New forms of political engagement
Two themes are recurrent in literature on the future: One is that of crisis, of social fracture accompanying the growth of unemployment, inequality and exclusion. The other forecasts social explosion, if not revolution. What can political science tell us about collective motivation and action?
At first (from the 18th century to 1950), political involvement was taken as normative, even metaphysical. The active, committed citizen was an axiom of political science, says Perrineau. Then, in a second period, its practitioners discovered the reality of the passive citizen. Since the start of the eighties they have rediscovered political involvement but under a diversified, exploded form.
Traditional political participation is in crisis, Perrineau affirms. The left/right cleavage is becoming less significant, membership in parties and labour unions is wilting, along with voter turnout. The centre of policy decisions is shifting from national to local and international levels.
On the other hand, new kinds of participation and involvement are forming around the great ethical and humanitarian issues implied by ecology. In place of the old democratic trio of party, mass mobilization and terminal negotiations is substituted a trio of interest groups, experts in communications, and image-building with media forums and opinion surveys. The trend is to individuation, atomization, blurring of boundaries and the political landscape - all of which contribute to greater unpredictability.