Research Research
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Detailed Project Description

Across many advanced democracies – albeit to varying extents and in different forms – we observe a growing distance between the positions taken by political elites, and those of mass publics and electorates. This elite-mass divide has crystallized in a limited number of issue areas, which are often related to globalization, in its political, socio-cultural, and economic forms. It shows that the denationalization of markets, governance structures, and migration flows entails not only an aggregate growth in opportunities and wealth, but also a reconfiguration of power, wealth, and status between different groups of actors. Furthermore, conflicts surrounding this reconfiguration become manifest within national political systems as well as within supranational and international institutions.

Politically, the shift of authority from national to supranational decision-making forums, most visibly in the context of the European Union, has been pushed and endorsed strongly by elites, but has in recent years been confronted with increasing popular resistance, exemplified by the failed referendum on the European Constitution and the fierce social protests against Euro crisis and Refugee crisis governance. We have witnessed the emergence of populist parties in a number of EU member states. The most salient socio-cultural consequence of globalization and denationalization, increased immigration along with its resulting cultural heterogeneity, has also mostly enjoyed strong support of elites, but faces increased opposition from majorities of electorates, who demand restrictions on entry and cultural assimilation of immigrants. Finally, economic denationalization in the form of the deregulation of international markets has enjoyed widespread support among elites – including those on the left, e.g., "New Labour" – but has ran into increased opposition of movements against neoliberal globalization as well as parts of the traditional labor movement, who defend national welfare state arrangements and sometimes economic protectionism.

In the national political arena, these processes led to tensions in many countries reflected in the rise of populist movements and parties on the left and right. On the international level, international institutions are not any more seen as just functional agencies to foster coordination between governments, but increasingly as sites of political authority and arenas of political contestation.

Against this background, we ask: 1) To which extent do these different conflicts follow a similar logic and can be described as a “new political cleavage”? 2) Are the positions and preferences embedded in encompassing normative foundations, which may be labeled as cosmopolitanism and communitarianism? 3) To what extent does the appropriate handling of such conflicts require a significant change in the landscape of political institutions?