Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage

Liesbet Hooghe (University of North Carolina) & Gary Marks (University of North Carolina)

The euro crisis and an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers and migrants highlight a shift in the dimensionality of political conflict across EU member states. While the recent crises have not manifested themselves in dramatic programmatic adaptations of extant parties, we can witness a rise and strengthening of new parties, especially on the far-right end of the political spectrum. In their article “Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks argue that recent European crises can be conceived of as critical junctures, revealing pressures that have built over the past two decades. As traditional cleavages along class, territory and religion gradually forfeit their shaping power on political conflict, Liesbet and Gary identify a new, transnational cleavage, “which has as its core a political reaction against European integration and immigration.” Their analysis shows that as extant parties appear to labour in vein to come to terms with a new social division, change in national political party systems “has come not because mainstream parties have shifted in response to voter preferences, but because voters have turned to parties with distinctive profiles on the new cleavage.”