These new political conflicts have led to two results, first several new parties formed specifically to represent the new political perspectives. The first wave included environmental parties, such as the green parties in Germany and France or Left-libertarian parties. This stimulated a counter wave of New Right parties, such as the National Front in France or the Republikaner in Germanyxv. Secondly, in order to guarantee the support of their electorate and also attract new voters, the traditional political parties got involved in strategic action.
Moreover, Lipset and Rokkan, for instance, are clear that "…cleavages do not translate themselves into party oppositions as a matter of course,"xvi and they argue that a "crucial point in the discussion of the translation of the cleavages structures into party systems [are] the costs and the pay-offs of mergers, alliances, and coalitions"xvii. In their book, Politics and Society in Western Europe, Lane and Ersson, describe these strategies which are available for political parties to stabilize their situation: the mobilization of an electoral niche with Rokkan, the turn to Kirchheimer catch-all strategy, or the use of power to create a symbiosis between party and public authorityxviii.
Next, this essay will look at different European party systems in which there are parties based around the same social base but with different political outlooks depending upon the various strategic actions. For example, Von Beyme tells us that in spite of their similar origins of the party systems of Sweden and Norway, in the 1970's the Socialist Party in Norway and the Swedish Centre Party took similar stands in the environment and atomic energy issuesxix. First, liberal parties date from the later part of the nineteenth century, however they have undergone profound changes since they were formed.
They originally sought to represent the interests of the bourgeois against the landowners. And mostly in Southern Europe, liberalism was an expression of the radical forces against clerical pressuresxx. Therefore, liberalism was a product of the national and industrial revolutions. Today, liberal parties advocate permissive social policies such as separation of church and state. They are situated at the left or centre of the political spectrum. Some liberal parties have been very supportive for state intervention in economy and national context has been very important in deciding this.
For example, policy spaces of the liberal parties in Norway and Finland in 1984, show that there is a good deal of difference between their positions on the left-right scale. The liberal party in Norway (V), which has embraced limited forms of interventionism is scaled 4 whereas Finnish Liberal Party LKP is scaled 5. 6 on the left-right scale whereby 0 represents extreme left and 9 represents extreme rightxxi. This is a direct result of the differences in their strategic actions. The Radical Liberals in Denmark and the Liberal Democrats in Britain have also advocated limited state intervention.
On the religion dimension, anti-clericalism has declined among most of the European liberal parties, but in France, the UDF has, in contrast, incorporated Christian Democracy more and more into liberalismxxii. Over the years, the Liberal Parties of Europe, have found themselves in a situation whereby they had to adapt to the decrease of electoral support, increase of commerce and industry, and the general trend of secularisation across Europe. Also, these parties have faced the challenge of internal pressure, which made it very difficult for them to stay coherent.
Another problem was that other parties such as social democratic and ecologist parties have adopted similar programmes to liberals'xxiii. Secondly, Conservatism has also had to adapt to the changing electorate during the latter part of the century. Originally, it supported state intervention and class based society. Conservative Parties sought to represent the landowners and the clergyxxiv. Over the years, Conservatism has lost its patriotism aspect. In the 1980's, conservative parties became more concerned with social policy matters, and also the rise of the New Right led them to embrace more liberal ideas.
Moreover, there are not as many conservative parties as liberal parties across Europe. For example, Italy just recently had a conservative party. And often, conservatives have found themselves in need for making alliances with the right or centre parties. But in Britain, the Conservative Party has been very successful in maintaining its electorate support by supporting nationalist policies. Overall, their ideological ambiguity has helped in broadening their approach strategicallyxxv. Thirdly, Socialist Parties are originally the products of cleavages between employers and workers.
They were initially mobilized to represent the political interests of the growing working classxxvi. However, after the Second World War, the electorate support has seen a decline; therefore, these parties have adapted to this situation by making strategic decisions such as supporting a mixed economy and extending their appeal to the middle class, thus becoming catch-all partiesxxvii. For example, the British Labour Party's "loss of four elections in a row caused far reaching internal modification of its policies and a move towards Conservative positions in 1987xxviii.
Also, after being defeated by the Christian Democratic Party in Germany, the Social Democrats decided to moderate their Marxist party ideology. Finally, Christian Democratic Parties date back to the nineteenth century and their ideology has been based around their commitment to social welfare, human rights and liberal democracyxxix. Moreover, Christian Democratic ideology's religious base created the idea of a religious community; however, with the secularisation of the European society, this idea came to be seen as a common set of shared social and cultural ideas.
Like the other parties, Christian Democratic Parties have acted strategically to maintain their electoral base and attract more voters. For example, as Ware argues, with the emergence of the New Right ideas in the 1970s, Christian Democratic parties shifted their positions on state interventionxxx. Also, in Italy, the fact that the Christian Democrats lost importance after the defeat of communism shows that previously their success had depended on strategic actions such as balancing against the communist threat, rather than on the support of their social basesxxxi.
Also in Germany, in order to increase its electorate support, the CDU, which was originally founded by the Catholic Church, has sought to attract Protestant votersxxxii. Consequently, this essay has argued that political parties can be best understood as reflections of both social cleavages, which they originate from and strategic action which results from the need to adapt to the changing political context. With the extension of franchise, a great number of new political parties emerged representing different interests.
Lipset and Rokkan provide a clear explanation to how the modern party system initially emerged from social cleavages. With the increasing voter volatility though, parties had no choice but to adapt through strategic decisions to maintain and expand their electorate bases. These different strategies resulted in variations across European parties although they belonged to the same party families. This further supports the fact that parties are products of both social cleavages and strategic action.