Politics and Society in Western Europe is a comprehensive introduction for students of West European politics and of comparative politics. This new edition has been extensively revised and updated to meet with the new needs of undergraduate students as they come to terms with a changing social and political landscape in Europe.
This textbook provides a full analysis of the political systems of 18 Western European countries, their political parties, elections, and party systems, as well as the structures of government at local, regional, national and European Union levels.
Throughout the book, key theoretical ideas are accessibly introduced and examined against the very latest empirical data on civil society and the state.
Chapter 2: Cleavages
In Tocqueville's interpretation of civil society, or the private sector in the twentieth-century conception, when people live above a certain threshold of affluence they naturally start engaging in collective action. Groups form free associations, which connect men and women. Without collective action, the emphasis on formal equality in a democratic society would lead to anomie or alienation. Tocqueville underlined the importance of free associations to democracy more than any other of the classical theorists, stating:
Among the laws that rule human societies there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions ...