Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-79b67bcb76-ncjtf Total loading time: 0.402 Render date: 2021-05-15T04:59:48.802Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

The contemporary contradictions of egalitarianism: an empirical analysis of the relationship between the old and new left/right alignments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2011

Mark Elchardus
Affiliation:
Professor, Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Bram Spruyt
Affiliation:
Research Assistant, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Research Foundation – Flanders), Brussels, Belgium
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

This paper deals with the often-observed complex relationship between the so-called old, ‘economic’ left/right alignment (egalitarianism) and the new, ‘cultural’ alignment. Many authors have observed that the less educated members of society occupy an apparently contradictory position, combining a leftist stand in favor of more equality and government intervention, with a rightist stand on minority rights, the treatment of criminals, and other aspects of democratic citizenship. Various explanations have been offered for this paradox. This paper proposes an explanation in terms of vulnerability and the way in which it is culturally processed. Less educated people are often vulnerable and long for more equality. The stronger their desire for equality, the greater their frustration when feeling vulnerable, and the greater the need to cope with that vulnerability. They do so, using particular narrative-coping strategies that create an affinity with the attitudes that form the new left/right alignment. One such coping strategy is based on feelings of relative deprivation. In the empirical part of the paper it is shown that relative deprivation completely explains the paradoxical position of the less educated, and that, when taking feelings of deprivation into account, the two left/right dimensions are in fact independent of each other at all levels of education, creating a situation that leads to tensions within parties that pursue egalitarian policies. The mechanism uncovered in this analysis reveals a tension at the heart of egalitarianism: the stronger the longing for equality among the vulnerable members of society, the more likely they are to opt for right wing positions on the new left/right dimension.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Abrams, D.Hogg, M.A. (2004), ‘Metatheory: lessons from social identity research’, Personality and Social Psychology 8(2): 98106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Achterberg, P.Houtman, D. (2009), ‘Ideologically illogical? Why do the lower-educated Dutch display so little value coherence?’, Social Forces 87(3): 16491670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alexander, J.C. (1982), Theoretical Logic in Sociology. Vol.1, Positivism, Presuppositions, and Current Controversies, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Arwine, A.Mayer, L. (2008), ‘The changing base of political conflict in Western Europe: the cases of Belgium and Austria’, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 14(3): 428452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartolini, S.Mair, P. (1990), Identity, Competition, and Electoral Availability: The Stabilization of European Electorates 1885–1985, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bauman, Z. (2000), Liquid Modernity, London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Beck, U. (1992), Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London: Sage.Google Scholar
Benjamin, A.J. (2006), ‘The relationship between right-wing authoritarianism and attitudes toward violence: further validation of the attitudes toward violence scale’, Social Behavior and Personality 34(8): 923926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Billiet, J.De Witte, H. (1995), ‘Attitudinal dispositions to vote for a ‘new’ extreme right-wing party: the case of ‘Vlaams Blok’ ’, European Journal of Political Research 27(2): 181202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bishop, G.F. (1976), ‘The effect of education on ideological consistency’, The Public Opinion Quarterly 40(3): 337348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boltanski, L.Thévenot, L. (1991), De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur, Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
Bonilla-Silva, E.L.A.Embrick, D.G. (2004), ‘ “I did not get that job because of a black man…”: the story lines and testimonies of color-blind racism’, Sociological Forum 19(4): 555581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carmines, E.G.Stimson, J.A. (1982), ‘Racial issues and the structure of mass belief systems’, The Journal of Politics 44(1): 220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Converse, P.E. (1964), ‘The nature of belief systems’, in D.E. Apter (ed.), Ideology and Discontent, New York: The Free Press, pp. 206261.Google Scholar
Dalton, R.J. (1988), Citizen Politics in Western Democracies, Chatham: Chatham House.Google Scholar
De Groof, S.Elchardus, M. (2009), ‘Kwetsbaarheid, anomie, autoritarisme en ethnocentrisme’, in M. Elchardus and J. Siongers (eds), Vreemden, Tielt: Lannoo, pp. 7998.Google Scholar
De Koster, W.Van der Waal, J. (2007), ‘Cultural value orientations and Christian religiosity: on moral traditionalism, authoritarianism, and their implications for voting behavior’, International Political Science Review 28(4): 451467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Derks, A. (2000), Individualisme Zonder Verhaal, Brussel: VUB Press.Google Scholar
Derks, A. (2004), ‘Are the underprivileged really that economically ‘leftist’? Attitudes towards economic redistribution and the welfare state in Flanders’, European Journal of Political Research 43(4): 509521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Derks, A. (2006), ‘Populism and the ambivalence of egalitarism. How do the underprivileged reconcile a right wing party preference with their socio-economic attitudes?’, World Political Science Review 2(3): 175200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elchardus, M. (1994a), ‘Gekaapte deugden. Over de nieuwe politieke breuklijn en de zin van limieten’, Samenleving en Politiek 1(1): 2027.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M. (1994b), ‘Over de ontdubbeling van links en rechts’, Samenleving en Politiek 1(7): 517.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M. (1996), ‘Class, cultural re-alignment and the rise of the populist right’, in A. Erskine, M. Elchardus, S. Herkommer and J. Ryan (eds), Changing Europe: Some Aspects of Identity, Conflict and Social Justice, Alderschot: Avebury, pp. 4163.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M. (2009), ‘Ethnisch vooroordeel als verwerkte kwetsbaarheid’, in M. Elchardus and J. Siongers (eds), Vreemden, Tielt: Lannoo, pp. 6178.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M.Pelleriaux, K. (1998), ‘De polis verdeeld. Hoe de kiezers links en rechts herdefiniëren’, in M. Swyngedouw, J. Billiet, A. Carton and R. Beerten (eds), De (on)redelijke kiezer. Onderzoek naar de politieke opvattingen van Vlamingen. Verkiezingen van 21 mei 1995, Leuven: Acco, pp. 183210.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M.Smits, W. (2006), Het grootste geluk, Tielt: LannooCampus.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M.Spruyt, B. (2010), ‘Does higher education influence the attitudes with regard to the extreme right?’, European Journal of Social Sciences 18(2): 181195.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M., Glorieux, I., Derks, A.Pelleriaux, K. (1996), Voorspelbaar ongeluk. Over letsels die werkloosheid nalaat bij mannen en hun kinderen, Brussel: VUB press.Google Scholar
Elchardus, M., et al. (1999), Zonder maskers. Een actueel portret van jongeren en hun leraren, Gent: Globe.Google Scholar
Evans, G.A.Heath, A.F. (1995), ‘The measurement of left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values: a comparison of balanced and unbalanced scales’, Quality and Quantity 29(2): 191206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Evans, G.A., Heath, A.F.Lalljee, M. (1996), ‘Measuring left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values in the British electorate’, The British Journal of Sociology 47(1): 93112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Flanagan, S.C. (1979), ‘Value change and partisan change in Japan: the silent revolution revisited’, Comparative Politics 11: 253278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Flanagan, S.C. (1987), ‘Value change in industrial societies’, The American Political Science Review 81(4): 12891319.Google Scholar
Fleishman, J.A. (1988), ‘Attitude organization in the general public: evidence for a bidimensional structure’, Social Forces 67(1): 159184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gallie, D. (1978), Search of a New Working Class: Automation and Social Integration within Capitalist Enterprise, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gibbins, J.R. (1989), ‘Contemporary political culture: an introduction’, in J.R. Gibbins (ed.), Contemporary Political Culture, Politics in a Postmodern Age, London: Sage, pp. 130.Google Scholar
Giddens, A. (1991), Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
Goffman, E. (1974), Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience, New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Goldthorpe, J.H., Lockwood, D., Bechhofer, F.Platt, J. (1969), The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Grant, P.R.Brown, R. (1995), ‘From ethnocentrism to collective protest: responses to relative deprivation and threats to social identity’, Social Psychology Quarterly 58(3): 195211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grunberg, G.Schweisguth, E. (1990), ‘Libéralisme culturel et libéralisme économique’, in D. Boy and N. Mayer (eds), L’électeur Français en question, Paris: Presses de Sciences, pp. 4569.Google Scholar
Hainsworth, P. (1992), The Extreme Right in Europe and the USA, London: Pinter.Google Scholar
Harré, R. (1989), ‘Language games and the texts of identity’, in J. Shotter and K. J. Gergen (eds), Texts of Identity, London: Sage, pp. 119.Google Scholar
Hellemans, S. (1990), Strijd om de moderniteit, KADOC studies 10, Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven.Google Scholar
Hogg, M.A. (2000), ‘Subjective uncertainty reduction through self-categorization. A motivational theory of social identity processes’, European Review of Social Psychology 11: 223255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hogg, M.A. (2005), ‘Uncertainty, social identity, and ideology’, in S.R. Thye and E.J. Lawler (eds), Advances in Group Processes, New York: Elsevier, pp. 203229.Google Scholar
Hogg, M.A., Hohmann, Z.P.Rivera, J.E. (2008), ‘Why do people join groups? Three motivational accounts from social psychology’, Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2(3): 12691280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Houtman, D. (2003a), Class and Politics in Contemporary Social Science. “Marxism Lite” and Its Blind Spot for Culture, New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
Houtman, D. (2003b), ‘Lipset and “working-class” authoritarianism’, The American Sociologist 34(1–2): 85103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Houtman, D., Achterberg, P.Derks, A. (2008), Farewell to the leftist working class, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Ignazi, P.Ysmal, C. (1992), Extreme Right Wing Parties in Europe, Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. (1984), ‘The changing structure of political cleavages in Western society’, in R.J. Dalton, S.C. Flanagan and P.A. Beck (eds), Electoral Changes in Advanced Industrial Democracies, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 2569.Google Scholar
Jaeger, M.M. (2006), ‘What makes people support public responsibility for welfare provision: self-interest or political ideology?’, Acta Sociologica 49(3): 321338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kriesi, H.-P. (1998), ‘The transformation of cleavage politics: the 1997 Stein Rokkan lecture’, European Journal of Political Research 33(2): 165185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kriesi, H.-P., Grande, E., Lachat, R., Dolezal, M., Bornschier, S.Frey, T. (2008), West-European Politics in the Age of Globalization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krosnick, J.A. (1999), ‘Survey research’, Annual Review of Psychology 50: 537567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lachat, R.Dolezal, M. (2008), ‘Dealignment and realignment of the structural political potentials’, in H. Kriesi, E. Grande, R. Lachat, M. Dolezal, S. Bornschier and T. Frey (eds), West European politics in the age of globalization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 236267.Google Scholar
Lane, R.E. (1973), ‘Patterns of political belief’, in J.N. Knutson (ed.), Handbook of Political Psychology, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 83117.Google Scholar
Lipset, S.M. (1959), ‘Democracy and working class authoritarianism’, American Political Science Review 24(4): 482502.Google Scholar
Lipset, S.M. (1981), ‘Political man updated’, in S.M. Lipset (ed.), Political Man. The Social Bases of Politics, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, pp. 459523.Google Scholar
Marsh, H.W. (1996), ‘Positive and negative global self-esteem: a substantively meaningful distinction or artifactors’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70(4): 810819.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Middendorp, C.P. (1978), Progressiveness and Conservatism, The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
Middendorp, C.P. (1979), Ontzuiling, politisering en restauratie in Nederland. Progressiviteit en conservatisme in de jaren 60 en 70, Amsterdam: Boom Meppel.Google Scholar
Minkenberg, M. (1992), ‘The New Right in Germany. The transformation of conservatism and the extreme right’, European Journal of Political Research 22(1): 5581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Minkenberg, M.Inglehart, R. (1989), ‘Neoconservatism and value change in the USA: tendencies in the mass public of a postindustrial society’, in J.R. Gibbins (ed.), Contemporary Political Culture, Politics in a Postmodern Age, London: Sage, pp. 81109.Google Scholar
Pelleriaux, K. (2001), Demotie en burgerschap, Brussel: VUB Press.Google Scholar
Reimer, B. (1989), ‘Postmodern structures of feeling: values and lifestyles in the postmodern age’, in J.R. Gibbins (ed.), Contemporary Political Culture, Politics in a Postmodern Age, London: Sage, pp. 110126.Google Scholar
Runciman, W.R. (1966), Relative Deprivation and Social Justice: A Study of Attitudes to Social Inequality in Twentieth-Century England, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
Scheepers, P., Billiet, J.De Witte, H. (1995), ‘Het electoraat van het Vlaams Blok. De kiezers en hun opvattingen’, Sociologische Gids 42(3): 232252.Google Scholar
Schmitt, R. (1989), ‘From ‘Old politics’ to ‘New politics’: three decades of peace protest in West Germany’, in J.R. Giddens (ed.), Contemporary Political Culture. Politics in a Post-modern Age, London: Sage, pp. 174198.Google Scholar
Sorokin, P.A. (1928), Contemporary Sociological Theories, Through the First Quarter of the Twentieth Century, New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Srole, L. (1956), ‘Social integration and certain corollaries: an exploratory study’, American Sociological Review 21(6): 709716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stack, S. (2003), ‘Authoritarianism and support for the death penalty: a multivariate analysis’, Sociological Focus 36(4): 333352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stenner, K. (2005), The Authoritarian Dynamic, New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sternhell, Z. (2006), Les anti-Lumières. Une tradition du XVIIIeme siècle à la guerre froide, Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
Stouffer, S.A., Suchman, E.A., DeVinney, L.C, Star, S.A.Williams, R.M. (1949), The American Soldier, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Stubager, R. (2008), ‘Education effects on authoritarian-libertarian values: a question of socialization’, The British Journal of Sociology 59(2): 327350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stubager, R. (2009), ‘Education-based group identity and consciousness in the authoritarian-libertarian value conflict’, European Journal of Political Research 48(2): 204233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, C. (1991), The Ethics of Authenticity, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Tilly, C. (2006), Why? What Happens When People Give Reasons … and Why, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Topf, R. (1989), ‘Political change and political culture in Britain, 1959–87’, in J.R. Gibbins (ed.), Contemporary Political Culture, Politics in a Postmodern Age, London: Sage, pp. 5280.Google Scholar
Treier, S.Hillygus, S.D. (2009), ‘The nature of political ideology in the contemporary electorate’, Public Opinion Quarterly 73(4): 679703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van der Brug, W.Fennema, M. (2003), ‘Protest or mainstream? How the European anti-immigrant parties have developed into two separate groups by 1999’, European Journal of Political Research 36(3): 309329.Google Scholar
Van der Brug, W.van Spanje, J. (2009), ‘Immigration, Europe and the new cultural dimension’, European Journal of Political Science 48(3): 309334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van der Brug, W., Fennema, M.Tillie, J. (2000), ‘Anti-immigrant parties in Europe: ideological or protest vote’, European Journal of Political Research 37(1): 77102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vanneman, R.D.Pettigrew, T.F. (1972), ‘Race and relative deprivation in the urban United States’, Race and Class 13(4): 461486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, I.Smith, H.J. (2002), ‘Fifty years of relative deprivation research’, in I. Walker and H.J. Smith (eds), Relative Deprivation: Specification, Development, and Integration, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 112.Google Scholar
Wuthnow, R. (1989), Communities of Discourse. Ideology and Social Structure in the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and European Socialism, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Elchardus supplementary Appendix

Elchardus supplementary Appendix

Download Elchardus supplementary Appendix(File)
File 283 KB

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The contemporary contradictions of egalitarianism: an empirical analysis of the relationship between the old and new left/right alignments
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The contemporary contradictions of egalitarianism: an empirical analysis of the relationship between the old and new left/right alignments
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The contemporary contradictions of egalitarianism: an empirical analysis of the relationship between the old and new left/right alignments
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *