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Book

Cover Foundations of European Politics

Catherine E. De Vries, Sara B. Hobolt, Sven-Oliver Proksch, and Jonathan B. Slapin

Foundations of European Politics introduces important tools of social science and comparative analysis. The first part of the book acts as an introduction to the topic, looking at democratic politics and multilevel politics in Europe. The second part moves on to citizens and voters, considering issues related to ideology and voting decisions. Part III looks at elections and introduces electoral systems and direct democracy, representation, political parties, and party competition. The next part is about government and policy. The last part looks at the rule of law, democracy, and backsliding.

Chapter

Cover Foundations of European Politics

1. Introduction  

The Introduction argues that to understand European politics there are two premises that need to be accepted. Firstly, the interplay between European and national-level politics must be taken seriously. The two cannot be studied independently. Secondly, a theoretical model of politics is necessary to help us to make assumptions about politics explicit and to ensure that the arguments used are logically consistent. Models help us to zoom in on a particular aspect of politics and apply our analysis to real-life examples. It also helps us to spot the similarities and differences across political systems and governments so we can make comparisons. The Introduction answers the question: why focus on Europe? One of the most obvious reasons is that Europe is the home to the largest number and variety of democratic governments anywhere in the world.

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

4. Ideology and Issues  

This chapter looks at the changing nature of ideology in Europe. It also delves into the issue of voter preference and considers how that has changed over time. It is all too often assumed that voters, as well as parties, exist along a single ideological left-to-right continuum. However, the truth is that there more deviations from this continuum than we might have in the past assumed. With the emergence of new salient issues, such as immigration, the environment and European integration, the old assumptions no longer hold true. The chapter also looks at populism, which it defines as a thin-central ideology. The final questions of this chapter are: how has populism challenged our current model of democracy? What does the future hold in this regard?

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

13. Rule of Law and Judicial Politics  

This chapter examines the importance of law and the rule of law by looking at real-life situations through the lens of theoretical models that consider why people obey the law and how judges interpret the law. The chapter considers when and why citizens and elected officials follow the law. It then moves to the conditions under which this obedience of laws falls. It also explores the importance of courts and judges in interpreting the law, and analyses the interaction of politics and law as a way to try to understand how judges come to their decisions. In particular, it looks at the interaction between national and European Union (EU) law.

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

14. European Politics into the Future  

This chapter explores recent changes in European politics and looks to the future for European democracy as it stands now. The chapter explores the ongoing political change that can be seen within European countries and also at the European Union (EU) level. It aims to highlight four important debates about the state of democracy in Europe. These are: the debates about the rise of political fragmentation and its consequences for democracy; democratic backsliding in central and eastern Europe; the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the EU on democracy; and the democratic deficit in EU politics.

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

2. Democratic Politics  

This chapter introduces the proposed theoretical toolbox this book intends to use for the studying of democracy in Europe. The idea is that the analytical concepts created by this toolbox will prove useful for understanding the various aspects of democratic politics seen throughout Europe. The fundamental philosophy of this book is the idea that to understand democratic governance, in particular in Europe, there needs to be a model. The goal isn’t to include every single possible detail of what is observed in the real world. Rather, it is to consider the essential elements for understanding democratic politics and to use those to highlight the various nuances found in the real world. A model is a comparative and analytical tool, rather than a method of example.

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

3. Multilevel Politics in Europe  

Thsi chapter considers territory in European politics. The idea is that policy-making in Europe acts like a system of multilevel governance. Here, policy authority which exists at the national level, is increasingly being shared with institutions at the supranational European Union (EU) level and by regional governments at the subnational level. The chapter also looks at concepts such as pooling, delegation of policy authority, federalism, and decentralization. Although we tend to think of nation-states as the building blocks of modern politics, more and more, this chapter agues, we must consider how these so-called building blocks interact with each other and also what they themselves are made up of. This is where the term multilevel governance is relevant. This term characterizes the complex relationship of policy authority between political actors situated at different territorial levels of governance.

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Cover Foundations of European Politics

6. Electoral Systems and Direct Democracy  

This chapter starts off with an overview of the institutions that decide how citizens cast ballots, firstly, in elections, and secondly, directly for policy. The former is related to electoral systems and the latter to direct democracy. The chapter considers the implications of these institutions for party systems and political representation from the view point of the principal–agent framework. There is a large variety of electoral systems used in Europe. Most elections are held using the system of proportional representation. However, there are important institutional differences that need to be remembered. The chapter then goes on to examine the effects of electoral systems on the party system. This is carried out with electoral change over time in mind. Finally, the chapter turns to direct democracy and analyses the use of referendums, specifically with regard to the question of the European Union (EU).