While giving the finishing touches to this month’s Think Tank Review (incidentally the second anniversary issue, out soon), the library team found plenty of interesting articles in the latest West European Politics, out in May 2015 but already available online (subscription required). Many of them investigate the impact of the crisis and the ensuing austerity, on Member State societies and politics.
In their article, Anna Kern, Sofie Marien, and Marc Hooghe examine the effect of the crisis on levels of non-institutionalised political participation in Europe between 2002 and 2010, using data from the European Social Survey. They find that the exceptionally high unemployment levels of 2009-2010 correlate with higher levels of participation, but that, over the whole period, the model of participation known as ‘civic voluntarism‘ is confirmed, i.e. the availability of resources at the individual and national level encourages participation: “there is positive association between material status and participatory behaviour”, and “an increase in income levels is associated with higher levels of non-institutionalised participation”.
The article by Guya Accornero and Pedro Ramos Pinto zooms in on the development of demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of collective action between 2010 and 2013 in Portugal, after briefly reviewing the same phenomena in other Southern European countries. In doing so, they paint an “ecology of contention” and qualify the usual view that “the country is characterised by comparatively low levels of political involvement”. They also qualify the claim that most mobilization during the crisis came from ‘new’ actors and movements: “old actors seem to retain a central role in extraordinary political mobilisation. However, we also note that unions and left-wing parties are acting from a position of weakness, drawing on highly depleted constituencies”.
From Portugal to Italy, Nicolò Conti and Vincenzo Memoli, in The Emergence of a New Party in the Italian Party System: Rise and Fortunes of the Five Star Movement, trace the development of Beppe Grillo’s movement. Challenging the prevailing fascination with the movement’s unconventional organisation and communication style, the article argues that “the party’s programmatic supply was not broad and unspecific in order to please everyone. Instead, it was attentively framed to create an ideological profile of purposeful opposition to the socio-economic status quo. The Five Star Movement managed to present itself as a prophetic party, with hard ideology, contesting a different but fertile territory from that of the other parties”.
From Italy to Germany for a review of the AfD. Based on the analysis of party manifestos and statements, Kai Arzheimer concludes that “Alternative for Germany (AfD) does indeed occupy a position at the far right of the German party system, but it is currently neither populist nor does it belong to the family of Radical Right parties. Moreover, its stance on European integration is more nuanced than expected and should best be classified as soft Eurosceptic.”
Among the book reviews in the same issue, a discussion of two volumes that deal with challenges to the EU coming from political and a sociological/geographical developments: Blaming Europe? Responsibility Without Accountability in the European Union, by S. Hobolt, and Rescaling the European State: The Making of Territory and the Rise of the Meso, by M. Keating. Needless to say, both volumes are also available in our library. Here is also a list of other academic journals available in the reading room.