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The Blackwell companion to social movements, , Comparative perspectives on social movements, , European journal of political research 22 2 , , American Journal of Sociology 94 5 , , European journal of political research 33 2 , , Articles 1—20 Show more.

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Help Privacy Terms. Framing processes, ideology, and discursive fields DA Snow The Blackwell companion to social movements 1, , Social movements in a globalizing world: an introduction D Della Porta, H Kriesi Social movements in a globalizing world, , Political context and opportunity H Kriesi The Blackwell companion to social movements, , The political opportunity structure of new social movements: Its impact on their mobilization C Jenkins The politics of social protest, , The organizational structure of new social movements in a political context H Kriesi Comparative perspectives on social movements, , New social movements and the new class in the Netherlands H Kriesi American Journal of Sociology 94 5 , , After the fall of France in , the tiny democracy was surrounded on all sides by the Axis powers.

Although the granting of asylum to refugees was limited because of German pressure, and several senior political officials made controversial suggestions that Switzerland should accede peacefully to German demands, the Swiss ultimately refused to cave in. The nation came together behind the policy of Widerstand resistance and the strategy of the alpine redoubt. Strangely, the plan would have conceded 90 percent of Switzerland's population and two-thirds of its territory to the invaders. The key was that, if attacked, the army would remain steadfastly committed to blocking the vital mountain passes linking Germany and Italy, ready to destroy them in the end if necessary.

The war years eventually discredited the political extremists in Switzerland, and the surge of patriotism mitigated the expression of the various social cleavages. A powerful unifying sentiment was created which permeated the political environment well into the s. An influx of foreign workers, virtually all of whom were denied political rights under Switzerland's stringent naturalization requirements, made the boom possible.

Huge Swiss multinational corporations arose in various industries, particularly in chemicals, machine-building, and food products.

The Swiss Experience

Today, most carry out the bulk of their production abroad. Meanwhile, the Swiss financial sector expanded to colossal proportions, generating much of its income by investing foreign funds beyond Swiss borders on behalf of its clients. By , revenue earned abroad accounted for 44 percent of net social product in Switzerland. This prosperity affected the operation of direct democracy. In the s, a number of controversial laws were passed without having to face the test of a referendum. For example, a act made collective agreements between management and labor binding on both parties.

An expensive national highway program in went unchallenged, as did many extensions of the old-age pensions scheme. Once-frugal Swiss governments began to spend enormous sums of money improving public facilities. Total spending by all three levels of Swiss government tripled in real terms between and the mids.

Arguably, these outlays would have met much greater resistance had the government attempted to introduce them during the recession of the late s. In , the development of consensual government culminated in the 'magic formula', by which all four major parties were represented on the Federal Council in a ratio. The Social Democrats, after six years' voluntary withdrawal, returned to the Council with two seats. The other parties were undoubtedly anxious to bring the SPS back on board after its referendum campaign in opposition to a tax hike which was seen as insufficiently progressive.

The finance measure succeeded narrowly, with only This informal distribution of seats has continued unchanged to the present day. In , the four governing parties represented 85 percent of the electorate. For the next three decades, roughly 80 percent of Swiss voters were continuously represented by their party on the national executive.

In the governing parties' share of the vote dropped to This shift has primarily been due to the rise of small, issue-oriented parties since the early s, described in detail in Chapters Four and Five. In addition to proportionality according to party, seats on the Federal Council are informally distributed according to language.

There are usually four German speakers, two French speakers, and one Italian speaker. After the narrow adoption of a popular initiative in ruling out certain wartime restrictions on referendums, the initiative in Switzerland entered a long dry spell.

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In the next 33 years, no less than 40 initiatives were rejected by the Swiss electorate. The next successful initiative did not occur until , when In , an attempt had been made to introduce the federal legislative initiative device. The effort failed badly, winning only Kenneth Libbey argues that this remarkable string of initiative failures was largely a popular reflex against the expansion of government activity. However, this explanation must be viewed skeptically, for the unchallenged growth of the Swiss government in the s and s contradicts it; and it fails to account for the resurgence of the initiative in the more fiscally conservative s.

The Swiss people are generally conservative in economic matters, particularly when it comes to raising government revenues. One might suspect that the presence of direct democracy would make modern government impossible, because all tax increases are susceptible to referendal challenge. Furthermore, many direct and indirect tax hikes require constitutional change in Switzerland and must therefore pass an obligatory referendum. The Gewerbeverband and the Vorort campaign against most tax increases; both organizations have been reluctant to countenance additional burdens upon the taxpayer.

The Bauernverband typically adds its voice to the chorus of opposition when the farming community is seen to be disadvantaged. Nonetheless, politicians in the major parties usually go along with such tax increases if their leaders agree to them in the Federal Council. However, there are occasional mutinies. In , the Social Democrats pledged to oppose a federal tax reform package, supported by the other parties, by fighting it in a referendum.

The threat dissuaded the Radical Democrats, the main proponents of the measure, from even standing by their bill through the final legislative debate. Between and , the Swiss electorate passed judgment upon 25 proposals involving tax increases or the imposition of new taxes. Of this number, 13 succeeded and 12 failed. Clearly, the Swiss people have not made it impossible for their government to finance itself. In some cases, such as in and , government plans to raise taxes are defeated narrowly in a referendum the first time around, only to succeed later.

In , In , a similar measure lost the popular vote as well, with However, in both cases the government came back the next year with another tax hike proposal and won the popular referendum. Certain types of taxes have been more successful than others. The Swiss people voted for federal highway taxes on two occasions, in and The federal value-added tax has met with less success.

Its introduction has been rejected four times, in , , , and The Swiss population holds a similar distaste for income taxes at the federal level. Ever since it began trying in , the federal government has been unable to impose a regular income tax upon the Confederation. Instead, it has been forced to rely upon indirect taxation to finance its expenditures. The governments of the cantons levy a mix of income and property taxes. However, most decisions to raise the rates of taxation are subject to cantonal referendums. Although new expenditures are often approved, attempts to increase revenues accordingly are frequently voted down.

This has long been a source of irritation to cantonal governments. In some cantons, the obstacles to raising revenue are particularly great; the governments must win an obligatory financial referendum every time they wish to raise taxes. This requirement saves opposition groups the trouble of collecting signatures. It may only take a few vague comments or editorials in newspapers to spark public skepticism and mobilize anti-tax sentiment. The potentially embarrassing consequences of this arrangement were demonstrated in Aargau in The citizens of the canton refused to approve the credits necessary to present a cantonal day at the Swiss National Exposition, and the canton was conspicuously absent.

In some cantons, such as Bern, the citizens relish this right of veto.

Direct Democratic Choice: The Swiss Experience - Semantic Scholar

In others, such as Vaud and Geneva, the cantonal governments were able to persuade their voters to surrender this prerogative. The postwar era has seen federal referendums in numerous sensitive areas of government activity. The Swiss have repeatedly brought measures affecting national defense and foreign policy to a popular vote. In this way, the left wing of the Social Democratic Party began to challenge the military establishment and its policies in the late s, with mixed success.

In , the introduction of a national civil defense system was rejected narrowly with However, two years later a similar measure won popular approval. In , the Social Democrats launched an initiative to prohibit nuclear armaments; but only The following year the SPS took a smaller bite, proposing that any future decision to acquire nuclear arms be required to pass an obligatory referendum. The new proposal won the support of only 3 percent more of the electorate.


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In , anti-military groups very nearly succeeded with an initiative stopping the export of armaments; and in , the Left brought forward two more anti-military initiatives. The first attempted to make all military appropriations subject to obligatory referendum and failed. The second, an initiative to prohibit the construction of the Rothenthurm military base, was a surprise success.

Because the base was to be constructed in a particularly scenic moor region, the initiative attracted the support of environmentalists as well as those loath to damage Switzerland's beautiful scenery. Vital to the all-important tourism industry, the Swiss landscape is also a matter of national pride.

The Rothenthurm initiative was only the second initiative to succeed since , winning Heartened by this victory, the leftist Young Social Democrats launched an even more ambitious initiative - one calling for the total abolition of the Swiss army. The proposal challenged what has traditionally been considered the backbone of Swiss neutrality and citizenship.


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The November initiative was rejected, with Few expected the measure to pass; but most were surprised by the magnitude of support that it received. No longer able to take its existence and social role for granted, the army must now be prepared to defend itself against popular attacks which employ the weapons of direct democracy. In the s, the far Right was unsuccessful in its attempts to use direct democracy to its advantage. In , a new generation of conservative extremists tried again.

He was alone in Parliament, but his interest group could operate the machinery of direct democracy as effectively as any party or Verband. Shortly after Schwarzenbach's election, his organization launched an initiative demanding that one-third of Switzerland's foreign workers be forced to leave and that aliens compose no more than 10 percent of the population in any canton. Geneva, with its plethora of international organizations, would be allowed 25 percent. The xenophobic measure promised the forced exodus of some , registered foreign workers. Deeply worried industrial and commercial interests responded by launching an expensive campaign against the 'Schwarzenbach initiative'.

When it became evident that the initiative might still succeed at the ballot box, the Federal Council attempted to undercut the proposal's popularity by taking a few limited steps in the same direction of restricting foreign workers. The government did not want to draft a counterproposal because any anti-foreigner clause in the Constitution would almost certainly be condemned by the outside world.

Historic open-air democracy takes place in Swiss canton

Instead, the Federal Council used its ordinance power in and to lower the number of foreign workers permitted in each firm. In , a law setting national limits was passed.

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In the June vote on the Schwarzenbach initiative, 46 percent of Swiss voters supported the measure, nearly achieving a startling victory. The initiative lost by less than 50, votes. The distribution of support was particularly interesting. If Valais had replaced Solothurn and Bern, it would have repeated the Sonderbund alliance exactly. Schwarzenbach's strongest support had come from Catholic and rural regions. The near-victory encouraged him to construct a new political party, the Republicans. At the same time, a similar party was formed by others on the extreme Right, the National Action.

In the elections, the two parties received 7 percent of the vote in total, sending 11 representatives to the member Nationalrat. It was the largest electoral shift seen in decades. Normally, party loyalties in postwar Switzerland had been extremely high, with only slight swings in support from election to election.