There is a contrast in the way voter preferences are conceptualized in two strands of current literature: While most of the comparative political economy literature implicitly or explicitly theorizes voter preferences on economic and social policies and their relevance for party choice in terms of – mostly unidimensional – distributive conflict, the literature on political parties and elections that deals with the determinants of party choice has always emphasized the importance of alternative, “second” dimensions of political conflict (see, e.g., Lipset and Rokkan 1967, Kitschelt 1994, Kitschelt and McGann 1995, Rokkan 2000, Bartolini 2000, Hooghe et al. 2002, Kriesi et al. 2006, 2008, Bornschier 2010, De la O and Rodden 2008).
We argue in this chapter that both strands of literature should integrate each other's insights. More specifically, we contend that in order to understand the challenges political parties face in contemporary capitalist democracies, the findings from both strands of literature need to be combined for several reasons: First of all, the European political space cannot be reduced to a single dimension of political conflict and competition, but has always been and still is structured by at least two conflict lines. The coexistence of two (or more) dimensions of conflict fundamentally alters the way we ought to view the electoral landscape and has critical implications for the way preferences are related to party choice. Moreover, the boundaries between distributional (economic) and identity-based (cultural) conflicts have become increasingly blurred: Issues such as welfare chauvinism, the unequal effects of welfare states on men and women, or the distributive balance between labor market insiders and outsiders have a clear distributive relevance, but they also relate to (more culturally connotated) considerations of a universalist versus particularist organization of the society and of social solidarity. Many economic, distributive struggles are thus inherently pluridimensional (see, e.g., Manow 2002, Manow and van Kersbergen 2009, Kitschelt and McGann 1995, Häusermann 2010, 2012).
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