Research Topic

The Left Behind: Crisis and Challenges of the Left in Contemporary Democracies

About this Research Topic

Left-wing parties have been in decline almost everywhere in the western world in the last decade. Although the ebbs and tide of the electoral fortunes of left-wing parties have often been at the center of the stage in the academic debate, it seems now that the left is facing a deep and structural crisis. The debate has thus revamped, spurring a renewed interest of political scientists who have been addressing the issue from a wide variety of viewpoints. Some scholars focused on demand-side explanations of the decline of the Left, pointing out how socio-economic transformations induced by de-industrialization and globalization have redefined both traditional social structures and voters’ identities in modern societies. Others have paid greater attention to the mutating strategies of political parties and their shifting from class-appealing positions towards issue positions which cross-cut the traditional class structure. Others instead have addressed the problem from the perspective of cleavage politics, insisting on the emergence of new societal and political cleavages displacing the traditional ones and redefining the space of political competition. Although these perspectives offer rich insights into the dynamics of the Left’s decline, they rarely communicate with one another.

The goal of this Research Topic is twofold. First, it seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the current crisis of social democracy and left parties. The proposal aims at investigating such alleged crises from different viewpoints, from social bases to organizational structures, from programmatic positions to electoral and governmental returns, up to its achievements in terms of policy outcomes. Second, the current proposal has the purpose to explain the reasons behind the crisis of the left focusing on the various aspects mentioned above and tracing new avenues of research that may contribute to delineate the future perspectives of the left in the XXI century.

This Collection of Articles seeks to foster the academic debate on the electoral crisis of the Left, providing an intellectually stimulating environment to reflect extensively on its causes and political implications. The proposal thus encourages original contributions focusing on the following (non-exclusive) list of topics related to the crisis and challenges of the Left in the XXI century:

1) The electoral fortunes of left-wing parties

2) The (demised or still resilient?) link between left-wing parties and class cleavage roots

3) The restructuring of the political space along new dimensions of competition and its implications for the Left

4) The transformation of the electoral base of left-wing parties

5) The ideological and programmatic positions of left-wing parties

6) Values and attitudes of left-wing voters

7) The transformation of left-wing parties’ organizational models beyond the mass party model

8) The decline of trade unions and collateral organizations

9) The legislative behavior of left-wing parties

10) The policy outcomes of the left in government

The Research Topic encourages papers addressing the challenges of the Left from a variety of scientific perspectives and employing different methodological tools, ranging from synchronic to diachronic perspectives, from small-N analyses to large-N studies dealing with aggregate or individual-level quantitative data.


Keywords: left parties, class cleavage, social democracy, class voting, trade unions, Western Europe


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Left-wing parties have been in decline almost everywhere in the western world in the last decade. Although the ebbs and tide of the electoral fortunes of left-wing parties have often been at the center of the stage in the academic debate, it seems now that the left is facing a deep and structural crisis. The debate has thus revamped, spurring a renewed interest of political scientists who have been addressing the issue from a wide variety of viewpoints. Some scholars focused on demand-side explanations of the decline of the Left, pointing out how socio-economic transformations induced by de-industrialization and globalization have redefined both traditional social structures and voters’ identities in modern societies. Others have paid greater attention to the mutating strategies of political parties and their shifting from class-appealing positions towards issue positions which cross-cut the traditional class structure. Others instead have addressed the problem from the perspective of cleavage politics, insisting on the emergence of new societal and political cleavages displacing the traditional ones and redefining the space of political competition. Although these perspectives offer rich insights into the dynamics of the Left’s decline, they rarely communicate with one another.

The goal of this Research Topic is twofold. First, it seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the current crisis of social democracy and left parties. The proposal aims at investigating such alleged crises from different viewpoints, from social bases to organizational structures, from programmatic positions to electoral and governmental returns, up to its achievements in terms of policy outcomes. Second, the current proposal has the purpose to explain the reasons behind the crisis of the left focusing on the various aspects mentioned above and tracing new avenues of research that may contribute to delineate the future perspectives of the left in the XXI century.

This Collection of Articles seeks to foster the academic debate on the electoral crisis of the Left, providing an intellectually stimulating environment to reflect extensively on its causes and political implications. The proposal thus encourages original contributions focusing on the following (non-exclusive) list of topics related to the crisis and challenges of the Left in the XXI century:

1) The electoral fortunes of left-wing parties

2) The (demised or still resilient?) link between left-wing parties and class cleavage roots

3) The restructuring of the political space along new dimensions of competition and its implications for the Left

4) The transformation of the electoral base of left-wing parties

5) The ideological and programmatic positions of left-wing parties

6) Values and attitudes of left-wing voters

7) The transformation of left-wing parties’ organizational models beyond the mass party model

8) The decline of trade unions and collateral organizations

9) The legislative behavior of left-wing parties

10) The policy outcomes of the left in government

The Research Topic encourages papers addressing the challenges of the Left from a variety of scientific perspectives and employing different methodological tools, ranging from synchronic to diachronic perspectives, from small-N analyses to large-N studies dealing with aggregate or individual-level quantitative data.


Keywords: left parties, class cleavage, social democracy, class voting, trade unions, Western Europe


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

12 September 2021 Abstract
10 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

12 September 2021 Abstract
10 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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