Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

By Jack E. S. Hayward | Go to book overview

groups obtain enough resources to survive and indefinitely continue the competition. All this said, however, democratic theory cannot remain indifferent when the activity of organized interests does not reduce the gap between the powerless and the powerful, when the powerless do not have access to the decision-making arenas, cannot make their interests heard, cannot influence the outcome of the decision-making process. One can find temporary relief from this sad state of affairs in the various arenas in which individual citizens may exert some influence. In particular, one may want to stress the persisting importance of electoral politics and governmental turnover. One may want to draw attention to the process of political decentralization and power devolution to regional communities. One may underline the constant possibility of the emergence of collective movements and the likelihood of their gaining resources and obtaining favourable decisions. Finally, one may suggest that most democratic citizens have conquered a socio-economic condition, allowing them to exert some political influence even without relying on organized interests. They do so through the impact of public opinion on governmental activities as well as by creating single-issue and public-interest movements. All this does not divert from the sorry reality that organized interests are for the most part unable, and unwilling, to mediate between the powerless and the powerful. In addition, state apparatuses do not appear able to favour a redistribution of opportunities and power.

The malaise of European politics may be attributed to this widespread realization and the demand for institutional reforms may derive from it. Political parties are less capable than in the past to aggregate interests and to transform them into policies. Institutional office-holders are not well equipped to mediate, though they may be in a better position to decide and to implement. If organized interests do not reduce the gap between the powerless and the powerful, the democratic process will remain skewed. Social tensions and political conflicts will periodically emerge. In fact, in European politics they are growing in frequency and intensity. The quality of democratic life deteriorates. Authoritarian solutions will be increasingly entertained.


NOTES
1.
Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, rev. edn. ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971).
2.
Roberto Michels, Political Parties ( 1911; Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1949).

-202-

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Elitism, Populism, and European Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS x
  • Introduction Mediocre Élites Elected by Mediocre Peoples 1
  • Note 9
  • 1: The Populist Challenge to Élitist Democracy in Europe 10
  • Notes 30
  • 2 - 'Losing Touch' in a Democracy: Demands Versus Needs 33
  • Notes 60
  • 3: Freedom from the Press 67
  • Notes 86
  • 4: From Representative to Responsive Government? 88
  • Notes 99
  • 5: The European Union, the Political Class, and the People 101
  • Notes 120
  • 6: Political Parties and the Public Accountability of Leaders 121
  • Notes 141
  • 7: Élite-Mass Linkages in Europe: Legitimacy Crisis or Party Crisis? 143
  • Notes 160
  • 8: Organized Interests as Intermediaries 164
  • Notes 186
  • 9: Mediating between the Powerless and the Powerful 190
  • Notes 202
  • 10: Public Demands and Economic Constraints: All Italians Now? 203
  • Notes 219
  • 11: The Fluctuating Rationale of Monetary Union 220
  • 4: Conclusion 235
  • Notes 237
  • 12: Has Government by Committee Lost the Public's Confidence? 238
  • Notes 249
  • Conclusion Has European Unification by Stealth a Future? 252
  • Notes 257
  • Index 259
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