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The democratic merits of partisanship: a comparative analysis of party member discourse in France and Hungary

Herman, Lise (2016) The democratic merits of partisanship: a comparative analysis of party member discourse in France and Hungary. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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In recent years, a number of democratic theorists have suggested a range of principles that parties and partisans should follow to make a positive contribution to liberal democracy, thus establishing a normative ideal for democratic partisanship. This thesis addresses two questions. First, to what extent does real-world partisanship— understood as the array of practices and discourses that are attached to party leadership, membership or identification—meet these theoretical standards of democratic partisanship? Second, how can we explain variations in the extent to which real-world partisans uphold these standards? I focus on two specific standards for democratic partisanship. Partisans should first demonstrate cohesiveness, defined as the capacity to put forth programs of government grounded in clearly defined normative commitments and distinct from those of their opponents. Second, partisans should display a commitment to political pluralism, demonstrating respect for political opponents and endorsing the in eliminable character of political disagreement. To answer my first research question, I refine these two standards into a series of more specific criteria, and assess the extent to which grass-root partisan discourse in two country case studies, France and Hungary, meet these criteria. I draw on original data from 28 focus groups conducted in 2013 with a total of 118 young party activists from four different parties. The data is analysed using the text-analysis software NVivo, on the basis of a coding scheme derived from my theoretical framework. The analysis of the coded data shows that French partisans fare better than Hungarian partisans on the criteria established. I also find variations in the extent to which partisans within each country uphold the standards. In response to the second research question, I develop some tentative explanations on the reasons for these variations. The qualitative analysis of the interview transcripts reveals that certain types of cultural resources and external events inhibit democratic forms of partisan discourse, while others enable them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Lise Esther Herman
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: White, Jonathan and Innes, Abby

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