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Open Access Democratic dissatisfaction in Southern Europe: the political consequences of the crisis - ESRC

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This project wants to contribute to a better understanding of the political consequences of the crisis in Southern Europe and is motivated by the unprecedented decrease in levels of satisfaction with democracy. The main hypothesis of this project is that Southern European countries are undergoing a crisis of legitimation. Citizens' democratic dissatisfaction is the consequence of a responsiveness gap: that is, citizens' perception that governments are not responding to their demands anymore. The project will study how this crisis of representation and legitimation is taking place and its consequences. More specifically, the project answers to three main questions: 1. What explains democratic dissatisfaction in Southern Europe? This part of the project will test the core argument: the crisis of legitimation stems from national governments not being responsive to citizens' mandate given the institutional constraints of euro membership. One of the key principles of democratic systems is to provide an alternative to voters if they believe that the government has not performed well enough. The argument put forward here is that the crisis has undermined this essential function of voting in Southern Europe: elections are not able to generate governments in which political parties become a real alternative to each other. 2. What is the impact of democratic dissatisfaction on attitudes towards national democracy? The project will argue that the increase in democratic dissatisfaction and the breakup of the representation link has a strong impact on attitudes in several dimensions of national-level politics: 1) austerity policies have an impact in the expectations that citizens have from a democratic system and make citizens depart from a liberal and minimal view on democracy to conceive democracies more as a result, placing more weight on the social rights of citizens 2) the project will also test whether the crisis of legitimation increases the demand for institutions of direct democracy; 3) the project will account for whether, as a result of this representation breakup, some citizens have become less engaged with politics and others have become more mobilised. In doing this, differences between the countries of analysis will also be explored. 3. How does democratic dissatisfaction shape attitudes towards the European Union and the euro in Southern Europe? The project will assess the implications of the crisis in terms of the support and views about the European Union project and also the conditions under which citizens of Southern Europe would support a breakup of the Eurozone. This last stream of the project will fill two main gaps in the discipline: to provide an updated account of citizens' motivations to support the euro and open a new avenue of research on the support for debt repayment and the conditions of bailout agreements.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

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