Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The risk-opportunity cleavage and the transformation of Europe’s main political families\ud

By Albena Azmanova


Analyses of the last two rounds of general elections in the EU (old) 15 member-states, as well as of the 1999 and 2004 European elections, reveal some of the symptoms of what Key and Burnham called "critical elections": elections that mark a sudden, considerable and lasting realignment in the electorate, leading to the formation of new electoral majorities. I explore the hypothesis that these series of critical elections at the turn of the century are triggering a radical realignment under the pressures of a new fault-line of conflict aggregation -- one shaped by attitudes to globalization. As a result, an opportunity-risk cleavage is emerging which is challenging, and opting out to replace, the capital-labor dynamics of conflict that have shaped the main political families in Europe over the 20th century. This paper traces the dynamics of realignment in terms of shifts at four levels: 1) The public agenda of political mobilization; 2) The social composition of electoral constituencies 3) the ideological basis of party competition. On this basis, an alignment is taking place, on the one hand between the centre-left and centre-right midpoint around an "opportunity" pole and, on the other, the circumference of far-right and radical-left parties around a "risk" pole. To what extend will these pressures of realignment manage to unfreeze (in reference to Rokkan and Lipset) the established party-political constellations in nation-states remains to the determined. However, tensions between the analyzed pressures of realignment and existing institutionalized forms of political representation go a long way in explaining the current crisis within both Social Democracy and European Conservatism, as well as the rise of new forms of populism in Europe

Topics: H, J
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1993). A Theory of Critical Elections.
  2. (1994). Beyond Left and Right. doi
  3. (1967). Cleavage Structures, party systems, and voter alignments: an introduction”, doi
  4. (1985). Disorganised Capitalism: Contemporary Transformations of Work and Politics. doi
  5. (2004). Diversification and Reconfiguration of Party Systems
  6. (2000). Globalization and Post-Modern Values’, doi
  7. (2004). Globalization and the transformation of the national political space: Six European countries compared”, doi
  8. (1990). Identity, Competition and Electoral Availability: the stabilisation of European electorates, 1885-1985, Cambridge: doi
  9. (1996). Measuring Left-Right and Libertarian- Authoritarian values in the British Electorate’, doi
  10. (1997). Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies. doi
  11. (1997). Party System Change: Approaches and Interpretations, doi
  12. (1986). Political Realignment in Advanced Industrial Society: From Class-based Politics to Quality of Life Politics’, doi
  13. (1975). The American Party System: Stages of Political Development. doi
  14. (2004). The Mobilisation of the European Left in the Early 21st Century’, doi
  15. (1988). The Rise of Left-libertarian Parties in Western Democracies: Explaining Innovation in Competitive Party Systems." doi
  16. (1998). The Transformation of Cleavage Politics’, doi
  17. (1995). Value orientations, Political Conflicts and Left-Right Identification: A Comparative Study’, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.