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Has there been a 'silent revolution' in Europe's advanced industrial democracies?

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Introduction

Has there been a 'silent revolution' in Europe's advanced industrial democracies? In 1971 Ronald Inglehart identified a significant changing of social and political values in West European Countries. He signalled that 'A transformation may be taking place in the political cultures of advanced industrial societies' (Inglehart, 1971, p.991). This essay will analyse in what way these changes have taken place and how true Inglehart's theory is, with reference to some of Europe's advanced industrial democracies. Class divide within West European countries has in the past been a significant factor when individual voters have chose who to vote for, 'patterns of electoral alignment were overwhelmingly structured by the class cleavage' (Webb and Fisher, 1999, page 9), with working class votes generally going to leftist parties whereas bourgeoisie and upper class voters mostly opted for political parties who were more Conservative and defended capitalism. However the class system within post industrial West European countries has changed significantly, 'Western democracies are no longer shaped by class politics' (Kitschelt, 1995, p.124). Instead political parties have become more vague in their beliefs in order to attract all sections of the electorate. ...read more.

Middle

Party 1945 1949 1953 1956 1959 1962 1966 1970 1971 1975 1979 1983 1986 1990 1994 1995 SPO (vote) 44.6 38.7 42.1 43 44.8 44 42.6 48.4 50 50.4 51 47.6 43.1 42.8 34.9 38.1 (seats) 76 67 73 74 78 76 74 78 93 93 95 90 80 80 65 71 OVP (vote) 49.8 44 41.3 46 44.2 45.4 48.3 44.7 43.1 42.9 41.9 43.2 41.3 32.1 27.7 28.3 (seats) 85 77 74 82 79 81 85 81 80 80 77 81 77 60 52 53 FPO (vote) 11.7 10.9 6.5 7.7 7 5.4 5.5 5.5 5.4 6.1 5 9.7 16.6 22.5 21.9 (seats) 16 14 6 8 8 6 6 10 10 11 12 18 33 42 40 Green(vote) 4.8 4.8 7.3 4.8 (seats) 8 10 13 9 LiF (vote) 6 5.5 (seats) 11 10 Others(vote) 5.6 5.6 5.7 4.5 3.3 3.5 3.7 1.4 1.4 1.2 1 4.1 1 3.7 1.6 1.4 (seats) 4 5 4 3 Turnout 96.8 96.8 95.8 96 94.2 93.8 93.8 91.8 92.4 92.9 92.2 92.6 90.5 86.1 81.9 86 Table 1 - Austrian National Election Results, 1945-95: votes and seats (Luther, 1999, page 127) ...read more.

Conclusion

Like mentioned above this integration of the world markets has created an expansion of MNC's moving into Europe and created a post-materialist movement which is against them, (Inglehart, 1977) these people are concerned with 'protecting free speech and giving citizens more say in government' (Kitschelt, 1994, p.124). However there is also a materialism which has taken hold of society with people more concerned with well being, measured by personal wealth which is encouraged and partly created by these MNC's. The increasing integration between the West European states signals the social change and growth of massive corporations that has happened there, there is less nationalism within states and citizens are willing to allow foreign influences if their way of life is improved. To conclude 'it seems at least plausible that inter-generational change is taking place in the value priorities of West European populations - and that this change may have a significant long term impact on their behaviour' (Inglehart, 1971, p.1017). Change in social values has dramatically changed in the latter half of the century, with class continuously declining in importance and new social movements like the feminist or post-materialist one. Technology has undergone a revolution in its own right and Europe has certainly seen a shift in values with bias towards EU integration. ...read more.

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