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Polarisation of British and American societies

Polarisation des sociétés britannique et étatsunienne

Causes, consequences, perspectives

Causes, conséquences, enjeux

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Published on Thursday, May 02, 2024

Abstract

The growing polarisation within American and British societies raises profound questions about the mechanisms by which public opinion is influenced and the political and social transformations that ensue. This polarisation expresses itself at several levels, notably between different age groups, between levels of education, and between urban and rural areas. We assume here that the apparent polarisation of US and UK societies has increased in recent years, not least due to the rise to power and tenure of Donald J. Trump in the US and the vote in favour of Brexit in the UK. The aim will be to understand how these two events have acted as catalysts reinforcing divisions already present and creating new forms of divisions.

Announcement

Argument

The growing polarisation within American and British societies raises profound questions about the mechanisms by which public opinion is influenced and the political and social transformations that ensue. This polarisation expresses itself at several levels, notably between different age groups, between levels of education, and between urban and rural areas. Partisan polarisation, already very marked in the United States and now increasingly present in the United Kingdom, is also a crucial aspect. (Sides and Hopkins, 2015; Duffy et. al., 2019)

We assume here that the apparent polarisation of US and UK societies has increased in recent years, not least due to the rise to power and tenure of Donald J. Trump in the US and the vote in favour of Brexit in the UK. The aim will be to understand how these two events have acted as catalysts reinforcing divisions already present and creating new forms of divisions. (Hobolt, 2016; Sobolewska and Ford, 2020; West, 2019) The causes of what is perceived as polarisation will be examined as much as the consequences of this polarisation on British and American societies. It therefore seems essential to explore two fundamental aspects of this polarisation: the rise of the populist radical right and the role of the media. It will then be necessary to highlight the way in which populists and the media, each in their own way, exert their influence and shape public opinion. Polarisation is an integral part of populist logic because it is based on a binary and divisive narrative that constructs a world in opposition: them vs. us, people vs. elite, nationals vs. foreigners, etc. (Roberts, 2021) Furthermore, the success of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Donald Trump has inevitably led to the emergence of new programmatic lines that increase the effects of polarisation. (Roberts, 2021) In the UK, for example, the Conservative Party's war against "wokism" is a striking example of this political polarisation. As for the media, they play a central role in shaping and influencing public opinion, by disseminating information and analyses that may appear biased or one-sided. It is therefore essential to study the polarisation of the media, which can be seen in the division between mainstream and alternative media. As the media of the 21st century are very diverse: television, newspapers, the internet, radio, social networks and other platforms, we will be looking at the news media as a whole. (Beaufort, 2020)

It should be noted that the media are not the only means of influencing public opinion. Other vectors such as literature, cinema, political communication, advertising, and other channels can also play a significant role in shaping opinion. (Prince, 2012; White, 2023) This influence on public opinion can, moreover, originate from official sources such as the state, the government or political parties, but it can also be the result of activist or citizen initiatives. There is therefore a plurality of sources and objectives to consider when analysing the polarisation of contemporary American and British societies.

Finally, we might consider the meaning of the term “polarisation”, which is used to describe a certain fragmentation of society. Does this necessarily imply a division into two poles: conservative and liberal, extremist and centrist, woke and anti-woke? Does this division into two poles reveal the beginnings of what could be a new "third way" or "culture wars"?

To what extent can a polarised society still be a nation, and can the United States and the United Kingdom still be considered 'one' nation? What might be the longer-term effects of this growing polarisation on British and American democracy?

Convenors

  • Laetitia Langlois, maître de conférences en histoire et civilisation britannique contemporaine à l'Université d'Angers, membre du laboratoire 3L.AM
  • Clifford Baverel, maître de conférences en histoire et civilisation nord-américaine à l'Université d'Angers, membre du laboratoire CIRPaLL

Bibliography

Beaufort, Maren (ed.). Digital Media, Political Polarization and Challenges to Democracy. Routledge, 2020.

Diallo, David, Éric Rouby et Adrien Schu, Trump ou l’érosion de la démocratie américaine. Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2023.

Dorling, Danny. Shattered Nation: Inequality and the Geography of a Failing State. Verso Books, 2023.

Duffy, Bobby, Kirstie A. Hewlett, Julian McCrae, et John Hall. Divided Britain? Polarisation and fragmentation trends in the UK. 2019. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/divided-britain.pdf

Esler, Gavin. How Britain Ends: English Nationalism and the Rebirth of the Four Nations. Apollo, 2021.

Happer, Catherine et Philo, Greg. “The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change”. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, vol. 1, n° 1, 2013, pp. 321-336.

Catherine   Happer, Andrew Hoskins, et William Merrin (eds.). Trump’s Media War. Palgrave Macmillan Cham, 2019.

Hobolt, Sara. “The Brexit Vote: A Divided Nation, A Divided Continent”. Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 23, N° 9, 2016, pp. 1259-1277. Doi: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1225785.

Prince, Tracy J. Culture wars in British Literature: Multiculturalism and Nationalism. McFarland & Co, 2012.

Roberts, Kenneth M. “Populism and Polarization in Comparative Perspective: Constitutive, Spatial and Institutional Dimensions”. Government and Opposition, vol. 57, n° 4, 2021, pp. 680-702. doi: 10.1017/gov.2021.14

Sides, John et Daniel J. Hopkins. Political Polarization in American Politics. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

Sobolewska, Maria et Robert Ford. Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics. Cambridge University Press, 2020.

West, Darrell M. Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era. Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

White, John. British Cinema and a Divided Nation. Edinburgh University Press, 2023.

Places

  • Angers, France (49000)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


Date(s)

  • Saturday, June 15, 2024

Keywords

  • polarisation, transformation sociale, média, opinion publique

Contact(s)

  • Clifford BAVEREL
    courriel : clifford [dot] baverel [at] univ-angers [dot] fr
  • Laetitia Langlois
    courriel : laetitia [dot] langlois [at] univ-angers [dot] fr

Information source

  • Clifford BAVEREL
    courriel : clifford [dot] baverel [at] univ-angers [dot] fr

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Polarisation of British and American societies », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, May 02, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/10son

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