The political uses and popular reception of a “reinvented” tradition. The “Fête des Ponts Festival” in Limoges
Among the mechanisms of legitimization of political personnel, showing closeness to the working classes is a key element which must be regularly reactivated through various practices: handshakes, inaugurations, and so on. It is therefore tempting to consider such “political uses of the popular” from a strictly utilitarian point of view. Through the study of a popular festival (“Fête des Ponts”), on the basis of ethnographical and socio-historical approaches, this contribution attempts on the contrary to shed light on the complexity of the mechanisms involved in the exchanges between political personnel and members of the working class. Taking into account the political context as well as the social dispositions of the agents, the study underlines the conditions in which the reference to the “popular” can represent for some of them a resource in the political field while forcing them to conform to a number of expectations related to the role they assume. The study of the actual ways in which the “popular” is instrumentalized also leads one to mitigate the vision of purely passive working class members. Indeed, very strong forms of “commitment” can be noted which provide them with some margin of symbolic autonomy transcending the forms of domination they encounter.