Drawing the Boundaries of Southern Europe: Issues and Challenges
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Southern European Politics
This Section aims to identify the distinctive features / peculiarities, if any, of Southern European politics and political processes by exploring the dynamics of convergence and divergence that have characterised the region, as well as the relationship between Europe’s South and North, in the last decade.
Despite early predictions of a widening gap between the European ‘centre’ and the European ‘periphery’, to which Southern Europe was allocated, after the late 1980s Southern European states, economies and societies were argued to be converging with each other and with their more advanced North European counterparts due to the intensifying processes of modernisation and Europeanization. Social values cautiously followed the post-materialist trends than had been noted in Western Europe in previous decades and traditionally weak South European civil societies cautiously embarked on a new trajectory. However, it did not escape the attention of scholars that Southern Europe’s states and public administrations were distinctively weak but heavy handed or that Southern Europe occupied a distinct world of welfare due to the lower levels of development of its welfare state structures and its reliance on family and informal structures.
The economic crisis and the refugee crisis have affected the region profoundly and have placed the question of convergence and divergence within the region and between the region and its Northern partners under the spotlight. The unflattering acronym PIGS came to exemplify the convergent responses of South European states to the crisis as well as the growing chasm between Europe’s North and South; conversely, SE countries’ domestic political responses to the economic crisis revealed differences and potential divergence in the future: some underwent a significant surge in protest activity and/or party system change, while others did not. Finally, the flows of refugees that rendered Turkey, Greece and Italy transit zones did not affect Spain and Portugal to the same degree.
Here is a first, and non-inclusive, list of possible themes for Panels:
1) POLITICAL PARTIES
How have parties in Southern Europe changed over the last decade? Papers in this Panel would analyse the transformations undergone by political parties focusing on several dimensions of change: party organization, electoral politics, competitive strategies, party values and programmes.
2) POLITICAL COMMUNICATION / LEADERSHIP STYLE
The politics of democratic societies is moving towards a presidentialized working mode, even in the absence of formal institutional changes. In conjunction with the mediatization of politics, this has increased the capacity of political leaders to bypass their party machines and to appeal directly to voters. How are the new modes and tools of communicating with citizens (social media) affecting these trends? Papers in this Panel would focus on media and politics in Southern Europe in comparative perspective.
3) SOCIAL MOVEMENTS / CIVIL SOCIETY’S ORGANIZATIONS
The last few years have witnessed a surge of citizen activism globally, as well as in Southern Europe. What is new in this “new” South European grass roots activism? How does the state and traditional political actors respond to these new and unconventional forms of citizen activism?
4) RELIGION(S) AND POLITICS / CHURCH(ES) AND STATE
How does the legal-institutional framework accommodate recent challenges to church-state division? Is institutionalized religion (Churches) playing a new political role? Both in established democracies in Southern Europe, as well as in democratizing cases, such as Turkey, the question of state and religion is becoming increasingly more contested. Papers trying to tackle the questions of religiosity, secularism, and democratic constitutional rights are welcome in this Section.
5) ATTITUDES TOWARDS EU
Euroscepticism has emerged as a growing constraint on European integration. But is opposition to European integration really greater now than in the past? What are the origins, evolution and prospects of opposition to integration of the South European region, traditionally regarded as exceptionally Europhile? Are political actors and public opinion aligned on this issue? Or is there a growing chasm between political and economic élites and citizens?
6) VOTING BEHAVIOUR / POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
Which new and peculiar challenges to democracy in Southern Europe does the rise of extremist political views and anti-systemic parties pose? Available evidence indicates the increasing appeal of nationalist, extreme-right wing, anti-immigrant and populist parties among the electorate. Scholars who work on elections, party systems, anti-system parties, voting behavior and populism are welcome under this theme.
7) PUBLIC POLICIES, WELFARE STATE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
What are the political and social consequences of the extended 2008 recession for Southern European countries? Is the welfare state as we know it now dead? Or could there be sustainable and creative ways to maintain it? Papers addressing the consequences of the Eurozone crisis in Southern Europe, challenges on social policies, unemployment, corruption, and neo-patronage systems would fit very well under this subtitle.
8) POLITICAL CULTURE / PUBLIC OPINION
Distrust of political institutions and political actors appear widespread and growing; anti-establishment sentiment is spreading. Are these trends irreversible or a temporary and passing malaise? Do they signal a crisis of liberal, representative democracy as we knew it in the XX century? Is Southern Europe drifting towards ungovernability?
The Section offers a forum for innovative empirical research and encourages a range of disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches, stressing what is specifically Southern European in the experiences briefly outlined in the Panels’ themes. The Section welcomes country case studies as well as comparative studies.
The Section is proposed on behalf of the ECPR Standing Group on Southern European Politics and welcomes proposals for Panels and Papers from members and non-members of the Group.
Marco Maraffi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Milan. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Standing Group on Southern European Politics. His recent publications appear in The International Encyclopaedia of Political Communication, Polis, and as chapters in multi-authored books.
Myrto Tsakatika is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Glasgow. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Standing Group on Southern European Politics. Her recent publications appear in the Journal of Common Market Studies, the Journal of European Public Policy and South European Society and Politics.