The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe

Although dominant in West European politics for more than a century, Christian Democratic parties remain largely unexplored and little understood. An investigation of how political identities and parties form, this book looks at the origins of Christian Democratic-confessional-parties within the political context of Western Europe. Examining five countries where a successful confessional party emerged (Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and Italy) and one where it did not (France), Stathis Kalyvas addresses perplexing questions raised by the Christian Democratic phenomenon. How can we reconcile the religious roots of confessional parties with the secular and democratic character of Western Europe? How does the tremendous success and resilience of Catholic parties relate to West European politics, and to their religious origins? And why have these parties discarded their initial principles and objectives to become secular forces governing secular societies? The authors’ answers reveal the way in which social and political actors make decisions based on self-interest under conditions that constrain their choices and the information they rely on-often with with unintended but irrevocable consequences. As he explores the nature of contemporary Christian Democratic parties, Kalyvas also lays a foundation for a theory of the Christian Democratic phenomenon-a theory that would specify the conditions under which confessional parties succeed or fail and would determine the impact of such parties on politics and society. His work provides insights into how democratic context influences the politicization of religion and, conversely, how the politicization of religion affects democratic development.


J. David Greenstone Award, by the Politics and History section of the American Political Science Association for the best book published in 1996-97

Runner-up, George Luebbert Award, by the Comparative Politics section of the American Political Science Association or the best book in comparative politics published in 1996


Times Literary Supplement (TLS), May 9, 1997, 26

American Journal of Sociology, 1997, 103:2, 472-474

Choice, September 1997, 35:1, 35-0532

Revue Française de Science Politique, 1997, 47:5, 687

Perspectives on Political Science, 1997, 26:4, 232

German Politics & Society, 1997, 15:4, 119-122

Catholic Historical Review, 1998, 84:1, 141-142

American Political Science Review, 1998, 92:1, 249-250

Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 1998, 39:2, 435-436

Party Politics, 1998, 4:2, 267-269

Journal of Church and State, 1998, 40:4, 896-7

Modern and Contemporary France, 1998, 552

Fides et Historia, 1999, 30:1, 165-6

Contemporary European History, 1999, 8:1, 141-147

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