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John Bendix and Niklaus Steiner

Although political asylum has been at the forefront of contemporary

German politics for over two decades, it has not been much discussed

in political science. Studying asylum is important, however,

because it challenges assertions in both comparative politics and

international relations that national interest drives decision-making.

Political parties use national interest arguments to justify claims that

only their agenda is best for the country, and governments argue

similarly when questions about corporatist bargaining practices arise.

More theoretically, realists in international relations have posited

that because some values “are preferable to others … it is possible to

discover, cumulate, and objectify a single national interest.” While

initially associated with Hans Morgenthau’s equating of national

interest to power, particularly in foreign policy, this position has

since been extended to argue that states can be seen as unitary rational

actors who carefully calculate the costs of alternative courses of

action in their efforts to maximize expected utility.

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Digital Natives

Making Sense of the Digital Political Landscape and Assessing the Potential for Mobilization versus Apathy

Patrick Readshaw

Those aged 18 to 25 are frequently cited in political rhetoric and scientific literature as one of the most apathetic demographics in Britain. They simultaneously constitute the prime users of new digital media. The assumption of apathy is based on traditional conceptions of political engagement—attendance at rallies, membership in political parties, and voting—that don’t consider a phenomenon like political consumerism, which is estimated to account for 22 to 44 percent of political engagement in the United States and Europe. This article explores youth involvement in politics by drawing on a series of interpretative phenomenological analysis interviews regarding social media usage and its suitability as a medium for facilitating political and civic mobilization. It argues that social media enables people to obtain political knowledge and generate feelings of solidarity, and illustrates how internal belief systems act as predictors of trust in the existing political structure and the media systems surrounding it.

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La course au centre

Policy Convergence and Partisanship in France, 1981-2002

Sally Marthaler

Policy convergence between the political parties and the perception among voters that there is little to choose between left and right may be factors in the declining levels of partisanship observed in many advanced industrial democracies, including France, where these conditions emerged in the 1980s. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data, this article analyzes changes in the actual and perceived level of convergence between the mainstream parties in France from 1981 to 2002. It finds evidence of increasing policy convergence over the period as a result of a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors. It concludes that left-right ideological labels are still important to voters, even though they too have moved to the center, and that many of them want to see a clear dividing-line between the parties. The blurring of the boundaries between left and right and the “reversibility” of the mainstream parties has also enhanced the appeal of alternative and extremist parties.

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Gerard Braunthal

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) celebrated its 140 years

of existence on 23 May 2003 with the appropriate fanfare in Berlin.

Not too many other political parties in the world can match this survival

record, especially given the hostility of Chancellor Bismarck,

who in 1878 outlawed the fledgling party as an organization for

twelve years, and of Adolf Hitler, who in 1933 drove the party into

exile for twelve years. During the post-World War II era, the SPD

reestablished itself as a major party and shared in governing the

country from 1966 to 1982 and again from 1998 to the present. It

has left an imprint on the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

But in the twenty-first century’s initial years, the SPD, despite being

in power, is facing serious problems of maintaining membership and

electoral support.

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Hans Mommsen

The role of Konrad Adenauer in the proceedings of the Parliamentary Council in Bonn and his decision after his election as first federal chancellor not to form a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party paved the way to a fundamental transformation of the traditional German democratic paradigm versus the Anglo-Saxon concept of interaction between government and parliamentary opposition. The inherited pattern of constitutional democracy that had contributed to the structural weaknesses of Weimar parliamentarism was replaced by the concept of an interaction between government and opposition. Political parties took on the primary tasks of securing stable parliamentary majorities and providing sufficient electoral support for the chancellor. Adenauer's resolved political leadership, therefore, was an indispensable contribution to the reorientation of West German political culture from the former distrust of unrestricted parliamentary sovereignty toward Western democratic traditions.

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Rohan Bastin

The current moment, seen by some as an interregnum between societies of discipline and control, is marked by intense forms of religious fanaticism and iconoclasm that are striving to create new forms of the state. This is evident in the militancy and political engagement of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka, who promote war against Tamil separatists as well as violent resistance to the proselytization identified with global civil society agencies that, due to the war and the 2004 tsunami disaster, have been active in the country. The article looks at this rising Buddhist militancy, which is associated with a political party that is linked to the more famous party known as the JVP. It argues that instead of resisting the formation of the new global civil society, the iconoclasm of this Buddhist political formation is facilitating its establishment.

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Islam and Pious Sociality

The Ethics of Hierarchy in the Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan

Arsalan Khan

Pakistani Tablighis, practitioners of a transnational Islamic piety movement, the Tablighi Jamaat, insist that only their own form of face-to-face preaching (dawat) is capable of spreading Islamic virtue. Tablighis dismiss the efforts to spread Islam by a diverse array of Islamist actors, including political parties, corporations, NGOs, and popular televangelists. This highlights a central cleavage within the Islamic revival in Pakistan. While Islamists have adopted a modernist conception of religion associated with egalitarian individualism, Tablighis understand dawat to be a religious practice that entails an ethics of hierarchy in which one becomes virtuous by submitting to the authority of pious others. In dawat, Tablighis create a hierarchically structured world of pious sociality against the threat of egalitarian individualism in liberal and Islamist varieties.

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Participation without Deliberation

The Crisis of Venezuelan Democracy

Nicole Curato

The legacy of Hugo Chavez is contentious. Some lament the deterioration of Venezuelan democracy from one of Latin America's most stable political systems to a populist authoritarian regime. Others celebrate Chavez's participatory project of institutionalizing structures for community-driven development, redistributing oil wealth through welfare policies, and creating a political party closely linked to mass movements. This article provides an alternative assessment of Venezuela's democratic quality by drawing on deliberative democratic theory. I argue that Chavez's participatory project is incomplete because it fails to create structures for deliberative politics. Without these mechanisms, Venezuela remains vulnerable to crises brought about by “uncivil action,” such as military coups and violent protests, making deliberation an important component in averting crises in democratizing polities.

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Emancipation as social equality

Subaltern politics in contemporary India

Indrajit Roy

The ethnographies presented in this article point to the ways in which members of oppressed communities imagine emancipation. Instead of analyzing emancipation as stemming from statist precepts of citizenship, I want to direct attention—along with other articles in this special section—to the “arcadian” spaces in which exploited, marginalized, and discriminated populations forge membership in the political community in contentious engagement with both state and society. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork with Musahar landless laborers in the Indian state of Bihar during the winter and spring of 2009–2010, with follow-up visits in September 2013 and July 2014. I focus on their engagement with two organizations, one a leftist political party and the other a cultural organization, to advance my claims. The ethnography reveals that, for the Musahar laborers, ideas of emancipation are anchored in reclamations of social equality rather than a telos of state-centered citizenship.

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Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella

In this chapter, the efforts of the Italian ruling class to cut the costs of politics during 2012 are analyzed. An informal division of labor was established between Monti's executive, which was to take care of budgetary problems, and the Parliament, which was supposed to tackle the frequent scandals of corruption and public money mismanagement. The results of the latter's efforts were amply (and predictably) disappointing, justifying once more the low levels of trust that citizens display toward politicians. In particular, we consider five points: the expenditure cuts by the constitutional bodies, the failure to reduce the number of MPs, the effort to cut back on the public funding of political parties, the “anarchy” of regional expenditures, and the inability to decide about the abolition of provincial government.