Two contemporary trends make this workshop particularly timely: (1) divergent political cleavages between the elites and masses and (2) the increasing influence of non-socio-economic cleavages in party politics.
These trends seem to be prevalent in new democracies. For instance, the East Asian party politics literature has suggested that major politicised cleavages in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have revolved around nationalism and foreign policy issues rather than social-distribution problems (McAllister, 2007; McElwain, 2014; Jun and Hix, 2010). Foreign policy/nationalism divisions have been particularly salient among the political elite. However, their relevance to the mass public has faded in comparison to recent socio-economic needs, which have been driven by precarious employment, an ageing society, and declining fertility rates. Old democracies are not immune to the growing divergence between the elites and masses. Two cases in point are the United Kingdom’s referendum result on European Union membership, and Republican candidate Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. In the former case, despite the “Brexit” result, pre-referendum surveys showed that more than 80 per cent of Westminster legislators were in favour of remaining in the European Union. In the latter case, although Washington and state elites overwhelmingly disapproved of Donald Trump, he won the election by securing 46.2 per cent of the votes.
Against this background, the primary scope of the workshop is democracies (both new and old) experiencing elite–mass cleavages. It aims to answer the following series of questions:
i) Why are we observing mass–elite cleavages in some democracies?
ii) What are the impacts of these cleavages?
iii) What are the ideal ways to conceptualise and measure mass and elite-level cleavages over time?
Bringing together both junior and senior scholars, the workshop will adopt a strong comparative outlook, examining party politics beyond developed Anglo-European countries – for example, in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast and Northeast Asia. The works contributed will be either theoretical or empirical – or a combination thereof – and will address three specific groups of questions. Given that research on political cleavages has been an underexplored area in many new democracies, this workshop serves as a golden opportunity to maximise the full potential of GIGA’s four regional centres: the Institute for African Affairs, the Institute for Asian Studies, the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, and the Institute for Latin American Studies.