World Politics

Research Article

Left-Libertarian Parties: Explaining Innovation in Competitive Party Systems

Herbert P. Kitschelta1*

a1 Duke University


Since the 1960s, new left-socialist or ecology parties have appeared in approximately half of the advanced Western democracies. These parties have a common set of egalitarian and libertarian tenets and appeal to younger, educated voters. The author uses macropolitical and economic data to explain the electoral success of these left-libertarian parties. While high levels of economic development are favorable preconditions for their emergence, they are best explained in terms of domestic political opportunity structures. There is little evidence that these parties are a reaction to economic and social crises in advanced democracies. The findings suggest that the rise of left-libertarian parties is the result of a new cleavage mobilized in democratic party systems rather than of transient protest.

Herbert P. Kitschelt is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. Among his published works are two books comparing energy policies in Western Europe and the United States: Kernenergiepolitik (1980) and Politik und Energie (1983). He has recently completed a book manuscript entitled The Logic of Party Formation: Structure and Strategy of the Belgian and the West Germany Ecology Parties.

* An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, August 28–31, 1986. For helpful comments on the first draft I would like to thank Robert Bates, Staf Hellemans, Peter Katzenstein, Peter Lange, Peter Merkl, and George Tsebelis.