The study of political parties and the party system in France
GB : Palgrave Macmillan
83 - 86 p.
The French academic literature about political parties and party systems has been structured by the initial debate between Maurice Duverger and Georges Lavau. On the one hand, Duverger (1951) in Les partis politiques proposed a multi-faceted ‘theory’ of political parties and structures of party competition. His core focus was on parties as organizations and on the role of institutions as the causal explanation of patterns of party competition (hence his three laws about the link between electoral and party systems). On the other hand, Georges Lavau (1953) preferred to look at the réalités sociales, anchoring the analysis of political parties in historical traditions, social and economic conditions pertaining to each country. The often-quoted paradox is that Duverger's contribution had a broad international appeal, while Lavau succeeded in making this work despised in France. What has, maybe, been overlooked is the (probably unintended and unexpected) consequence for the study of political parties in France: whereas Duverger proposed an analysis defined by comparison and inference, the bulk of the French literature has been parochial, claiming at most the exceptional nature of French politics and political parties. This almost uncontested axiom of France as the exception has been based on five main characteristics (...).