Stathis Kalyvas, The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe. (1996). Chapters 1, 2, Conclusion.

‘Main Argument: Kalyvas proposes that Christian Democratic parties in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands originated from decisions of nineteenth century political actors, namely, the Church and conservative political elites. Though these actors may not have initially intended to create confessional parties, Kalyvas asserts that they “set the process in motion” by creating a new political consciousness or identity amongst lay Catholics.  Confessional party formation was the contingent and unintended outcome of the strategic moves made by the Catholic Church and conservative politicians in response to the liberal anticlericalism of the late nineteenth century.


Method: Uses a rational actor model. An analytical framework rooted in rational choice theory and a detailed historical and comparative account of critical cases. Anti-Catholicism is the independent variable which affects party formation. It analyzes the origins of confessional parties in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and Italy and explains why such a party was not successful in France.



== Notes ==



Puzzle:  Why did confessional (i.e. Catholic-based) political parties arise in Western Europe during the late 1800s against the desires of the Catholic Church and “religion friendly” Conservative parties? Kalyvas asks what caused confessional parties to arise in some circumstances and not in others by focusing on the voluntary (i.e., not inevitable) process of party formation


– Christian Democratic parties are anomalous in a modern, secular age; not only do they represent a curious hybrid of secular and sectarian interests, but they can also embody electoral coalitions that transcend economic, regional, and even ethnic differences to maintain political power over long periods of time

– Both the church and conservatives opposed the political mobilization of lay Catholics, but confessional parties nevertheless emerged

– The Church and conservative elites joined forces to confront nineteenth century Liberal attacks on Catholicism

– Fuelling the long-term political separation of Catholics from non-Catholics and of conservative Catholics from more liberal-leaning ones, this unique political identity has become mobilized and institutionalized in Christian Democratic parties

– The Church, with its extensive network of literate and active clergy, brought a depth of organization to the conservative causes whereas the lay conservative leadership gave the Church something it was neither willing nor capable of achieving on its own – parliamentary representation through a political party

– Mass mobilization would break the unity of hierarchy and centralization and subvert hierarchy by allowing the lower clergy and lay Catholics to become independent of the episcopate

– The church feared the confessional party because it shifted the source of power of activists from the church to the voters

– Moreover, it diluted the hierarchical relation between church and activists and therefore threatened to reduce the influence of the church in society

– In France, however, the church never provided the proper environment for lay Catholics to build autonomous political organizations [therefore CD parties never emerged there]



Chapter 1:

– Mobilisation by Catholics was rejected by the Church, therefore, senior clergy were the only ones able to make direct deals with politicians

– By the 1860’s, state organisations were launching attacks against the Church

– The Church rejected overtures from political parties and waged an all out fight against them using their mass organisation skills [22]

– When the Church decided to participate, it did so based on the existing Conservative factions

– However, the Church was unable to fully participate because It would have to sacrifice some of its universalistic claims

– Outlines his model of party formation: the church will adopt an organisational strategy when its benefit outweighs that of compromise [see pages 26-28 for full details]

– However, cannot treat Church as a unitary actor because:

– National churches diverged from Vatican directives

– Bishops often disagreed with each other and emphasised different goals

– Lower clergy and lay Catholics often dissented

– Outcome: the Church and conservative parties will not find it attractive to form confessional parties



Chapter 2: Strategies & Outcomes

– Strategy of Conservative parties was to encourage the Church to participate exclusively with them

– The interacting strategies of the two main actors opposed to the formation of confessional parties paradoxically produced the unwanted outcome:

– First, the church took centralized control over the existing yet loosely organized associations of lay Catholics and thus created the Catholic social movement

– Second, provoked by increasing anticlericalism, the movement rapidly politicized, especially when the church decided to use its organizational capacity in support of those conservative politicians who agreed to defend the church’s interests

– Unintendedly produced two new actors: lay Catholic activists and politically active priests; as well as a new identity political Catholicism



Two forces unintentionally combined to produce political Catholicism:

  1. a) A self sustaining movement, which eventually imbued the lower clergy, the press, and the leaders of the new political party
  2. b) Its many ancillary organizations with mass-based authority

*In this way the parties were transformed from Catholic political parties to Christian Democratic ones




– The formation of confessional parties reinforced a distinctive Catholic political identity which not only reinterpreted Catholicism in much less doctrinal terms but also started to challenge the religious primacy of the church in political matters

– The choice of an ambiguous “Christian” identity resulted from the need to develop a source of legitimacy autonomous from the church, while simultaneously preserving the religious “glue” that bonded members of different economic classes together

– The electoral success of incipient confessional organizations provided lay leaders with a stake in expanding democratic governance, something both the church and conservatives tried to prevent



Critique: Arguing that the strategies of both sets of elites were defensive receptions to liberal anti-Catholicism, Kalyvas neglects to note the changing environment in which these elites restructured their objectives


Critique: The author does not explain why only the church and the conservatives are included in the model as actors with preferences and strategies and why the lower clergy and the lay Catholic activists are treated as merely by-products of the strategic actions of the main actors


Critique: Kalyvas implicitly overestimates the degree of religiosity in Europe prior to the 1800s and incorrectly  claims that Christian Democracy caused the secularization of society [261],as opposed to merely the desacralization of government