengthen the courts' position, through the adoption of a bill of rights (as in the United Kingdom) or the introduction of judicial review (as in the Netherlands). Referendums are also increasingly frequent and popular. Counting all nation-wide referendums during this century, in all but a few West European parliamentary systems, Morel found that fifty-one of the eighty- nine referendums took place after 1960 (and twenty-four after 1980). 42 Constitutional provisions for referendums are proposed to be introduced ( Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands) or to be extended ( Austria, France). What the otherwise very different mechanisms of referendums and judicial action have in common is that they integrate ad hoc and single-issue activity into the existing representative system. 43 So far, the standard reaction to political crises defined as a 'confidence gap' has been a proposal to change the electoral system ( Italy, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands). If the confidence gap is a myth, such reforms will prove futile. If our diagnosis of weakening parties and changing forms of political activity is correct, reforms in the direction pointed by referendums and judicial review are more promising.

S. M. Lipset and W. Schneider, The Confidence Gap: Business, Labor and Government in the Public Mind ( New York: Free Press, 1983).
H. F. Pitkin, "'The Concept of Representation'", in H. F. Pitkin (ed.), Representation ( New York: Atherton, 1969), 16.
H. R. Van Gunsteren, Eigentijds Burgerschap ( The Hague: SDU, 1992), 48; see also A. Schedler, "'Die Demoskopische Konstruktion von Politikverdrossenheit'", Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 34 ( 1992), 430-1.
Pitkin, 'The Concept of Representation', 20-1.
R. S. Friedman, Participation in Democracy ( Ann Arbor, Mich.: Michigan University Press, 1973), and, without the Weimar warning, S. P. Huntington, "'Postindustrial Politics: How Benign Will it Be?'", Comparative Politics, 6 ( 1974), 147-77.
D. Easton, A Systems Analysis of Political Life ( New York: Wiley, 1965).
G. Parry, "'Trust, Distrust and Consensus'", British Journal of PoliticalScience, 6


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