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After the Party

Trump, Le Pen, and the New Normal

Anne Sa'adah

Donald Trump’s surprise victory and the National Front’s steady electoral gains are not the simple product of globalization and its discontents, nor are they a direct continuation of earlier populist movements in the US and France. Rather, both rest in significant degree on transformative political projects undertaken in recent decades to recast partisan politics in each country. Newt Gingrich adopted a radical strategy in order to break Democratic dominance in Congress, destroying norms of parliamentary conduct, pushing the Republican Party to the right, and roiling the party’s base. Bruno Mégret sought to position the National Front— through a dédiabolisation of its public image, an increase in its institutional capacity, attention to local politics, and opportunistic alliances—in such a way as to allow it to supplant the traditional conservative parties. These strategies changed the political landscape in the US and France. The results are likely to be durable.

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Anna Bosco and Duncan McDonnell

The year 2011 seems likely to be remembered not only as the year

when Silvio Berlusconi’s government fell after three years in office, but

as the year when the Italian Second Republic entered its final phase.

Having been dominated since 1994 by the pro-/anti-Berlusconi cleavage,

Italian politics and its party system at the end of 2011 appeared

to be moving, or at least stumbling, toward a new and uncertain configuration.

The obvious immediate reason for this was the resignation

of the government on 12 November in the face of a financial crisis that

was rendering the country’s debt unsustainable and its party political

leaders ever less internationally credible. Nonetheless, the simple

conclusion that the Berlusconi government was replaced by Mario

Monti’s technocratic executive due to pressure from the markets and

the European Union (EU) is not sufficient to understand either why

this event occurred or what its effects might be.

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Introduction

Politics and Power after the 2017 Bundestag Election

Eric Lagenbacher

Although it has not been that long since the articles of the previous special issue devoted to the 2017 Bundestag election and its aftermath have been published, the political situation in Germany appears to have stabilized. After almost six months without a new government, German politics has sunk back into a kind of late-Merkel era normality. Public opinion polls continue to show that the CDU/CSU is slightly above its election outcome, the SPD is still down in the 17–18 percent range, the FDP has lost about 2 percent of its support, while the AfD, Greens and Left Party are up 1–2 percent.

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Bo Zhao

Conflicts over rural land expropriation, which have intensified over the past decade in China, pose a significant threat to the country's social stability and the sustainability of its economic development. This article argues that such conflicts are inevitable under China's current political and legal system. After a brief introduction of the present situation in China and an overview of China's land regime, the article first analyzes reasons for the escalation of land conflicts, including the vague definition of public interest, the inadequate compensation, and the ambiguous nature of collective land ownership. It then argues that even the few existing rights of rural peasants under the present land regime are not adequately protected due to China's poor law enforcement. The article further elucidates that impunity with regard to illegal land grabbing is common in China for a variety of reasons that all have roots in the Communist Party's monopoly over Chinese society. With no fundamental reform to China's party politics, the article concludes, there will be no effective measure to prevent further conflicts over land in the near future.

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Introduction

Merkeldämmerung

Eric Lagenbacher

The elections for the German Bundestag on 24 September 2017 saw heavy losses for the two governing parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD)—and the rise of the rightpopulist Alternative for Germany (AfD). It took almost six months for a new grand coalition to be formed in light of the extremely fragmented parliament. Despite the good economic situation and relative calm domestically and internationally, much change is occurring under the surface. Most importantly, the country is preparing for the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s long tenure. Who and what will come next? Can the surging AfD be contained? Will Germany step up into the leadership role for which so many have called?

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Ingolfur Blühdorn

“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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Chris Hanretty and Stefania Profeti

In the summer of 2010, in an interview given to the newspaper La Repubblica, the then little-known mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, erupted onto the political scene by claiming that it was time for the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) to take a large number of the party’s leading figures to task—or, to use the phrase that would

soon become a battle cry, to “bulldoze” (rottamare) them from the picture. The interview was considered by many in the party to be arrogant and excessively self-aggrandizing—or at least incautious. Yet from that moment on, and probably thanks to this message, Renzi has been able to capture to an ever-greater degree the dissatisfaction and frustrations of a large number of center-left activists and sympathizers, while attracting the curiosity of a large number of Italians of all political persuasions.

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Stephen Milder and Konrad H. Jarausch

The September 2013 Bundestag election, which reelected Angela Merkel

as chancellor, was a clear defeat for the Green Party. Alliance 90/The

Greens (henceforth the Greens) fared far better than the Free Democratic

Party (FDP), which failed even to score the five percent of the vote required

for representation in parliament, but still fell from 10.7 percent to 8.4 percent,

losing five of their sixty-eight seats in parliament. Since in March of

that same year, surveys had shown their support at 17 percent, this disappointing

result forced Jürgen Trittin, the leader of the parliamentary delegation

to step down.1 In many ways, this perceived electoral debacle marked

the end of an era. The former Federal Minister of the Envi ron ment, who

had originally joined the party in 1980, told reporters that “a new generation” would have to step forward and lead the party into the 2017

campaign. This statement suggested not only that the Greens’ rebellious

founding impulse was spent, but also that they had become part of the

establishment in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), now requiring a

reinvigoration of their own. Since the Greens were once expected to be little

more than a short-lived byproduct of the social conflicts of the 1970s, a

closer look at the party’s founding moment at the beginning of the 1980s

might shed new light on its current predicament.

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Editorial

Brexit, Sustainability, Economics, Companies’ Responsibilities, and Current Representations

In the first article of this issue, Steve Corbett examines the 2016 Referendum on the United Kingdom’s (UK) European Union (EU) membership. The author presents the outcome of the referendum, the British Exit (Brexit), as a new EU phenomenon with implications that go beyond the UK’s relationship with the EU. It is an expression of the wider rise of right- and left-wing populism across Europe, including the Freedom Party of Austria and the Netherlands, Front National, Podemos, and Syriza political parties. These parties and their outriders articulate popular anger—among right-wing populists, anger at the perceived preferences given to some minority groups (e.g., immigrants) over others. However, both right- and left-wing populists express anger about disconnected and gilded political elites, about the privatization of profit, and about the socialization of risk for financial institutions and major corporations.

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Making (a) Difference

Paperwork and the Political Machine

Alexander Thomas T. Smith

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Dumfries and Galloway, this article describes how Conservative Party activists put a variety of discursive artefacts to work as they sought to mass produce and distribute leaflets during the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. The leaflet, called In Touch, rendered explicit the need to demonstrate that a political candidate and political party are connected (in touch) with a wider community. This leaflet was therefore designed to invoke a set of connections between person (the candidate), place (the Council Ward/community) and political party (the Conservatives) that might register with even the most disinterested elector. At the same time, the production of these leaflets facilitated the generation of an activist network amongst the party's volunteer base, which exhausted itself by the time Polling Day passed. I argue that addressing logistical and organizational questions - that is, activist methodology - in the production of the In Touch leaflet focused the attention of political activists more than the 'issues' on which they intended to campaign, which were 'found' or 'produced' as artefacts or contrivances of activist labour. In addressing such questions, Tory strategists hoped to 'make (a) difference' given that they tended to view previous campaigns to have been executed in an amateur and disorganized fashion. Through the sheer scale of their production and distribution throughout Dumfries and Galloway, it was hoped that the In Touch leaflets would produce social as well as electoral effects.