The rising invisible majority : Bringing society back into international political economy
Review of International Political Economy
GB : Routledge
welfare state, poverty, social composition, neoliberal economy
The paper develops the concept of a rising invisible majority and explores the interconnections between the political economy context and the changing composition of European society. The concept illustrates how the transition from the Fordist to the neoliberal phase of capitalism is leading to a similar – if differently paced – transformation of the social composition across Europe. The material basis of the ‘invisibility’ manifests itself in a structural increase of unemployment, labour market precarization, and poverty. ‘Invisibility’ makes growing segments of the population less likely to participate in the institutions that regulate social life, while mainstream parties and trade unions no longer represent them adequately in the public arena. We suggest this trend will continue, and eventually concern a majority of the population, unless the neoliberal mechanisms of regulation are slowed or reversed. Enriching Polanyi’s double movement logic, we hypothesise the existence of feedback effects from this transformation of the social composition to the political economy context that could lead to countermovements. Our reasoning is systematised in an analytical framework, complemented with a historical analysis of the Italian case, and a quantitative measurement of the magnitude of this transformation across 14 European countries.