Changing Life. Novice MPs at the National Assembly, or the political condition in the twenty-first century

Dealing with politics. Novices, amateurs, and part-timers in politics
By Étienne Ollion

The 2017 parliamentary elections saw dozens of political novices enter France’s National Assembly, individuals who had never before been politically active. This arrival of novices was all the more remarkable at it was both a large-scale and rare phenomenon. Over the previous decades, the French political field had become even more closed in on itself, making this influx statistically unlikely. This article focuses on these newcomers, but instead of a conventional exploration of the way they learn their craft, the role they create for themselves, or even the discrimination they experience in accessing power, I use this mass entry situation to investigate what I term the “contemporary political condition.” An immersive ethnography carried out at the French Parliament during the first year reveals three prominent characteristics: novice MPs expressed surprise at the irregular pace of work, at the unexpected (and often unwanted) publicity surrounding their entry into the public sphere, and also at the agonistic way in which politics is “done,” even with a vastly renewed legislature.

  • political professionalisation
  • parliament
  • deputies
  • 2017 parliamentary elections
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