The Rise of Regionalism: Causes of Regional Mobilization in Western Europe

The Rise of Regionalism: Causes of Regional Mobilization in Western Europe

The Rise of Regionalism: Causes of Regional Mobilization in Western Europe

The Rise of Regionalism: Causes of Regional Mobilization in Western Europe


During the past 40 years, regions have become increasingly important in Western Europe both as units of government and as sources for political mobilization.

This book examines why regional identities are stronger in some regions than in others, and why regional elites attempt to mobilize the public on a regionalist agenda at certain points in time. The author develops a model that explains change across space as well as time and provides a comprehensive discussion of the causes of regionalism. It focuses on endogenous developments in the regions and on change across time in the economic and political landscapes of the regions. Using a quantitative study of 212 Western European regions, which examine whether regionalism is related to cultural, economic and political characteristics of the regions, the book builds a model of the causes of regionalism. The issues are further explored through case studies on Scotland (UK) and Rogaland (Norway).

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political and social sciences, especially those with an interest in regions, regionalism and regional nationalism, Scottish politics, Norwegian politics, territorial identities and territorial politics.


Arriving in London in 2002 for postgraduate studies in political science at the London School of Economics, I did not expect to be writing a thesis partly based on political developments in the region that I call home – Rogaland. At the time, Uruguayan democratization, Senegalese state-building and similarly exotic topics were more likely subjects for my PhD. However, driving from Stavanger to Oslo during a spring visit back home, my wife and I were discussing regional infrastructure and road tolls, and the conversation moved on to the topic of regions and regionalism in the Norwegian context. Realizing that this would make for a promising research topic, I wrote an MSc dissertation on the development of regionalism in Rogaland.

My theoretical perspectives were greatly influenced by the inspirational training that I had as an undergraduate at the Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, where I came to know the ideas of that great Norwegian political scientist Stein Rokkan. His work on the centre–periphery dimension in the Norwegian as well as the broader Western European context has strongly informed my understanding of states, regions and the relationship between them.

Developing this into a research proposal for a PhD at the LSE, I sought to generalize some of the findings into a broader theory that could capture the causes of variation across both time and space in Western European regionalism. In this process, I was encouraged by the approachable Erik Ringmar, who convened the MSc in Comparative Politics at the time. Both the theoretical perspectives and the empirical focus have since moved well beyond the borders of Rogaland, even if a case study of that region still forms one of the main sections of this book. However, some of the ideas that I had while studying Rogaland – the need to study regionalism in non-autonomist regions, the impact of economic growth, the focus on variation across time – have still informed my approach to regionalism and the design of this study.

When it comes to writing the thesis itself, it would certainly not have been possible to complete the project without the help of several people who have guided me along the way. Most importantly, my PhD supervisor at the LSE, Eiko Thielemann, helped me see both the bigger picture and the crucial details, keeping me on track throughout the research. His swift, thorough and useful . . .

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