Home"Here’s to the losers". Toward a political sociology of electoral defeat

"Here’s to the losers". Toward a political sociology of electoral defeat

« Here’s to the losers ». Une sociologie politique de la défaite électorale

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Published on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by Julie Abbou

Summary

While each election produces far more losers than winners, electoral defeat has so far raised only little interest among sociologists and politologists. The conference to be held at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on 16 and 17 October 2014 aims to stimulate research and discussion on the topic. Rather than trying to identify explanatory factors of electoral defeat, it seeks to gather research dealing with its implications at individual and collective levels. Studying the impact of an electoral defeat on the person or the group that experienced it may indeed contribute to a better understanding of politicians' career patterns, political commitment and disengagement processes, change in political parties or even, at a broader level, of the underlying logic of political competition in a variety of contexts.

Announcement

Université Libre de Bruxelles (Cevipol)

Argument

"The profound goal of politicians is not to win, but to be defeated". This surprising postulate lies at the heart of the satirical book Que le meilleur perde. Eloge de la défaite en politique (May the best lose. A praise of defeat in politics) published in 1986 by a researcher, Frédéric Bon, and a journalist, Michel-Antoine Burnier. By reversing the common sense approach to political activities, the authors go well beyond the joke and invite the reader to reconsider the traditional notion of defeat and victory in politics. Electoral defeat may probably not be the main purpose politicians pursue, but it is definitely a core element of any political competition, especially in a democratic regime. Very few politicians have never experienced it either directly (as candidates) or indirectly (as advisors, assistants, members of a campaign committee, etc..)

While each election produces far more losers than winners, electoral defeat has so far raised only little interest among sociologists and politologists. The conference to be held at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on 16 and 17 October 2014 aims to stimulate research and discussion on the topic. Rather than trying to identify explanatory factors of electoral defeat, it seeks to gather research dealing with its implications at individual and collective levels. Studying the impact of an electoral defeat on the person or the group that experienced it may indeed contribute to a better understanding of politicians' career patterns, political commitment and disengagement processes, change in political parties or even, at a broader level, of the underlying logic of political competition in a variety of contexts.

Main axes

More specifically, three main issues will be addressed in a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective:

1. The definition and interpretation of electoral defeat.

The first panel of the conference will address the interpretive struggles over the electoral result and its meanings that take place after each election. Who are the various actors involved in the labelling of an electoral result as a success or a failure ? What criteria do they use in making such a determination ? To what extent does the dynamic of interpretive struggles over electoral results vary from a context to another ? Under what conditions is it possible to deny a defeat or to give it a positive connotation ? How to explain that the interpretation given to an election may change over time ?

2. Politicians facing defeat.

The second panel of the conference will be devoted to the study of individual implications of electoral defeat. How can we explain the various effects of electoral defeat on those who experienced it ? How do politicians strive to bounce back after a defeat ? Under what conditions do they engage in strategies of political repositioning or/and professional conversion ? What are the specific issues professional politicians have to face when losing elections ? Under what conditions does an electoral defeat put an end to a political career ? Does experiencing electoral failure affect the way politicians internalize and accept the rules of the political competition ?

3. Electoral defeat as a test for political parties

Finally, the third panel of the conference will focus on implications of electoral defeat for political parties. To what extent do electoral defeats affect power relations within parties, both at the national and local levels ? Under what condition does a defeat have an impact on the functioning (e.g. candidate selection methods, internal hierarchy, budget management...), the public identity (public stances, methods of communication...) and the alliance strategy of the party experiencing it ? When does electoral defeat means death for a party ?

Submission guidelines

Proposals may deal with one or several case studies. Comparative and transdisciplinary approaches are very welcomed. Potential contributors are invited to submit a short abstract (2 pages maximum) to Frédéric Louault : flouault@ulb.ac.be and Cédric Pellen : cedric.pellen@ulb.ac.be

by 15 may 2014.

Abstracts should include a brief description of the research problem and methodology, and a short biographical sketch of the authors. Papers may be written either in English or in French.

  • The results of the selection will be given by 30 June 2014.
  • Full papers accepted for presentation should be sent by 1st October 2014.
  • The conference will be held on 16 and 17 October 2014

Selected bibliography

Agh Atila, “Defeat and success as promoters of party change : the Hungarian socialist Party after two abrupt changes”, Party Politics, vol.3, n°3, 1997, pp.427-444

Blais André & Nadeau Richard, “Accepting the Election Outcome: The Effect of Participation on Losers’ Consent”, British Journal of Political Science, vol.23, n°4, 1993 (Oct.), pp.553-563

Bon Frédéric & Burnier Michel Antoine, Que le meilleur perde. Eloge de la défaite en politique, Paris, Balland, 1985.

Brand Jack, Defeat and renewal: the Scottish National Party in the eighties, Barcelona: Institut de ciències polítiques i socials, 1990.

Collovald Annie, « Jacques Chirac un leader sans ressources », Revue française de science politique, vol.40, n°6, 1990, p.880-901.

Gaïti Brigitte, « Des ressources politiques à valeur relative : le difficile retour de Valéry Giscard d'Estaing », Revue française de science politique, 1990, Vol. 40, n°6, p. 902-917.

Gilmour John & Rothstein Paul, “A Dynamic Model of Loss, Retirement and Tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Journal of Politics, vol. 58, n°1, 1996 (Feb.), pp. 54-68

Juhem Philippe, « Investissements et désinvestissements partisans », Cohen Antonin, Lacroix Bernard & Riutort Philippe (dir.), Nouveau manuel de science politique, Paris, La Découverte, 2009, p.478-491.

Langston Joy, “Rising from the Ashes? Reorganizing and Unifying the PRI’s State Party Organizations after Electoral Defeat”, Comparative Political Studies, vol.36, n°3, 2003 (Apr.), pp.293-318

Lehingue Patrick, « Mais qui a gagné ? Les mécanismes de production des verdicts électoraux (Le cas des scrutins municipaux) », in Lagroye Jacques, Lehingue Patrick & Sawicki Frédéric (dir.), Mobilisations électorales : le cas des élections municipales de 2001, Paris, PUF, 2005, p.323-360.

Lim Kim Chong, “Political Attitudes of Defeated Candidates in an American State Election”, American Political Science Review, vol.64, n°3, 1970 (Sep.), pp.879-887

Milloud Cécile, L’échec en politique : contribution à l’étude des représentations et des stratégies de légitimation des candidats français, Thèse de doctorat en science politique, Grenoble : Université Pierre Mendès-France, 2000

Norris Pippa & Lovenduski Joni, “Why Parties Fail to Learn. Electoral Defeat, Selective Perception and British Party Politics”, Party Politics, vol.10, n°1, 2004, pp.85- 104

Ragaru Nadège, «En quête de notabilité. Vivre et survivre en politique dans la Bulgarie post-communiste », Politix, vol.17, n°67, 2004, p.71-99

Ray David, “Voluntary Retirement and Electoral Defeat in Eight State Legislatures”, The Journal of Politics, vol.38, n°2, 1976 (May), pp.426-433

Squire Peverill, “The Chances of Regaining One’s Seat by Revenging a Defeat”, Polity, vol.18, n°3, 1986 (Spring), pp.514-520

Places

  • Université Libre de Bruxelles - Campus de Solbosch
    Brussels, Belgium (1050)

Date(s)

  • Thursday, May 15, 2014

Keywords

  • défaite électorale, sociologie politique, carrières politiques, partis

Contact(s)

  • Pellen Cedrid
    courriel : cedric [dot] pellen [at] ulb [dot] ac [dot] be
  • Louault Frederic
    courriel : flouault [at] ulb [dot] ac [dot] be

Information source

  • Pellen Cedric
    courriel : cedricpellen [at] hotmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« "Here’s to the losers". Toward a political sociology of electoral defeat », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, February 05, 2014, https://calenda.org/275335

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