Geoffrey Evans (ed.) The End of Class Politics? (1999)

Main Argument: The thesis of a generalized decline in the class basis of voting in advanced industrial societies is, quite simply, wrong [4]. The book calls into question the wide-spread assumption that there is a uniform weakening in the relationship between class and partisanship across advanced industrial societies. In challenging this view, a major part of the book analyzes patterns of voting behaviour over time. The outcome points to cross-national variations rather than a secular trend in the decline in class voting.

 

Method: broad comparison of class voting in twenty countries during the postwar period and in-depth studies of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Russia.

 

 

== Notes ==

 

All contributors employ some version of Goldthorpes schema to measure\” class\” and use log linear analysis to test the \”decline of class\” thesis

 

Indexes: The Alford and Thomsen indexes, constructed as dichotomies of class (manual-non manual) and party (Left-Right) (chaps.2 , 5, 7, and 10), are complemented by a more detailed and theoretically informed class schema developed by John Goldthorpe and Robert Erikson (most chapters), indices of relative class voting based on odds ratios (most chapters), log multiplicative or associational models (chaps. 5 and 11), typological models (chap. 3), and more precise party classifications (chaps. 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10)

 

Central Theme:

– Class was once a central social science concept. In electoral studies, it was held to underlie voting choice: working-class voters voted predominantly for the party or parties of the left, while middle-class voters tended to vote for party(ies) of the right

– But the class model was in retreat for much of the last quarter of the twentieth century

– Evans’c rtique of most conventional analyses of calss voting: They are based on inadequate conceptualizations of class (usually depending on a crude manual/nonmanual divide) and party (simplifying often complex party divides down to two blocs: ‘left’ and ‘right’), and on inappropriate analytical techniques

– A better understanding can be achieved, he claims, by adopting a more sophisticated class schema (based on the work of John Goldthorpe), by modelling multiparty competitions and by utilizing log-linear modelling techniques

 

Chapters In General:

– Almost all find strong evidence to suggest that class dealignment is not as pervasive or as  inevitable as the orthodoxy would suggest

– These chapters are largely in response to Nieuwbeerta and De Grafs comparative analysis of what they call \”traditional class voting\” in 20 postwar societies

– Their conclusion: a general decline in class voting

– Evans and several other contributors disagree

– Some objections are technical for example, because of missing data points for many cases, the statistical significance of apparent trends is questionable

– More fundamentally, the \”internal\” critique is that the left-right dichotomy misrepresents the complexity of contemporary multiparty systems and thus the complexity of the connections between class and politics

 

Cases:

– Case studies that follow-eight Western democracies, two postcommunist nations – allow this complexity to emerge

– Scandinavian chapters (by Ringdal and Hines, and Svallfors), which do find more consistent evidence of dealignment over time, do not show the end of class voting in those countries, instead, the evidence there points to a decline from exceptionally high levels of class voting to levels more consistent with those found in other European countries

– Norway and Sweden are the only two cases of unambiguous decline in class voting

– Muller provides evidence of important constancy in Germany, even as some factions of the service class (Goldthorpes top class) express distinctive preferences for parties of the \”new politics\”

– In the United States, two separate analyses (Hout, Manza, and Brooks; Weakleim and Heath) establish a decline in \”traditional class alignments, though some realignment is apparent most significantly the new inclination of many professionals to support Democrats

– By one summary measure of class voting, the dealignments and realignments in the United States balance each other hence, no decline

– In still another pattern, traditional class voting first increased then declined in Britain, but American-style realignment is more muted (Goldthorpe; Weakleim and Heath)

– Studies of the Czech and Russia show that the issue in these new democracies with highly unsettled economies is whether class will emerge as a political force

– Most of the studies lay to rest the thesis of a generalized decline in class voting ushered in by the common force of industrialism  or postindustrialism

 

Critique: The analyses focuses on class voting (i.e., Do particular classes express distinctive party preferences, no matter what the content of a partys commitment?) not on class politics (i e., persistent partisan commitments rooted in class-based concerns

 

Critique: The analyses include relatively few in-dependent variables, and in some instances only class position. As a result, they are ill equipped to offer explanations. Furthermore, the type of explanation tested is generally limited to social structural factors; political explanations-such as party ideological orientations, strategies, patterns of party competition, and differing institutional arrangements-are seldom part of the research design. In many cases the authors can only speculate about the determinants of the patterns they describe and propose an agenda for future research.