This is well worth checking out. This is one of the best descriptions of the condition of Western politics that I have seen to date. Present political conflict is not about class (or race or gender), although such conflicts exist in a way that is subordinated to the conflict between traditional elites (merchants and military) and counter-elites (the “ideas industries”). And this traditional elite/counter-elite conflict is representative of the quasi-religious existential conflict that is taking place between rival tribal/sectarian groups in the wider society.
In this paper, Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano and Thomas Piketty provide new evidence on the long-run evolution of political cleavages in 21 Western democracies by exploiting a new database on the vote by socioeconomic characteristic covering over 300 elections held between 1948 and 2020. In the 1950s-1960s, the vote for democratic, labor, social democratic, socialist, and affiliated parties was associated with lower-educated and low-income voters. It has gradually become associated with higher-educated voters, giving rise to “multi-elite party systems” in the 2000s-2010s: high-education elites now vote for the “left”, while high-income elites continue to vote for the “right”. Combining their database with historical data on political parties’ programs, the authors provide evidence that the reversal of the educational cleavage is strongly linked to the emergence of a new “sociocultural” axis of political conflict.
- In the 1950s-1960s, Western party systems were “class-based”, in the sense that low-income and lower-educated voters were significantly more likely to vote for social democratic and affiliated parties, while high-income and higher-educated voters were more likely to vote for conservative and affiliated parties.
- These party systems have gradually become “multi-elite party systems”, in which high-education elites now vote for the “left”, while high-income elites continue to vote for the “right”.
- This transition has been accelerated by the rise of green and anti-immigration movements, whose key distinctive feature is to concentrate the votes of the higher-educated and lower-educated electorate, respectively.
- The reversal of the educational cleavage is strongly linked to the rising salience of a new “sociocultural” dimension of political conflict: between the 1950s and today, parties emphasizing socially “liberal” issues have concentrated a growing share of the higher-educated electorate, while those emphasizing “conservative” issues have seen their electorate become more concentrated among lower-educated voters.
- The paper also discusses the evolution of other political cleavages related to age, geography, religion, gender, and the integration of new ethnoreligious minorities.