Conservative Socialism in Western Europe

My perception is that most people in Western Europe are social conservatives who prefer a statist economy. It seems like religion is more woven into their government and culture than in the U.S. and they seem to have a strong emphasis on family. Is this an accurate view?

Actually, it always seemed to me that, even though so many European states have state religions/churches, their citizens and cultures are, in fact, much less religious and much less conservative/family-oriented than in the USA.

Everything I’ve ever heard says religion is far less powerful there. My opinion : Because religion has historically controlled the state there, it has not needed to pretend to tolerance and benevolence as it usually does here. It has had the chance to inflict it’s full malice and intolerance and craziness for centuries in Europe; with the result that few and fewer people there want anything to do with it.

I thought they were socially liberal and opposed to public religion.

Social Democrats, not social conservative. I don’t think anyone actually prefer a static economy, it’s just the inevitable outcome of their idiotic socialist economic management. While it’s true that several west European countries have some form of state religion or state sanctioned Christianity, this do not translate into a more religious culture – on the contrary. Don’t know wherefrom you get the strong emphasis on the family. I’d say many of the policies underlying the Social Democratic rule have a strong emphasis on “liberating” the individual from the tyranny of the family, of emptying the family from all social and practical obligation – indeed there’s a strong current of family hate running undernethe the whole welfare state ideal.

State religions? Where?

The closest I can come to thinking of one is the Church of England - and it’s not a state religion.

In Spain we often call ourselves “la católica España”, which doesn’t exactly mean “those Spaniards who are Catholic” but “Spain, the most Catholic country in the world and yes, that includes Vatican City.” It used to be sort of a propaganda line; now it’s used ironically because even though more than 95% of the country is still baptized Catholic (so, Catholic at least in name), the reality isn’t so “well-behaved”. And it’s not the state religion by any means (yes it gets guvmint money, so do a lot of other churches with a lot less representation).

Denmark has a state church. . Also in Spain the Catholic church, at least until recently, enjoyed a number of priviliges not shared by other religions or churches.

Yes, we also kicked the Jews and the Muslims out. But the expulsions were done by one guy 500 years ago and the “until recently” is 30 years old. There have been jews back in Spain for over 150 years (refugees from the Italian unification wars, later refugees from WWII).

Let’s talk about current situations, please. And I’d be very surprised to hear that belonging to the Church of Denmark is compulsory.

I don’t know what definition of “state religion” you’re using, but the monarch is Church of England, all state religious ceremonies (and there are a few) are conducted by the Church of England, the Prime Minister appoints bishops for the Church of England, and twenty of those bishops have a seat in our second legislative chamber, the House of Lords. That sounds a hell of a lot like a state religion to me. Belonging to the CoE is not, of course, compulsory, if that’s what you meant (although to go to a good university or into politics it was until the mid-19th century), but the Anglican faith is pretty intertwined with the mechanisms of the state.

As to the OP, I don’t know about being more religous than the USA- although this is not true of the UK (about 30-40% atheist/agnostic, regular church attendance in the single digits), I cannot speak for other European countries, which tend to be somewhat more religous- consider the “Christian Democrat/Socialist” parties prevalent in Europe, which do have an explicitly religous element. I’ve always got the impression that the US is much more religous, but has less of the trappings of religion woven into your society (being a supposedly secular state) than do most European countries*.

As for the social conservatism and “family orientated”, I think you’re dead wrong. Civil partnerships for gay couples (marriages in all but name) are legal in most European states, abortion is legal and completely accepted by the population in most (there are exceptions: Ireland, possibly Italy, and there are always nutcases like the UK Cornerstone group who want to reduce the time limit on abortion, but I would be suprised if 10% of the population agreed with them), and in some European states (Netherlands), cannabis is legalised- and there is nothing, nothing like the “War on Drugs” that I know of in any European state- for that matter, the UK recently reduced cannabis to a Class C drug and has experimented with only issuing warnings for possession of the drug for personal use. On the whole, Europe is about as socially liberal as, say, the average east coast state (or California)- the death penalty is almost completely abolished, for example. Where exceptions doe exist, they are usually linked to the Church, especially the Catholic church (very strong in, say, Italy and Ireland), but whose power and influence continues to slip with each passing year.

Actually, I think the OP said “statist”- whatever that means- not static. The OP is correct that Europeans expect and receive a much greater degree of government intervention in the economy than America could accept in a million years- for example, nearly all European states have government-provided healthcare of one variety or another beyond the dreams of Howard Dean. And, Rune, you are of course entitled to your own opinions of the social democratic (not socialist) economies of Western Europe, but I would like to point out that, out of the European Union and the USA, only one is undergoing an economic recession at the moment- and it ain’t the one with corporate freedom and low taxes.

*I speak mostly of Western Europe here- Eastern Europe is rather more socially conservative and religous, except for the bits that aren’t :wink:

Government control and high taxes. I got lost in that sentence.

‘State religion’, of the CofE kind, is irrelevance. Nobody really cares whether there’s an official religion, provided it doesn’t have any meaningful influence on government, as is the case in Britain. It’s not something many people desire to abolish just on a point of principle.

Countries such as Ireland, Italy and Poland where Catholocism still holds a strong cultural and social influence are a different matter entirely. And even these countries are gradually weakening that relationship (such as with Ireland’s legalising of divorce).

And Happy Clam is spot on about attitudes towards the economy - it’s a cultural chasm between the two continents. People with views like those of Rune are a tiny minority.

Or an alternative view - because religion has historically been controlled and funded by the state, it has not developed the same focus on satisfying peoples wants as it has in the US, and is consequently less popular.

Tap water rather than Coca-Cola, as it were.

I would hesitate to call the Europeans in general “social conservatives.” Some of their governments are experimenting with recognizing same-sex marriage.

Thanks for the responses. It looks like Europeans are quite liberal on most issues.
When I was suggesting being socially conservative and focused on the family, I was not referring to church attendance and the birthrate. It just seems like in the US we have a strong emphasis on separating religion and state, whereas in Europe Christian holidays are more likely to be state holidays also. I had also heard that European women do not understand American feminists and I thought a higher percentage of European women did the cooking in the household. Plus the children tend to live with their parents well into their 20s.

Statism refers to “the practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy.”

Whoever told you this was making immense generalisations, and didn’t know what they were talking about. I’m not actually sure what is meant by ‘American feminists’, but many European attitudes towards gender equality are little different to American ones. Sure, old-fashioned values have persisted in some places more than others, but I’m sure that’s just as true with some parts of the USA.

Again, depends on where you’re talking about. And it can be for mundane fiscal reasons - in Italy, for example, the lack of affordable accomodation prevents many young adults from leaving home. Elsewhere, teenagers getting the hell out of the family house as soon as they can is a rite of passage.

Actually, a true conservative would infer that, because so many European states have set up state churches, they have become the institutional equivalent of layabout welfare bums, neither inclined nor (eventually) capable of exercising real spiritual leadership.

“Women are good for only one thing and it is not done in ze kitchen!”

– Old French joke

The one nugget of truth here is that European conservatives and right wingers do not usually support capitalism, but are usually very comfortable with a strong central government that includes heavy state control over the economy. Businesses are supposed to serve the state, not the other way around. Especially European conservatives don’t like multinational corporations and rootless cosmopolitans! As we all know, these are controlled by the Jews, who care nothing for the nation.

Not true in Britain, where the Conservative party and social conservatives in Britain are strongly associated with economic liberalism, mostly due to the legacy of Thatcher, who was both socially conservative (anti-homosexuality, for instance) and very pro-market. That may be changing a little with the current Conservative leader, but for at least 20 years the Conservatives in Britain have been the party fo Big Business, “greed is good” and individuals, not states.

That would explain why she and Reagan got along so well.

I’m still trying to figure out why W and Blair get along so well.