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Bridging the East-West Divide

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Comparative Politics
Democracy
Political Participation
Political Parties
Populism
Social Movements
P01

Tuesday 17:00 - 18:30 (25/05/2021)


Abstract

Thirty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, comparative research still struggles with incorporating Central and Eastern Europe into mainstream comparative research. Many are quick to see these regions as predestined to failure, its democracy too shallow, and perhaps only emulated. Institutions in the young-ish democracies might have shallow roots, and citizen attitudes might be less stable, but this is increasingly the case in the Western democracies. This lecture assembles scholars whose work transcends the East-West divide to discuss the extent to which both the East and the West are artificial constructs and shortcuts attempting to simplify the complex reality of contemporary democracy and how to move beyond this outdated paradigm – bridging the East-West divide. The weakening of social democratic parties offers a good example – over the last two decades, social democratic parties have been weakening both in the West and in the East. In both the East and the West, the mobilisation shifts from the economic towards the cultural cleavage, and existing political parties increasingly face populist challengers. In the East, the process of decline might be faster, as political parties did not forge strong linkages to voters and did not build a stable membership base. Nevertheless, similar processes are at play in the West – both the electoral support and membership base continue to erode as populist challengers and new left rise. The speakers, eminent scholars of political parties, social movements, and democracy will touch on these issues in their work. They will discuss ways to balancing out general trends and unique features of the Central European region.