In 2002, the French party system seems to be demonstrating a fluidity, if not outright instability, equal to any period in the Fifth Republic's history. This book explores the extent to which this represents outright change and shifts within a stable structure. Portrayals of French political culture point to incivisme, individualism and a distrust of organizations. The book focuses on three fundamental political issues such as 'politics', 'power' and 'justice', which appear in almost all political discussions and conflicts. It identifies different 'types' of state in political theory and looks at the major challenges to practical state sovereignty in the modern world. Discussing the concept of the nation in the United Kingdom, the book identifies both cultural and political aspects of nationhood. These include nation and state; race and nation; language and the nation; religion and national identity; government and nation; common historical and cultural ties; and a sense of 'nationhood'. Liberal democracy, defensive democracy and citizen democracy/republican democracy are explained. The book also analyses John Stuart Mill's and Isaiah Berlin's views on 'negative' and 'positive' freedom. Conservatism is one of the major intellectual and political strains of thought in Western culture. Liberalism has become the dominant ideology in the third millennium. Socialism sprang from the industrial revolution and the experience of the class that was its product, the working class. Events have made 'fascism' a term of political abuse rather than one of serious ideological analysis. Environmentalism and ecologism constitute one of the most recent ideological movements.
This chapter considers the areas of divergence within parties and party blocs, the threat they posed to cohesion and the reasons for their recent disappearance. It also considers the array of institutional factors which have contributed to keeping the European issue latent within the party system. The chapter considers the extent to which possible changes to the institutional structure may in future promote party system change. Historically, the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) provides the greatest shift in the party system role and the European stance. Parties which oppose Europe are often in opposition to other aspects of the national political systems, anti-system or protest parties, and thus simply add Europe to the litany of complaints against the system. Philippe Séguin's resignation due to interference from an increasingly Europhile president and his Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) minions sealed the mass electoral defection to the Pasqua-de Villiers movement.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book discerns more exactly what represents continuity and what represents change. It focuses on some basic summary statistics which are commonly used to look at the party system dynamics in order to locate the 2002 party system at the end of a trend starting in 1978, the quadrille bipolaire benchmark year. The book considers the implications of the figures for the parties, and what they reveal about the likely prospects for the French party system in coming years. The right bloc has returned to a two-party bloc, the Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle (UMP) and the two 'half-parties' of the Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF) and the Front National (FN), plus assorted stragglers. The left bloc remains stable in terms of party numbers due to the surge in Green support.
This chapter focuses on the French political space over the last fifteen years as defined by the socio-demographic and attitudinal profiles of the voters. It draws upon the findings from the two major studies of French voters in the last ten years, namely L'électeur français en questions and L'électeur a ses raisons. The tripartition argument implies that the extreme right possesses a basis for long-term stable identification. In other words, the social and ideological characteristics of its electorate should be quite distinct from the two traditional political blocs. The chapter also focuses on the hypothesis of mass ideological convergence in the left bloc prior to the gauche plurielle incumbency. The chapter describes two principal partisan developments of 1988, the growth and implantation of the Front National (FN) and the establishment of the gauche plurielle governing coalition to assess the extent to which change took place during this period.