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Christian Democracy

  Originating in reaction to the 19th-century separation of church and state in Europe and Latin America, Christian democracy became an important political alignment in Europe only after World War II. As its name suggests it seeks to reconcile Christian values to liberal democracy, especially but not exclusively Catholic values. In practice Christian democracy has been an essentially centrist political movement, splitting the difference between the twin ‘evils’ of socialist collectivism and liberal individualism. The excesses of fascism and communism, and the outmoded nature of monarchical conservatism created a vacuum in western European politics which Christian Democratic parties were able to fill. They combined conservative, social welfare policies based on Christian family values in sexual, educational and cultural matters, with a progressive social welfare role for the state in health care, housing and industrial policy. Unlike economic liberals Christian democrats have been willing to work with trade unions in corporatist policy-making. The Christian Democratic parties have also historically been the most supportive of European integration.

The fortunes of Christian Democratic parties in Western Europe since World War II have followed a cyclical pattern broadly related to swings in class politics. In the immediate postwar years, Christian Democratic parties were dominant in Italy, West Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and France. From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s their position was challenged by the re-emergence of modernized and moderated socialist parties across Western Europe. This trend was reversed towards the late 1970s as European politics shifted back towards the right. Since the early 1980s Christian Democratic parties have been the leading parties in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and briefly in Ireland. However, as a bloc within the European Parliament the Christian Democrats (represented by the European People\'s Party) came second to the Socialists in the 1984 and 1989 European elections. The traditional strength of the Christian Democrats in Germany and Italy shows signs of fraying at the edges, threatened by economic crises, corruption, facilitated by their own long-term hegemony, and the collapse of communism. Nevertheless, Christian Democracy is likely to remain at the centre of Western European politics. BO\'L

See also conservatism.Further reading R. Irving, The Christian Democratic Parties of Western Europe.



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