“Liquid modernity” is a concept that Zygmunt Bauman suggested to

describe a certain condition in advanced modern societies where changeability,

unpredictability, and unreliability have become core features

determining individual life and social interaction.1 Diminishing party loyalty

and increasing voter volatility, erratic but often vociferous articulation

of political preferences and participation, and a marked shift towards populism

all belong to the political fallout from Bauman’s condition of liquidity.

With his notion of the “fluid five-party system,” Oskar Niedermayer has

further developed the metaphor.2 On the one hand, his concept attempts

to capture the new structural characteristics of the German party system,

i.e., its fragmentation and structural asymmetry. On the other hand, it

seeks to capture the changed relationship between the individual parties,

specifically their mutual demarcation and rapprochement in the context of

coalition strategies. Indeed, having to compete in a five-party system and

trying to optimize their strategic position in a context of high unpredictability

is the major new challenge Germany’s political parties are having

to confront.

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