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Christian Democracy

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


A form of political catholicism that emerged strongly in much of western Europe after World War II. Drawing inspiration from the earlier modernizing efforts of Pope leo xiii (e.g. in Rerum Novarum , 1891), it combined vigorous opposition to communism with a willingness to reduce the inequities associated with unfettered capitalism . Thus Christian Democracy accepted some enlargement of state authority so as to implement appropriate measures of secular welfarism , and attempted to regenerate the kind of centrism or moderate conservatism that had so severely waned amid the growing political extremism of the 1920s and 1930. Appealing to a core constituency of middle-class voters, Christian Democrats sometimes formed single-party administrations, yet also promoted their objectives through coalition. Although often driven to collaborate with socialist moderates, they themselves maintained a general preference for the less governmentally constrained economics of “the social market.” Operating along such lines, Christian Democracy played a prominent role in the post-1945 development of Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands – and not least in entrenching representative government within the new Federal Republic of Germany. The transnational spirit of the movement also strongly influenced the early progress of european integration . Particularly notable ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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