On March 8 2017, Dr. Adis Merdzanovic and Dr. Othon Anastasakis presented two separate papers and shared the findings of their recent research in a SEESOX seminar, chaired by Nancy Bermeo.
In his presentation, Dr. Merdzanovic, who is a junior research fellow at SEESOX, first provided definitions to the key concepts of the seminar. The first concept he explained was “party politics,” which he argued was linked with the concept of “cleavages.” Merdzanovic agreed with assessments that the four ruptures that Lipset and Rokkan in their seminal piece (1967) stressed, has been reduced to two dimensions in most European countries, as argued by Kriesi et al. (2006). The two cleavages that seem to matter the most are the economic and cultural, with the latter’s exact content being contested and spreading from materialist versus post-materialist values to the cosmopolitan versus communitarian values. The second and third concepts Merdzanovic explained were “ideology” and “illiberalism”. He argued that illiberalism was not an ideology, but a mode of political rule which negated liberal values through rhetoric and took action against liberal rules and practices, targeting institutions.
Moving on to his case studies and the region of SEE, Merdzanovic argued that in South East Europe (SEE) recent research conducted by Szöcsik and Zuber (2014) demonstrates that economic issues are not salient within the party systems, meaning that the parties do not differ much on this dimension. What matters more is cultural polarization along two dimensions: (1) the libertarian/post-materialist versus traditional and authoritarian, and (2) ethnonationalism, in other words, the majority versus minority nationalisms. These two dimensions, however, are highly correlated, suggesting that any types of concerns get channeled through political culture.