La France insoumise, a “movement” in name only? Symbolic erasure and practical transformations of the party form

Special report. Partisan discretion
By Manuel Cervera-Marzal

European political parties are facing a slow erosion of their electoral and activist base. In an attempt to escape this decline and, in particular, the demonetisation of the party label, several political organisations born after the 2008 crisis (the 5-Star Movement, Podemos, La République en Marche, La France insoumise) are defining themselves as “movements”. This indigenous term has found some echo in political science, where the concept of “party-movement” has recently been disseminated. Rather than using this concept as an analytical category capable of shedding sociological light on the France insoumise (FI) phenomenon, this article proposes to study the militant uses of the notion of “movement”. Through the particular case of the FI, the aim is to participate in a more general reflection on partisan discretion and on the way in which certain formations, by adjusting to the “party crisis”, contribute to this crisis while at the same time renewing partisan logics not presented as such. The uses of the “movement” analysed here are not only linguistic; they also involve practical aspects (membership rules, action repertoire, internal functioning, use of public funding, territorial anchoring, etc.), the two dimensions – discursive and material – being closely intertwined. Finally, it is important to place these uses in their socio-political context and to question their historicity.

  • France insoumise
  • political parties
  • social movements
  • party-movement
  • intra-party democracy
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