Europe's political landscapes are in turmoil, and new radical parties challenge the established political order. This book locates Europe's contemporary challenges within the longer economic and political trajectories of its 'welfare democracies'. The book argues that it is imperative to understand the specific structures of political competition and voter-party links to make sense of the political and economic turmoil of the last decades. In four distinct European welfare democracies (Nordic, Continental, Southern, and Anglo-Saxon), the political economy, the party system, and the structure of the political space are co-determined in a specific way. Accordingly, different packages of policies and politics and distinct patterns of alignment between core electoral groups and political parties exist in the four welfare democracies and shape the reactions of European welfare democracies to the current turmoil.
This volume provides an analytical framework that links welfare states to party systems, combining recent contributions to the comparative political economy of the welfare state and insights from party and electoral politics. It states three phenomena. First, concerning electoral politics, the book identifies a certain homogenization of European party systems, the emergence of a new combination of leftist socio-economic and rightist socio-cultural positions in many parties, and, finally, the different electoral success of the radical right in the north of Europe and of the radical left in the south. Secondly, the contributions to this book indicate a confluence toward renewed welfare state support among parties and voters. Thirdly it demonstrates that the Europeanization of political dynamics, combined with incompatible growth models, has created pronounced European cleavages.