Mainstream Parties in Crisis: The Cost of Convergence

Issue Date January 2021
Volume 32
Issue 1
Page Numbers 22-36
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Much recent discussion about democratic dysfunction has focused on polarization. In Europe, however, it is not so much polarization and partisanship that have led to democratic decay and the rise of populism, but rather party convergence and diminishing partisanship. The clearest and most consequential example of this dynamic occurred in Germany, where the main center-left and center-right parties moved to the center. This article argues that polarization over economic issues is less problematic than polarization over culture, and that convergence can also threaten democracy if parties move away from voter preferences and a “representation gap” emerges, creating a context in which extremist parties can thrive.

About the Authors

Sheri Berman

Sheri Berman is professor of political science at Barnard College. Her works include Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day (2019) and The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century (2006).

View all work by Sheri Berman

Hans Kundnani

Hans Kundnani is senior research fellow in the Europe Programme at Chatham House.

View all work by Hans Kundnani