Which Factors Have Contributed the Most to the Disparity of Success of Green Parties in Northern European Countries Compared to Southern?
The capability of the two main currents of parties, coming either from the labor movement (Social Democratic, Socialist, and Communist parties) or from a bourgeois background (Christian Democrats, Conservatives, and Liberals) to integrate large parts of the electorate has been continuously decreasing in almost every Western European country. The reasons for this change are to be found in the profound social changes in the societies of all industrial nations since WW2. The issues polarizing the society are no longer issues that basically stem from the struggle of the working class to get its fair share of the GNP or even to over come capitalism. The capitalist core countries in Western Europe (maybe excluding the UK) saw the gradual erosion of the "working class identity" and the emergence of a growing "white collar" sector employed in the tertiary branches of the economy. Social Democratic parties, particularly in Germany, had create the notion of "social partnership" between labor and capital to minimize strikes and social unrest in general as long as there is enough growth so that labor could get its share of growth. To put it cynically: trade unions were turned into a kind of insurance companies for their members.
Today, European society continues to evolve, moving further away from its traditional roots (Knutsen, Oddbjorn. 1988). Lipset and Rokkan set out four classic cleavages in European society that influenced the formation and policy-making of political parties: state-church, urban-rural, employee-employer and centre-periphery. Although parties that stemmed from these traditional cleavages still exist within European party systems, this essay will assume the postmodernist argument endorsed by Inglehart that European society is evolving beyond such classifications. The key reason for this is economic development. Increased levels of education and income, liberation movements, industrialisation, urbanisation, the introduction of mass suffrage and the free movement of people and goods have all had a profound effect on citizen’s perception of themselves and society around them. Previous impediments to economic growth such as religious conservatism, conflict between cultures and class segregation are steadily diminishing. Using evidence from two dominant, but very different, countries in Western Europe, the United Kingdom and Spain. In essence, while Europeans have not abandoned their core values and ideals completely, well-defined traditional cleavages have been largely replaced by a concern on all sides with tackling the oppressive aspects of industrialisation, religion, cultural discrimination and the inequality associated with capitalism through focussing upon human rights, democracy and economic and social improvement (Inglehart, Ronald. 1981).
Firstly the institutional structure of the state, where countries with closed system of government have more space for ideas and establishment of green parties. However openness of the bureaucracy marginalizes the green parties as in Britain. Political tradition of a country and nature of the electoral system also can obstruct or facilitate the development of green party. However, no single factor can determine the success and development of a green party or the potential of its establishment.
Hague, Harrop & Breslin. 1998. Comparative Government and Politics, an introduction. London: Macmillan Press Ltd
Inglehart, Ronald. 1981. Post-materialism in an Environment of Insecurity. American Political Science Review 75: 880-900
Knutsen, Oddbjorn. 1988. The Impact of Structural and Ideological Party Cleavages in Western European Democracies: A Comparative Empirical Analysis. British Journal of Political Science Vol. 18, No. 3: 323-352