From party discredit to party discretion

Special report. Partisan discretion
By Ivan Sainsaulieu, Frédéric Sawicki, Julien Talpin

The literature on political parties is dominated by the question of their loss of legitimacy and social anchorage. Without denying the discredit, which is tr anslated in particular by the emergence of new forms of electoral enterprises, this introduction argues for a shift from the question of discredit to that of discretion. This shift allows avoiding considering discredit as a totally new and univocal phenomenon and to conceive of political parties as only passive actors of these processes. The question of partisan discretion allows first of all to question the way in which the leaders and activists of these new political enterprises, but also of established parties, deal with the rather radical forms of discredit that they produce or suffer. It also allows, by questioning the forms taken by partisan discretion in the past and nowadays, to underline those discrete strategies also characterize a great variety of situations (risk of repression, electoral strategies of citizen relegitimization, displays modulated according to social compromises…) and often concern territories where the domination of the parties is well established. Recontextualized, discretion thus appears not only as the standard form of modern “professional” politics, but also as a set of tactics and strategies that result from the tension that runs through any party, caught between its insides and its outsides.

  • political parties
  • political movements
  • political communication
  • partisan secrecy
  • France
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