Regionalist Parties in Western Europe

Regionalist Parties in Western Europe

Regionalist Parties in Western Europe

Regionalist Parties in Western Europe

Synopsis

Ethnoregionalist parties are an increasingly influential political phenomenon in many Western European countries. Despite this there has been little systematic study of these important political parties. This volume fills the gap with an exploration of the successes and failures experienced by ethnoregionalist parties in post-war Europe. Regionalist Parties in Western Europe looks in detail at the fortunes of twelve regionalist parties in: the Basque country, Corsica, French speaking Belgium, Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, Flanders, Italy, and South Tyrol.

Excerpt

Regularly one comes across debates among political scientists that claim that the traditional format of political parties is outlived, in particular in the 'New Europe'. In the same vein one can often read about the 'end of ideology', the movement towards 'catch-allism', and the evaporation of the traditional cleavages that have shaped party systems in most European democracies. In other words: the analysis of political parties in terms of their role and function as regards 'civil society' and the nation-state is extinguishing. Instead, we are now facing an era of New Politics in an emerging New Europe where there is less and less place for the 'old' parties, traditional 'cleavages' and related modes of interest aggregation and representation. In my view these recurring debates about the end of parties and related forms of politics in European democracies are rather characterised by wishful thinking and scarcely supported by evidence that stands up to the standards of conventional practices of comparative politics. What, for instance, is more often than not overlooked is that parties and their organisations are quite capable of adapting to societal change and to external challenges, like for example the processes that accompany the political development towards a 'new' Europe (like its extension in geographical terms as well as influencing national policy-making). Hence, so it could well be argued, the era of the political party is not over yet.

This volume of the European Political Science Series can be considered as a living proof of the above contention. Exactly the central theme-the political mobilisation of Ethno-Regionalism-demonstrates that political parties are not only still alive, but also that this type of political organisation appears to remain an adequate vehicle to such phenomena. The editors argue convincingly on the basis of comparable case-analysis, reported in the separate chapters, that new parties do emerge on the basis of cleavages, and can be effectively organised to influence (sub-)national politics. And, however paradoxical it may be, the coming into existence of a new Europe has resulted in the re-emergence of Ethno-regional parties as well as the re-vitalisation of existing ones. In addition (and this shines through many of the case studies), ethnic and regional identities are gaining political weight at the level of national politics. The analyses convincingly demonstrate that the explanatory value of concepts like mass-mobilisation on the basis of socio-cultural and economic cleavages are still important analytical tools for understanding politics in contemporary Europe.

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