Specter of ‘lost Left’ haunting Europe’s democracies


Common explanations for Europe’s malaise aren’t wrong, but they don’t provide the full picture, argues Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College. A key cause for Europe’s current crisis is the decline of the center-left, she writes for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage:

As I argue in a new article for the Journal of Democracy*, even people who aren’t on the center-left themselves should recognize the role that it played in underpinning stability. From World War II onward, the center-left either ran the government or provided the loyal opposition in nearly every European democracy. No longer. Center-left parties have dwindled into shadows of their former might…..More broadly, the rivalry between the center-left and center-right helped to build the foundations of popular democracy in Europe.

Now that the center-left is in decline, it is difficult to build common ground with other established parties or to organize democratic politics in a reasonably stable way, Berman adds:

In addition, the decline of the center-left has reflected and furthered the decline of the postwar order. This order generated unprecedented prosperity, diminished class conflict and undercut support for extremism. Europe’s center-left was an architect and mainstay of this order, and it is hard to imagine it being revived or a replacement for it being constructed without a strong center-left. And without broad-based agreements to reform European economies, welfare states, immigration and integration policies, and the European Union, Europe’s current mess is likely to be long-lasting indeed.


*A publication of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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