The Journal of Politics


The Political Economy of Attitudes toward Polity and Society in Western European Democracies

Harold D. Clarkea1, Nitish Dutta2 and Allan Kornberga3

a1 University of North Texas

a2 University of Alaska, Fairbanks

a3 Duke University


This article employs 1976–1986 Euro-Barometer data to investigate the political economy of public attitudes toward prevailing political and social arrangements in eight Western European countries. Pooled cross-sectional time series analyses reveal that the effects of economic conditions extend beyond their impact on governing party support to influence feelings of life and democracy satisfaction and demands for radical and reformist social change. Attitudes toward democracy and social change also respond to important political events such as the occurrence and outcomes of national elections. We conclude by arguing that the political economy of attitudes toward polity and society in contemporary Western democracies is real, but limited by widely shared beliefs that have become key elements in the political cultures of these countries.

Bourgeois society has been cast in a purely economic mold; its foundations, beams, and beacons are all made of economic material.

Joseph Schumpeter 1942, 73

Since the late 1960s, rational choice models based on economic variables have become the dominant mode of analysis, while cultural factors have been deemphasized to an unrealistic degree.

Ronald Inglehart 1990, 16

(Accepted January 22 1992)

(Received November 19 1992)

Harold D. Clarke is professor of political science, University of North Texas, Demon, Texas 76203-5338.

Nitish Dutt is assistant professor of political science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99701.

Allan Kornberg is professor of political science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27706.