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Populisme en de ambivalentie van het egalitarisme

Hoe rijmen sociaal zwakkeren een rechtse partijvoorkeur met hun sociaal-economische attitudes?

Journal Res Publica, Issue 4 2005
Authors Anton Derks
AbstractAuthor's information

    The decline of traditional class voting is at the centre of the Class Politics debate. From the framework of traditional class analysis a labourer’s right wing vote appears ‘unnatural’. A right wing vote is thought to damage the interests of the economically precarious groups. This paper attempts to understand the phenomenon of so-called unnatural voting behaviour starting from the populism concept. From a theoretical literature study we analyse the relationship between populism and attitudes regarding the economic left-right cleavage. We argue that right-wing populism appeals to a cry for equality, yet at the same time mobilises this sentiment against the institutions of the welfare state. In that way populist right parties succeed in attuning their economic discourse to the socio-economic attitudes of broad layers of the population, including economically precarious categories. The empirical relevance of this hypothesis is tested on the case of Flanders.

Anton Derks
Postdoctoraal Onderzoeker FWO-Vlaanderen aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

    Our analysis indicates that it is correct to interpret non-participation and a vote for the Extreme Right as at least partly due to a legitimation crisis which seems to be the expression of a new alignment of values. This alignment describes a deep cultural cleavage that divides the higher from the less educated. People who hold pronounced positions on this alignment are more likely than others to turn away from the established, "traditional" parties. People with the values and attitudes typical of the "progressive" or "new left'' side of the cleavage, vote disproportionately for the Greens. People with the values and attitudes typical of the "conservative" or "new right" side of the cleavage, opt disproportionately for non-participation and for the Extreme Right. In the recent political debate in Flanders, both non-participation and the Extreme Right have been regarded as symptoms of a legitimation crisis, and ofpolitical protest. The difference between the two expressions of cultural opposition or political protest can be understood as a choice for either an "exit" or a "voice" option. People select the "exit" option when they feel especially politically powerless. The "voice"-option is chosen by people for which the value conflict over the position of"migrants" is the most salient issue. The long term causes of the symptoms of a legitimation crisis seem to be the growing economic and cultural gap between the higher and less educated, and the ensuing growth of a conflict in which cultural and social-economic differences are strongly linked.

Mark Elchardus

Anton Derks
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