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Frédéric Sawicki

Why is the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) the first political party in France to implement a systematic and “scientific” door-to-door canvassing for the 2012 presidential campaign? What internal changes led the PS to adopt this practice? This innovation is not just technical; it is profoundly transforming the roles and activities of party members. As Rémi Lefebvre has pointed out, “rationalized canvassing prioritizes electoral efficiency. In the traditional partisan culture of the PS, campaigns were mostly about conviction and political conflict. Canvassing was a way for members to assert their identity and ‘fight’ together. It was mostly about belonging to a group of party members. Rather, scientific door-to-door canvassing is oriented by an electoral rationality.”

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Political Radicalism in France

Perspectives on a Protean Concept

James Shields

This introductory article reflects on the new momentum that political radicalism has taken on in France. The ebb and flow of radical aspiration featured regularly in French politics under the Fourth and early Fifth Republics, before the failure of the "Socialist experiment" in the early 1980s brought about a paradigm shift. In the wake of this failure and with the "end of ideology" supposedly in sight, political leaders and parties tempered their appeals to radical solutions and conspired, not least through recurrent power-sharing, to vacate mainstream political discourse of much of its former radicalism. Since the presidential election of 2007, however, there has been a marked return to promises of radical change as the common currency of political discourse across the full left-right spectrum in France. This article introduces a special issue of French Politics, Culture & Society that brings together scholars from France, Britain, and Canada to discuss some of the meanings, expressions, and prospects of political radicalism in France today.

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Alberto Melloni

What impact did the so-called Vatileaks scandal have on Italian politics? And how deep were the connections between the Vatican and the Italian transition of political assets in 2012? This in-depth analysis shows that the problems of the Church in relation to the state came much before the 2012 crisis, namely, during the time of the reluctant submission of Catholic hierarchies to Berlusconism.

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Two Failures of Left Internationalism

Political Mimesis at French University Counter-Summits, 2010–2011

Eli Thorkelson

After the unsuccessful end of the spring 2009 French university movement, faculty and student activists searched for new political strategies. One promising option was an internationalist project that sought to unite anti-Bologna Project movements across Europe. Yet an ethnographic study of two international counter-summits in Brussels (March 2010) and Dijon (May 2011) shows that this strategy was unsuccessful. This article explores the causes of these failures, arguing that activist internationalism became caught in a trap of political mimesis, and that the form of official international summits was incompatible with activists’ temporal, representational, and reflexive needs.

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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.

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Tereza Novotna

Explanations for the roots and cures of the continuous divergence between East and West German political cultures tend to fall into two camps: socialization and situation. The former emphasizes the impact of socialization before and during the GDR era and ongoing (post-communist) legacies derived from Eastern Germans' previous experience, whereas the latter focuses primarily on economic difficulties after the unification that caused dissatisfaction among the population in the Eastern parts of Germany. The article argues that in order to explain the persistence and reinvigoration of an autonomous political culture during the last two decades in the new Länder, we need to synthesize the two approaches and to add a third aspect: the unification hypothesis. Although the communist period brought about a specific political culture in the GDR, the German unification process—based rather on transplantation than on adaptation—has caused it neither to diminish nor to wither away. On the contrary, the separate (post)-communist political culture was reaffirmed and reinstalled under novel circumstances.

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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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Ruth Wittlinger

Angela Merkel came to power at a crucial time in regards to Germany's relationship with its past. Where would she position herself in light of Gerhard Schröder's approach that had offered a new way of accepting responsibility for the past and integrating it into the twenty-first century present by explicitly making it a key element of German national identity, but also in view of her East German biography? Would she continue and maybe even reinforce the institutionalization of Holocaust-centered memory and-given the forceful return of the topic of German victimhood-complement it with the institutionalization of the memory of German suffering, or would she emphasize the latter at the expense of the former? This paper attempts to answer these questions by examining Merkel's politics of the past during her first three years in office.

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Nexus Politics

Conceptualizing Everyday Political Engagement

Matthew Flinders and Matthew Wood

Existing research on alternative forms of political participation does not adequately account for why those forms of participation at an “everyday” level should be defined as political. In this article we aim to contribute new conceptual and theoretical depth to this research agenda by drawing on sociological theory to posit a framework for determining whether nontraditional forms of political engagement can be defined as genuinely distinctive from traditional participation. Existing “everyday politics” frameworks are analytically underdeveloped, and the article argues instead for drawing upon Michel Maffesoli’s theory of “neo-tribal” politics. Applying Maffesoli’s insights, we provide two questions for operationally defining “everyday” political participation, as expressing autonomy from formal political institutions, and building new political organizations from the bottom up. This creates a substantive research agenda of not only operationally defining political participation, but examining how traditional governmental institutions and social movements respond to a growth in everyday political participation: nexus politics.

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Political Campaigns and Civic Culture

Comparing Canvassing and Party Structures in the French and American 2012 Presidential Campaigns

Julien Talpin

I arrive at Organizing for America (OFA) headquarters in Los Angeles at 2 pm for an intensive weekend of door-to-door canvassing in Las Vegas.1 Around ten people are there already, waiting for the organizer who is to coordinate our work on site for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. The organization is clear-cut. Pam, the coordinating organizer we are waiting for, is an employee of the campaign. OFA pays our weekend travel and accommodation costs in exchange for giving a hand with electoral work. Most of those taking part in the weekend have not volunteered in the campaign before: in many respects this weekend in October 2012 will be their only contribution to Obama’s re-election. At the beginning the waiting volunteers do not mingle; the waiting room of the OFA office is silent. Gradually, though, they will become a group. The five-hour bus trip to Las Vegas gives volunteers the chance to get to know each other, exchanging political recollections (Obama’s victory in 2008), opinions on the campaign (why was he so bad during the first debate?), and information about themselves.