Christian Democracy in Europe since 1945 - Vol. 2

Christian Democracy in Europe since 1945 - Vol. 2

Christian Democracy in Europe since 1945 - Vol. 2

Christian Democracy in Europe since 1945 - Vol. 2


For the first time, this book reveals the actual roles of the Christian Democratic (CD) parties in postwar Europe from a pan-European perspective.

It shows how Christian Democratic parties became the dominant political force in postwar Western Europe, and how the European People's Party is currently the largest group in the European Parliament. CD parties and political leaders like Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi played a particularly important role in the evolution of the 'core Europe' of the EEC/EC after 1945.

Key chapters address the same questions about the parties' membership and social organization; their economic and social policies; and their European and international policies during the Cold War. The book also includes two survey chapters setting out the international political context for CD parties and comparing their postwar development, and two chapters on their transnational party cooperation after 1945.

This is the companion volume to Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-1945.


At one point in the late 1990s, eleven of 15 member states of the European Union (EU) were governed by social democratic parties—on their own, as in the United Kingdom, or as the largest party in coalitions with the greens, liberals or, in some cases, smaller Christian democratic parties. ‘New’ social democracy appeared to have successfully refuted Ralf Dahrendorf’s judgement of 1979–80 that ‘the Social Democratic century has come to an end’. Dahrendorf had argued that the working-class milieu and hence social democracy’s core electoral support was deteriorating rapidly while globalization and the new neo-liberal reform agenda of deregulation, privatization and cutbacks in excessive welfare state spending were entirely incompatible with traditional social democratic values and policies. the return of social democracy to government and the rhetorical hype of the ‘Third Way’ seemed to suggest otherwise, however. Perhaps social democratic emphasis on social justice was compatible with more drastic economic restructuring and welfare state reform after all, if social democracy took up communitarian ideas and replaced dependency on guaranteed social security with a new societal solidarity built on ‘empowering’ active citizens as ‘stakeholders’. If any ideological tendency was in terminal decline, it seemed to be Christian democracy and centre-right parties that were unable to develop a new societal vision for the age of globalization at a time when their religious milieus were deteriorating at least as fast. After all, the Democrazia Cristiana (DC) as the dominant Italian political party for more than forty years, had collapsed and fallen apart in the wake of corruption scandals in the early 1990s. the German Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) not only lost the chancellorship after 16 years in government in 1998, but also received the lowest vote in a national election since 1949, and the cdu became engulfed in 1999– 2000 in a scandal about illegal party funding during Helmut Kohl’s leadership.

Those already pronounced dead seem to live longer, however, in a European party system characterized by deteriorating social and electoral milieus and ever growing voter volatility, when disappointed electoral expectations can quickly result in popular disenchantment and changes in government. the German Social Democrats, for example, managed to manoeuvre Germany into its gravest economic crisis after coming to power in 1998, reversing even the very modest labour market and pension reforms of the Kohl government. They were narrowly reelected in 2002, but with the help of their pacifist stance on Iraq and their successful management of a flood catastrophe during the summer of the election campaign. At the time of writing they had dramatically lost several more regional elections and plummeted to their lowest opinion poll ratings for a very long time, so that it looked highly unlikely that they could win another term in office. At the same time, several member parties of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won stunning election victories at the beginning of the twenty-first century. in the Netherlands, for example, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) became the largest party again in the elections of 2002 and 2003 and under the leadership of Prime Minister . . .

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