Analysis: Europe’s Traditional Left Is in a Death Spiral

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Europe today is a mess. The strongest countries face lackluster economic growth, while the weakest, like Greece, are struggling to recover from depression-like downturns. Politically, things are even worse, as disillusionment with European and domestic institutions and elites is at record levels, and support for far-left and far-right parties is growing, creating political instability.

What’s to blame for this mess? Some blame neoliberalism—the adoption of pro-market policies—saying that it caused the crisis and left democratically elected governments unable to respond. Others blame the European Union, which they say is undemocratic and undermines national sovereignty. Under this explanation, the E.U. weakened voters’ faith in their democratically elected governments and led them to support far-left and -right parties.

 

Sheri Berman is a professor of political science at Barnard College, and the chair of the Council for European Studies. Her main interests are European politics and political history, democracy and democratization, globalization, and the history of the left. Her two books have examined the role played by social democracy in determining political outcomes in 20th-century Europe.

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Published on November 1, 2016.
Photo: French President François Hollande, Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Flickr

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