France – the model case of party system transformation..

In: Hanspeter Kriesi, Edgar Grande, Romain Lachat, Martin Dolezal, Simon Bornschier, and Tim Frey, West European Politics in the Age of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 77-104.

France is an especially interesting case of party system transformation due to the early rise of a right-wing populist party in the 1980s, and because of the continuing presence of parties off the mainstream left. While economic conflicts remain fairly vibrant in this country, the nature of cultural divisions has undergone a transformation under the impact of structural changes related to the processes of modernization, globalization, and European integration. While this antagonism was still strongly determined by religion in the 1970s, it now opposes citizens with culturally liberal values to citizens favouring cultural protectionism and an exclusionist conception of community. The chapter first assesses the context conditions that have led to the transformation of the French party system and the success of the Front National. It then proceeds to an analysis of the political potentials on the demand side of politics in terms of the dimensionality of voter orientations. In a further step, using data from the newspaper coverage of election campaigns, it traces the way parties have adapted their programmatic offer in order to mobilize these potentials. The strategies of the established parties regarding new political issues turn out to be crucial with respect to the success of challenging parties of the radical left and the populist right.