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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Certain facts about postwar Europe seem self-evidently true. Undoubtedly the most salient was the division of Europe and the political, economic, social, and cultural antinomies that separated western capitalism from Soviet-style communism in the overarching context of the Cold War. If the Cold War itself stretched across four decades, from the heightening of international tensions in 1947–1948 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989–1991, the postwar settlement's reliable solidities had already been breaking apart in the 1970s. The global economic downturn of 1973–1974 ended the postwar boom, shelving its promises of permanent growth and continuously unfolding prosperity. In those terms, the core of the postwar settlement lies in the years 1947–1973. This article explores the single most striking particularity of the post-1945 settlement, namely the centrality acquired by organised labour for the polities, social imaginaries, and public cultures of postwar European societies. First, it discusses democracy as a cultural project during 1945–1968. The article then looks at corporatism and social democracy, and concludes by assessing patterns of stability in Europe during the postwar period.

Keywords: Europe, corporatism, social democracy, postwar period, postwar settlement, organised labour, stability, capitalism, Cold War, communism

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