ABSTRACT

Introduction The rise of the New Left in the 1980s and the radical right in the 1990s has been widely interpreted as the demise of class politics. Contrary to the established parties, these new movements were seen as no longer relying on particular social groups, but as attracting a broad range of citizens on the basis of their values and attitudes (e.g., Dalton 1996: 332). Taking up the issues of New Politics, these new parties exploit a conflict based on cultural values, which-unlike the material interests drawing the older political divides-were seen to be no longer rooted in different social positions. Likewise, the concept of cleavage-central to the understanding of Old Politics-no longer appeared to make sense with respect to these merely value-based parties. This chapter fundamentally disagrees with this interpretation and argues that the New Left and the radical right form the opposite poles of a full-grown cleavage in Bartolini and Mair’s (1990) sense. This means that their voters combinealongside shared values and a common organization-a structural element, namely a common position within the employment structure. The constituencies of the New Left and the radical right thus not only disagree over issues of identity and community but they also feature very different socio-demographic profiles. This implies that voters’ values are no more distributed randomly across the electorate in New Politics than they were in earlier times, but still remain firmly anchored in the social structure. What has changed is that the rise of the New Left and-a decade later-the radical right triggered a process of electoral realignment where old ties between groups and parties became loose and were replaced by new ties. With respect to the New Left and the radical right, this means that their voters do not only take opposite stances over cultural issues, they also present the mirror image of each other in terms of class and education. The highly educated professionals and semi-professionals in health care, teaching, social welfare and the media disproportionately vote for the New Left, whereas the radical right receives disproportionate support from production workers, artisans and small business owners who rarely hold degrees beyond upper-secondary schooling.