The three-party system in France and Australia

by John Quiggin on June 6, 2022

For a while now I’ve been arguing the political crises in the developed world can be understood as the breakdown of a two (dominant) party system in which power alternated between hard (Thatcher) and soft (Clinton) versions of neoliberalism (or market liberalism), with two sides drawing respectively on the votes of the racist/authoritarian right (Trumpists) and the disaffected left (environmentalists, socialists/social democrats etc) who had nowhere else to go, even if they were entirely unsympathetic to the market-liberal version of capitalism.

As the failures of neoliberalism have become more evident, there’s no longer enough support to maintain two neoliberal parties, so the natural outcome is a three-party system, with Trumpists, neoliberals and a left coalition, all of roughly equal size. In political systems set up for two parties, this creates a lot of instability.

When I looked at this in 2016, it seemed that the biggest losers were soft neoliberal parties, typically nominally socialist or social democratic, which had embraced austerity in the wake of the GFC. Prime examples were PASOK (which gave its name to the process of Pasokification), the French socialists under Hollande and the Dutch Labour party. More recently, though, hard neoliberal parties have also been replaced by the Trumpist right (as in France) or simply swallowed by Trumpism, as in the paradigm case of the US Republicans.

Following recent elections in France and Australia, I thought I’d take another look

Political realignment in France has embodied the three-party system perfectly. Macron has absorbed the hard and soft neoliberals from both of the old major parties into his own vehicle, now rebranded (itself a term redolent of neoliberalism) as Renaissance. The Trumpist right is represented by Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National a and the even further right Reconquete. The left split in all directions during the Presidential election. For the Parliamentary elections has formed a coalition called Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale (NUPES).

The two-party system in Australia has been a little more robust. Political power has alternated between the Labor party (soft neoliberal since the 1980s) and a permanent Coalition consisting of the Liberal party (urban pro-business party, hard neoliberal) and the National party (rural conservative). Over time, Labor has been challenged more and more by the Greens on the left, while the Coalition has lost support to far-right Trumpist parties. At the recent election, a third force emerged, so-called teal independents who challenged the Liberals in high-income urban seats. The name ‘teal’ (that is, blue-green) reflects the idea that the independents are broadly centrist or centre-right on economic issues but focus mainly on climate change and social issues such as #MeToo.

The electoral system in Australia, preferential voting (AKA alternative vote, instant runoff) is more favorable to minor parties than the plurality/first past the post system common in constituency systems derived from Britain. Voters rank all candidates. In the absence of a majority, candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated and their votes’ second preferences allocated among the remaining candidates. So, for example, you can safely give your first preference (primary vote) to the Greens, and give Labor a second preference without the risk of ‘wasting your vote’. If the Greens are eliminated (as usually, but not always, happens), your vote.

In the leadup to the election, the two major parties converged on most issues, with both adopting very weak policies on climate (though the conservatives were weaker). The outcome of voting saw the electorate divided into three: the main parties each got a little over a third of the primary votes, and the rest of the field a little less (the far right about ten per cent, and the Greens and teals a little under twenty per cent). The most notable result was that the Liberals lost nearly all their metropolitan seats (those in state and national capitals), winning only in the peri-urban fringe, and some regional cities. Both major parties lost seats to the Greens. Labor won a narrow majority of seats with a primary vote of about 32 per cent,

In the immediate aftermath of the election, it seemed that the big vote for candidates supporting climate action, and the unprecedented number of crossbenchers would push Labor to a more progressive policy. So far, however this hasn’t happened. Labor has stuck with soft neoliberalism, while the political right is torn between a full shift to Trumpism, or simply waiting for economic problems to return them to power.

Unless there is a big shift, it seems likely that the neoliberal duopoly will be eroded further, with Greens and progressive independents gaining ground in cities, while the far right increases its influence over the conservative parties.

{ 56 comments }

1

nastywoman 06.06.22 at 10:31 am

For a while now I’ve been arguing the political crises in the developed world -(if one could call it like that) can be understood as the breakdown of (dominant) party systems in which power alternated between ‘hard’ (totally un-empathetic) and soft (more empathetic) versions of GREED (under all kind of ‘political’ labels), with all sides drawing respectively on the votes of any racist/authoritarian right science denying idiocy (called ‘trump’ now) and anybody who had nowhere else to go, even if they were entirely unsympathetic to the
GREED of capitalism.

As the failures of ‘political system’ have become more evident, there’s no longer enough support to maintain any so called ‘mainstream stuff’ –
so the natural outcome was/is
DISRUPTION

CONFUSION

CHAOS

where any ‘Politician’ -(or politics) CAN WIN – who pretends NOT to be ‘your’ (standard)
‘politics as usual’ AND/ or ‘anti.mainstream’ –
(whatever that means?)

BUT as the Voters now have learned that such DISRUPTION and CHAOS needs a minimum of sanity – slowly some good ole/bad ‘party systems’ are BACK in fashion
AGAIN
and so Macron won and a ‘trump’ (the Worlds New Word for Utmost Racist Science Denying Stupid GREED) NEVER will win again –
(at least NOT in the US – while should we be worried about… Australia?)

2

nastywoman 06.06.22 at 10:40 am

AND about:
‘Unless there is a big shift, it seems likely that the neoliberal duopoly will be eroded further, with Greens and progressive independents gaining ground in cities, while the far right increases its influence over the conservative parties’.

Annalena Baerbock has become ‘the most popular’ (German) so called – ‘politician’
AND her GREEN Party has surpassed (again) the so called Sozialdemokraten of the chancellor Scholz –
which actually proves every single word I have written in my last comment –
and if y’all don’t understand read MORE Kant!
(or Dante)

Capisce?

3

nastywoman 06.06.22 at 10:54 am

AND do I need to say MORE =

https://youtu.be/j0GmfZLMRzM

4

J. not that one 06.06.22 at 2:58 pm

I’d speculate there’s a big difference between cultures where disagreement is expected and those where consensus is. Despite pockets of the former in the US, the latter seems dominant here. We have a politics where each ideology views itself as above dispute and focuses its energy on a predefined Other. I don’t see how a stable political system can emerge from this that has three parties of the kind the OP describes. We seem increasingly to have a far right that sees the center as “left,” a far left that sees the center as “right,” (and both are from their own perspectives possibly logically correct, if we assumed, which I would not, that both start from logically possible places), and a center that may or may not borrow the language of one or both of the extremes but either looks down on them or sees them as despicable elites, with a happy few sincerely recommending “the marketplace of ideas” to all since they feel it’s served them, personally, so well.

I don’t see how this can be stable, and no amount of trying to impose theory on the system can make it so. We don’t even have agreement on whether the culture broadly should be characterized by “consensus” or “dissensus,” or which of those should be associated with the right or the left. The winners are likely to be the word-selling class who declare their helplessness before the many rules imposed on them by the “Discourse,” and seem to think others are somehow not in any way bound by anything.

(That is a lot more cynical than the thought I started out with, but I think I’ll let this stand,)

France and Australia are surely different so it would be interesting to see the equivalent of Klein’s “polarization” book for them. I have no interest in forcing people to talk about the US, but I think the three-party idea looks unlikely here right now.

5

YPG 06.06.22 at 5:19 pm

I like the general thrust of this post but I feel a little bewildered by calling hard right parties in foreign countries ‘Trumpist.’ I mean no offence but I’ve never appreciated the term. ‘Trumpism’ denotes no clear ideology- even in the US where it started- and teaches me nothing about Australian or French politics. I understand that it’s supposed to do work as a sort of shorthand in this analysis but it muddies more than it clarifies for me.

I haven’t frequented this site in a little whilie- so maybe this has been elsewhere explained. Could someone please help me understand what Quiggan means by this term?

6

anon/portly 06.06.22 at 8:09 pm

There are a few typos, I think. E.g. paragraph 4, and the 4th paragraph from the bottom, where words along the lines of “goes to labour” were omitted from the end of this sentence:

If the Greens are eliminated (as usually, but not always, happens), your vote.

I’m curious about this:

The name ‘teal’ (that is, blue-green) reflects the idea that the independents are broadly centrist or centre-right on economic issues but focus mainly on climate change and social issues such as #MeToo.

In the US context, my preference could be described as “vote for the Democrat who best advances neoliberal ideals” but if I was Australian, based on this short description, I think I’d likely be a teal voter. But since this post is all about neoliberalism losing ground, this must be wrong somehow.

7

Mr_Spoon 06.06.22 at 8:30 pm

Is there a future for party politics in Australia? My take-away from this election was that candidates won or lost on local issue in their electorates (…and Labor in Western Australia managed to weaponise this by using WA’s famous parochialism vs Back East). Labor lost in their rusted-on safe seat Fowler to a former Liberal, now independent, because they parachuted in a nationally desirable candidate who had nothing to offer the locals. The Greens only won in Brisbane because there were no teal candidates.

The Teals are not a party, despite the coordination of their funding and message. I will be curious to see how they’re treated by the old guard in parliament: whether they will regularise as a party, or remain a flexible (and frustrating…) collection of individuals.

Can the parties learn to do local politics better?

8

MisterMr 06.06.22 at 10:06 pm

My impression living in Italy, but also observing via blogs etc. politics in the USA and the UK, is that the left is stuck with the neoliberals, because it can’t go anywhere else and is not strong enough to dictate policy.
Also neoliberals will screw the left in any situation thinking that the left is aaking for BS anyway.

There are significant downsides for the left in this situation though.

9

Not Trampis 06.06.22 at 10:37 pm

The liberal democrats are regaining support in the UK contrary to the quiggin hypothesis. Is it an outlier or a model for other parties to copy.

I think our compulsory voting ( okay compulsory turning up to vote) ensures trumpism can’t work in Australia

10

Alex SL 06.06.22 at 11:03 pm

The question is then where in the progressive left – neoliberal centre – reactionary right scheme that I broadly agree with do the teals fit? In its closing statement, the OP seems to classify them as “progressive independents” because they want action on climate change, but I would say that they are actually trying to nibble away at the Liberals to re-establish a new neoliberal centre. They consider the Liberals as having moved too far to the right, and as expressed in the OP, their economic position is neoliberal.

It thus seems that if the spectrum is approximately three thirds, many of the progressive third must still see their interests best served by voting Labor; and I think that makes sense, for two reasons.

First, many people do not realise how the position of the party they traditionally voted for shifts under their feet. That is partly why conservative parties like the GOP and Tories don’t collapse from 45% down to 30% when an extremist takes over: the inertia of many traditional, glued-on voters who are in denial about the radicalism of the new leader. “They wouldn’t really do that, it would be too unpopular, they are just saying that to win.” (And yes, that statement is incoherent, but you hear that a lot.)

To apply this observation to Labor, when the Australian election started, the ABC Vote Compass was rolled out once more. If anybody here is unfamiliar, it is a web tool where you can answer a series of questions, your answers are matched against party programs, and a little ordination plot shows you how close you are to Coalition, Labor, and Greens. There were one or two weeks where social media were full of outraged Labor supporters who found that their actually opinions matched closely to the Greens platform, and that Labor did not represent their views at all, but they just couldn’t believe it; surely the truth is that ABC must be biased!

Second, many Australians actually do not understand Australia’s preference voting system and worry that their vote for a minor party would be wasted. I suspect the Greens’ primary vote share would be easily over 20% if everybody understood preference voting. Same, unfortunately, for the sum of ON and UAP.

In summary, I agree that voters can probably be sorted into the three boxes progressive left, neoliberal, and reactionary, but the inertia of traditional party allegiance and idiosyncrasies of electoral systems make the translation of this realignment into vote outcomes rather complicated.

11

Jesse 06.07.22 at 12:19 am

This is a good description of what is happening in Canada as well. It used to be the liberals and progressive conservatives were the left and right market oriented parties respectively, and the NDP the non-market left.
The conservatives broke apart and then merged back together again (dropping the progressive from the name) and are muchbfurther right, with the current leadership campaign getting outright trumpy.
The liberals are being squeezed by the NDP and are riding vote efficiency to hold onto minority governments for now.

12

John Quiggin 06.07.22 at 2:28 am

YPG @5 I’ve added a link to an earlier CT post on Trumpism and crony capitalism, arguing that the core of Trumpism is a default version of identity politics, focusing on the “unmarked category” (white male Christian het/cis in the US case) against which others are measured. I formerly used the term “tribalism”, but a lot of people pushed back, correctly, against this.

13

J-D 06.07.22 at 4:55 am

Is there a future for party politics in Australia?

Broadly, the possibilities break down like this.

If the trend of a decline in the voting support of Labor and the Coalition parties halts (or even reverses), then those parties have a future.

If the trend continues, their future is in danger, but barring some other dramatic developments, not currently in prospect, they (or at least one of them) will be replaced in the system by other parties.

With just a few votes left to count, it seems that Labor and the Coalition parties received, in aggregate, about two-thirds of votes cast, while other parties and independent candidates received, in aggregate, about one-third of votes cast. If those proportions remain roughly constant in future elections, the past pattern of alternation between periods of Labor government and Coalition government will continue. If those proportions were, for example, reversed, with Labor and the Coalition parties receiving only one-third of the votes, the effect would depend on where the other two-thirds of the votes were going. If, for example, the bulk of them went to the Greens, we’d still have party politics, but with a different party.

14

nastywoman 06.07.22 at 6:12 am

Okay –
as the only Country on this Planet –
(perhaps besides Switzerland) where ‘politics’
STILL! –
‘orderly categorised’
(kind of of) –
Germany -(and thusly also the very, very democratic EU Parliament) has the traditional six (or more) Party System –
From Left to Right:

The Socialdemocrats
The ‘Hard’ Left (in order to use a Q)
The Greens
The Liberals
The (Christian) Conservatives
The hard Right (in oder to use a Q)

AND the point that some Anglo-Countries –
STILL
try to squeeze such very orderly Order into three or even more – chaotically – into just TWO
parties NEVER WORKED –
Right?

And it NEVER will work –

RIGHT?
– which on the other hand can be considered more and more irrelevant – as the Voters anyhow much rather vote for somebody they are FANS von – than some ‘political’ parties.

15

William Berry 06.07.22 at 6:19 am

I apologize for this (relatively) off topic comment.

I was struck (in a good way) by this piece, on Slate:
https://slate.com/business/2022/06/wilhoits-law-conservatives-frank-wilhoit.html

Yes, that’s our own Frank Wilhoit, American classical composer and sometime perspicuous commenter on CT!

I have heard, or read, the phrase in question several times, here and there, but didn’t know it was originated by that FW.

Occasionally one comes across an aphoristic remark that startles when the worlds of meaning it accesses and illuminates are revealed to anyone who cares to see.

Trippy.

16

nastywoman 06.07.22 at 6:38 am

AND
(from Wiki)

France has a multi-party political system: one in which the number of competing political parties is sufficiently large as to make it almost inevitable that in order to participate in the exercise of power any single party must be prepared to negotiate with one or more others with a view to forming electoral alliances and/or coalition agreements.

The dominant French political parties are also characterised by a noticeable degree of intra-party factionalism, making each of them effectively a coalition in itself.

Up until recently, the government of France had alternated between two rather stable coalitions:

on the centre-left, one led by the Socialist Party and with minor partners such as The Greens and the Radical Party of the Left.
on the centre-right, one led by The Republicans (and previously its predecessors, the Union for a Popular Movement, Rally for the Republic) and the Union of Democrats and Independents’.

AND how is/was it possible to compare something like… that?

to ‘Australia’?

17

nastywoman 06.07.22 at 6:44 am

and about the universality of ‘Trumpism’ –
as ‘trump’ has become the Worlds New Word for: Utmost Right Wing Racist Science Denying Warmongering Stupid – it actually is FIRST about THE ‘Stupid’ and last about any kind of ‘politics’ or ‘policies’ as for Idiots ‘policies’ or ‘politics’ are as –
‘BEAUTIFUL –
as the City of Belgium’.

18

Fake Dave 06.07.22 at 7:36 am

I still don’t understand why we’re calling it “Trumpism.” The man barely has an ideology. He’s just copying from other people’s playbooks. He repeats whatever slogans will draw a cheer from “the base,” but he didn’t invent any of it. Credit Le Penn, or Farage, or Wilders, or Orban. Look at the runaway success of Modhi’s Hindu chauvinism, Erdogan’s paranoid anti-secularism, or Putin’s twenty-year-long Patriotic War reenactment, or Chairman Xi’s long march backward. Trumpism was always just a symptom, and a late one at that. We need to name the disease.

19

MisterMr 06.07.22 at 12:51 pm

To expand a bit on my previous comment:

Logically there should be 4 groups:

neoliberal left
neoliberal right
identitary right (for lack of a better term, what the OP calls trumpist right)
radical left

but in practice, the logic of politics is such that all groups tend to be squeezed into two opposing camps: this is most obvious in first past the post systems, but also in Italy that has a more proportional system (actually a weird mix between first past the post and proportional) there is an obvious tendency to create two broad coalitions, and while many parties tried to get out from this logic in the end we are still with the two broad coalitions.

On the right, this means that the neoliberal righties are squeezed with the identitarians, who currently are dominant, and tend to disappear.
On the left, for some reason, the opposite is happening, and the radicals are squeezed with the neoliberals, that are numerically dominant, and so the radicals tend to be squeezed (as radical politicians in pratice cannot deliver to their voters anything different from neoliberal left politicians).

If we see the identitary right and the radical left as the extremists, this means that the right becomes more and more extremist, while the left becomes more and more centrist: there is a strong asymmetry.

We could discuss why there is this asymmetry, and also if “neoliberal” is really the same than “centrist”, but I don’t think that a 3 parties (or 3 factions, or 3 coalitions) equilibrium is stable.

20

roger gathmann 06.07.22 at 2:24 pm

Although this is a nice post about Australia, it gives such a cursory glance at French politics that I dont know why you include France at all, John. Trumpism could be better named LePenism, since it was Le Pen in 2002 who showed the far right was coming back by knocking out the socialist Jospin. Since that time, the Socialist party won the presidency once – but it was worse than a lost, as Francois Hollande hollowed out the party to such an extent that he refused to run for re-election – perhaps fearing the humiliation of getting less than tenth of the vote – and on the national level the party died, with the PS getting a recordsetting 2 percent in this election. The old Gaullist right, which, after Chirac, went to Sarkozy, has also collapsed. Sarkozy’s old party made less than 5 percent, which meant that its standardbearer, Valerie Pecresse, failed to get enough to get election funds from the state. Thus, what happened was pretty different from a straight old collapse of a two party model, which has, besides, not fit the French model of party coalitions. There is, instead, something that looks like a party under Macron but does not have the culture of a party – unlike De Gaulle, Macron has no deep roots in French politics and he is not very interested in party-making. Melenchon – who I voted for in the elections – has cast himself in the Mitterand role of leading a united left, in the vacuum opened up by the PS. Interestingly, as some pollsters have pointed out, the Melenchon vote was far outside of the polls leading up to the election – by as much as five percent more – which parallels Le Pen’s rise in the late 90s. Since French law forbids polling by race or ethnicity, we don’t have a handle on who the Maghrebian immigrants are voting for, but it is a good bet it is Melenchon. In as much as the neoliberal era was also one of immigration flows, this is significant. Melenchon was like Macron – neglectful of party – but in the past year he seems to have turned around on this issue.

21

nastywoman 06.07.22 at 2:53 pm

and did we already all forgot how Macron just started some Party -(for himself) telling the voters: Now that’s not your usual ‘political’ party and then in 2017 the following happened:
‘Across the country, candidates from La République en Marche (LREM) – many of them political novices – have ripped apart the political script, storming bastions of the right and the left with astonishing ease. Projections show them taking as many as 430 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly in next week’s run-off. And that’s without counting the handful of survivors from mainstream parties of the left and the right who have already pledged to support France’s new president, desperate to jump onto Macron’s Ark and escape the Flood’.

Now wasn’t that already the end of the French three-party party system?

22

reason 06.07.22 at 3:19 pm

As I see it, the social democratic parties are all having a crisis of identity because of class changes. There used to be clearly the idea that the social democratic parties represented the working class and grew from the union movement. But this class no longer exists in the same sense. The working class used to include the lower middle class and many left intellectuals. But social sorting, particularly associated with education has created a new political class more interested in environmental issues and social change – the natural clients for the green party, and the working class itself has split between small businesses (tradesmen and transporters) and the precariat of casual labourers. The effect of this can be seen in countries with proportional representation. But there is also another phenomenon – the growth of troll parties – mostly clearly the AFD in Germany which have no real identity except “not the others” – nihilists. In some countries (especially Anglo-Saxon countries with Murdoch media) the trolls have attached to the conservative parties.

The social democrats need to give up their union identity I think and become proper egalitarian parties. Without a UBI I can’t see this happening. Not everyone can rely on earned income to survive all the time.

23

John Quiggin 06.07.22 at 8:14 pm

Roger@18 Your analysis seems to recapitulate almost exactly what I said. To clarify, I’m using the term Trumpism, but I made it clear that it was around long before Trump rose to power. And when I use the term “party”, I’m not excluding personal vehicles like Macron’s. If there is something I have actually got wrong, feel free to point it out.

Reason @20 This class analysis is problematic. I’ve argued elsewhere that the archetypal working class Labor/Green voter in Australia today is a female junior nurse in her 20s. Where would she fit into your categorization ?

24

nastywoman 06.08.22 at 1:48 am

and about – @22 ‘the growth of troll parties’ – (or ‘Clown-Politicians like ‘Trump’) – that unites ALL of the a-political jokers who just want to –
BURN DOWN THE HOUSE.
(and who could deny that the major purpose of Trolls like Donald Greenwald is/was to get rid of ALL Parties)

And so it is –
at this 8th of June –
that in my homeland the US –
(but NEVER in France or the EU)
the ONE PARTY RULE –
of a ‘party’ who isn’t ‘a party’ at all –
BUT just a FAKE and very lose and crazy conglomerate of individual clowns –
who have @22 ‘no real identity except “not the others” –
nihilists.
or/and as Fake Dave wrote –
only ‘Trumpists understand why anybody would call it ‘Trumpism’
as these men –
‘barely have an ideology’.
They are just copying from other people’s playbooks.
They repeat whatever slogans will draw a cheer from “there Belgium is a beautiful city base” but they didn’t and don’t invent any of it.
Credit ‘Real Fascists’.
Look at the runaway success of GREED and chauvinism,
AND Nationalism –
and paranoid anti-secularism, or Putin’s twenty-year-long Nationalistic Patriotic Empire War and –
CRY!
(or just make fun of it like the REAL Party of US Comedians)

25

nastywoman 06.08.22 at 2:03 am

and with such a very obvious total chaotic NON three Party System
everywhere –
can somebody explain to me why some… some ‘people’ on the Internet
STILL!! –
come up with this silly idea of:
‘there is
STILL just the simplistic (Anglo-Saxon) Duoplay of Left versus Right –
while ate the same time –
the major Internet-Idiocy is the funny Greenwald myth
of EVERYTHING is –
‘THE SAME’
(and Bush is Obama and Belgium is a beautiful City)

26

nastywoman 06.08.22 at 2:11 am

BUT –
on the other hand –
the current preference of ‘the people’ for a-political comedians brought US
the man in the Ukraine –

and isn’t that dead serious?

27

nastywoman 06.08.22 at 6:38 am

so if y’all believe now that only Australians –
STILL
believe that there is a ‘three-party system in France and Australia’
I know an old Australian trumpet player in Zürich Switzerland who knows that
it
ain’t

28

nastywoman 06.08.22 at 6:46 am

and about ‘that the archetypal working class Labor/Green voter in Australia today is a female junior nurse in her 20s and where would she fit into in any categorization?

She would fit into the categorization that the archetypal working class Labor/Green voter in Germany is Annalena Baerbock
(‘Baerbock studierte von 2000 bis 2004 im Diplomstudiengang Politikwissenschaft an der Universität Hamburg und legte dort das Vordiplom ab.[20][21][22] Im Nebenfach belegte sie Öffentliches Recht/Europarecht.[20][21] Anschließend wechselte sie an die London School of Economics and Political Science und schloss dort 2005 einen einjährigen Postgraduierten-Studiengang mit einem Master in „Public International Law“ (LLM) mit Distinction ab.[20][21][22])
AND
Robert Habeck –
(Im Jahre 1996 erhielt Robert Habeck einen Magisterabschluss an der Universität Hamburg mit einer Abhandlung zu den Gedichten von Casimir Ulrich Boehlendorff (1775–1825),[9] über die er ein Jahr später auch ein Buch veröffentlichte.[10] Von 1996 bis 1998 absolvierte er ein Promotionsstudium der Universität Hamburg und wurde 2000 mit einer literaturwissenschaftlichen Arbeit über literarische Ästhetizität zum Dr. phil. promoviert.[11])

29

J-D 06.08.22 at 6:57 am

The working class used to include the lower middle class and many left intellectuals. … the working class itself has split between small businesses (tradesmen and transporters) and the precariat of casual labourers.

I’ve argued elsewhere that the archetypal working class Labor/Green voter in Australia today is a female junior nurse in her 20s. Where would she fit into your categorization ?

I know little or nothing about employment conditions for junior nurses–maybe many of them are casual employees reasonably described as part of the precariat? Would reason further categorise nurses as ‘labourers’? Terminology of this kind is often used without precision–reason apparently has no problem with the idea of a subgroup of the working class made up of small businesses, and yet many people would defend a definition of the working class which automatically excludes small businesspeople; reason also writes that the working class used to include the lower middle class, which on the face of it seems like a contradiction in terms.

30

MFB 06.08.22 at 9:33 am

This is an excellent analysis, but bloody hell, it deserves a 600-point headline announcing the end of the human race.

31

reason 06.08.22 at 3:37 pm

JQ https://crookedtimber.org/2022/06/06/the-three-party-system-in-france-and-australia/#comment-817724 – I don’t really understand your comment. Nurses represent around 1.5% of the population. Why does the individual categorisation of nurses as an example drive much of anything?

32

reason 06.08.22 at 7:54 pm

J-D What I meant to say in that the working class included the lower middle class was that there is a broad class of people who saw themselves as employees in a class struggle with employers and this class identity included people who were not the traditional working class – i.e. not manual workers.

33

John Quiggin 06.08.22 at 7:58 pm

Reason @31. Maybe too telegraphic. I was pushing back against the assumption, common in Australia, that the working class is typified by “tradesmen and transporters” Community service workers (like nurses) more numerous, mostly female, more likely to be employees and unionised, more likely to vote left.
(This comment crossed with your most recent, which makes the idea that “working class” = “male manual” even more explicit).

34

Alex SL 06.08.22 at 9:54 pm

Working class means a rural white business owner with fifty employees who is a personal friend of the senator, because he hasn’t got a university degree and likes barbecues, whereas elite means a metropolitan teacher on a temp contract with immigrant background, because she has a university degree and likes chai latte. Can’t argue with it, that’s just what those words were always meant to stand for!

(Sarcasm, obviously.)

35

J-D 06.08.22 at 11:22 pm

J-D What I meant to say in that the working class included the lower middle class was that there is a broad class of people who saw themselves as employees in a class struggle with employers and this class identity included people who were not the traditional working class – i.e. not manual workers.

My main point* is that the way people use these terms and discuss this subject is commonly unclear. Your follow-up comment does not reduce the unclarity created by your earlier comment.

I’ll leave the others for now.

36

nastywoman 06.09.22 at 6:43 am

and why about this…? this very ‘oldfashioned’? discussion about the voting preferences of something called ‘the working class’ – if so many of the real US ‘working class’ likes to votes for Non-Working Class Right-Wing Science Denying Idiots – because these Right-Wing Idiots are sharing a lot of the same ‘cultural’ -(and not ‘political’) preferences of the so called ‘working class’ –
or as my Harley mechanic once told me:
‘Trump is one of US’ –

And if a true ‘US working class mechanic’ believes – that a (supposedly) ‘Very Rich Stereotypical US Rapture Capitalist is a member of the US working class – shouldn’t we finally talk about ‘culture’ – instead of ‘politics’ -(nobody likes)

37

reason 06.09.22 at 11:41 am

JQ – nowhere as far as I know did I suggest the traditional working class was all male. Plenty of cleaners, nurses aids (as they used to be called), shop assistants, hairdressers etc would belong to that category. My point was more that the old path united workers in class struggle represented first by unions then by a labour (social democratic) party no longer works. That sense of a cohesive identity that supported social democratic parties has gone. I don’t particularly like the terms left and right – I think they obfuscate the conversation and oversimplify it. I prefer egalitarian and hierarchist.

38

Scott P. 06.09.22 at 1:26 pm

nastywoman,

It seems to me that Germany does have a two party system. There are the SDP, the Greens, and the FDP, in coalition on the one side, everyone else on the other. Everything besides that is just window dressing. You still need a majority to govern.

The difference in Anglo countries is that coalition-building is done before the election, not after. It seems to me that is more honest towards the electorate.

39

nastywoman 06.10.22 at 11:31 am

@’It seems to me that Germany does have a two party system’.

Well –
Once upon a time – I think it was over fifteen years ago one of my fellow Americans told me:
‘It seems to me that Germany does have COMMUNISM’.
and that my ‘Chancellorette’ is actually an old KGB Sister of Putin –
and when I told the Crazy Dude -(very politely) that he is… totally mistaken –
he really didn’t like that – and got all ‘polarized’ on me – and that really surprised me – as most of the ‘homelanders’ – I had met before – had not the slightest idea about ‘politics’ of other countries -(or ‘politics’ in general) they also had absolutely NO interest if a country like Germany would have a two party or six party system –
Heck! –
another ‘Scott’ who once asked me if I was ‘Swedish’ -(because I’m a natural BLOND)
was very disappointed when I told him that ‘the Queen’ isn’t ‘German’ -(what historically has a lot of truth in it) –
and do you mind if I ask you – if YOU were/ are this… ‘Scott’
because I’m really sure – that this ‘Scott from so many years ago ALSO had not the slightest idea how many ‘Parties’ Germany really y has!
(AND – NO! – Belgium actually isn’t ‘a beautiful City!’)
https://youtu.be/BnzXMRkBjMY

On the other hand – if you were. just (Donald Greenwald) – joking – I got the joke
as suchh jokes are on teh Intertubes for many moons –
and sometimes -(depending on my mood) I still find them funny –
So –
ALL GOOD! –
and – It seems to me that every one of my Homelanders is a Comedian.
(and not only Zelensky)

40

nastywoman 06.10.22 at 11:44 am

but about:
‘The difference in Anglo countries is that coalition-building is done before the election, not after. It seems to me that is more honest towards the electorate’

could you please explain to all of US – how and where this ‘coalition building’ is done before any election in Anglo countries – and in what Anglo Countries – and what ‘coalitions’
between what ‘parties’ – and please no return with:
‘Well sometimes Democrats vote together with Republicans’
as these aren’t ‘Coalitions’ -(if you understand what the word means)

41

nastywoman 06.10.22 at 11:52 am

AND sear Scott about:
‘There are the SDP, the Greens, and the FDP, in coalition on the one side, everyone else on the other’.

YES!

NOW!

But can you believe it that before the last election there were the CDU and the SPD in coalition on the one side and everyone else was on the other –
BUT!
– that didn’t mean that the coalition of the two parties on the one side – and AAAALL the parties on the other side suddenly have become just 2 -(in words ‘TWO’ parties)

NOOO!
– and even if Donald Trump and ALL of their silly followers thinks so –
as Kant just kan’t think sooo –

Wenn du verstehst was ich mein?

42

reason 06.10.22 at 2:10 pm

Scott P. – sorry but that is nonsense. You vote for a party not for a coalition. The party represents your views. You cannot know the relative strength of different views before the election, and that relative strength makes a different. And building the coalition before the election means that the relative strengths of the various factions in the coalition are invisible to the electorate. What you say only makes sense if you care only about who governs and not what their policies are. This cannot be the right way for democracy to work.

43

Alex SL 06.10.22 at 10:15 pm

Scott P.,

Multi-party coalitions in a proportional representation system is just not what two party system means. You could just as well argue that the USA are a monarchy by redefining elected heads of state to be “monarchs”.

44

J-D 06.11.22 at 6:33 am

… My point was more that the old path united workers in class struggle represented first by unions then by a labour (social democratic) party no longer works. …

The meaning of this is unclear in the absence of any explanation of how it once worked.

45

J-D 06.11.22 at 6:45 am

It seems to me that Germany does have a two party system. There are the SDP, the Greens, and the FDP, in coalition on the one side, everyone else on the other. Everything besides that is just window dressing. You still need a majority to govern.

The difference in Anglo countries is that coalition-building is done before the election, not after. It seems to me that is more honest towards the electorate.

In some countries, there are rules which make an explicit majority necessary for a government to hold office. In most countries, although explicit majority support may be desirable, a government without it holding office and exercising power is feasible to some extent. For example, in Canada (which although officially bilingual is at least sometimes considered part of the ‘Anglosphere’) minority governments are a regularly accepted phenomenon: when there is no party with a parliamentary majority, there’s no expectation that a coalition will be formed (rather the reverse).

To describe those countries with an explicit majority requirement as having ‘two-party systems’ (and others as not?) is at odds with the way that description is usually used and understood. The SPD, the FDP, and the Greens make up the present Federal coalition government, but this does not justify saying they are all just parts of one party, any more than the SPD and the Union parties were all just parts of one party when the previous government was in office, or the CDU, the FDP, and the Greens all just parts of one party in Schleswig-Holstein when they formed the governing coalition there before the recent election.

46

Fake Dave 06.11.22 at 7:19 am

Reason @37 said: “nowhere as far as I know did I suggest the traditional working class was all male. Plenty of cleaners, nurses aids (as they used to be called), shop assistants, hairdressers etc would belong to that category.”

That got me thinking about the difference between blue collar “manual labor” and pink collar “domestic work.” Putting aside several generations of bullied wives pulling unpaid third shift because their “provider” husbands had better things to do, there’s the still-urgent question of whether workers in traditionally female professions enjoy the same rights and and privileges as blue collar men. Generally, when people could be bothered to investigate, the results were distressing.

To this day, labor leaders have a reputation for being patronizing and dismissive of women workers and the industries they dominate. The assumption that hairdressers, caregivers, maids, etc. were meaningfully represented within the “traditional working class” is naive. By and large, those sectors didn’t fair any better during the heyday of the industrial labor movement than under neocomplaints.

In fact, nurses, teachers, public employees, and caregivers have become some of the most vital currents in the modern labor movement in part because they provide a female (and queer) – friendly alternative to a sinking ship of bitter macho blowhards. It’s long overdue, if you ask me. Of course, my perspective might have been colored by the time I spent working for a labor council where the the entire senior staff was eventually purged over harassment and hostile work environment conplaints, so ymmv.

47

Fake Dave 06.11.22 at 7:24 am

Sorry, that should be “neoliberalism,” not “neocomplaints.” My phone did a thing.

48

lurker 06.11.22 at 7:54 am

@reason, 42
The possibility of a more left-wing coalition that would include Die Linke was a significant issue in the 2021 German elections. Die Linke lost and no such coalition was built, but this was decided by the voters, not by party elites.
The idea that there should be only two alternatives and all must line up behind one of them is strangely attractive to some people. In the UK there is a persistent fantasy of a Progressive Alliance that would unite all the non-Tory parties in an electoral pact. It would make perfect sense if there were no real differences between the parties involved and all that mattered was getting the Tories out.

49

SusanC 06.11.22 at 9:48 pm

Agreed, we now seem to have, in many countries, three parties or factions squeezed into an electoral system designed for two,

Also agreed that’s there’s a fair amount of intertia with people not changing their political affiliations even when the party’s character changes. But, in the UK at least, people I know are very well aware of the shifting character of the parties and are often not at all happy about it. (Maybe people I know are more than averagely aware).

e.g. the pro-European Tories are very, very upset about the Brexiteers in general and Boris Johnson in particular. The right of labour was very, very upset by C0rbyn becoming leader. The pro-Corbyn labour members are very very cross about Keir Starmer.

Apart from inertia, they mostly hate the other party even more than the opposed faction in their own party, so aren’t going to switch their vote over it. (But: there were possibly Labour->Conservative switchers under Corbyn; Boris may have upset the pro-European Tories sufficiently that they switch to Starmer’s Labour)

If we hypothesize that three factions are of roughly equal size, at any one time about 1/3 of the electorate is going to be very upset that its preferred choice got knocked out in the not-very-democratic initial filtering stage before we get to the actual, two party, election.

I think some sort of electoral reform is needed to cope with the new reality.

50

nastywoman 06.11.22 at 10:54 pm

and @
‘The idea that there should be only two alternatives and all must line up behind one of them is strangely attractive to some people’.
– and even more – the idea that there should be only ONE – and all must line up behind this or that only ONE… thingy-
AND the funniest thing – that so many in the English Speaking World believe that there is STILL some ‘political system’ – and that ‘some people’ –
(TEH ELITES- THE ELITES) –
are STILL in control of it while in reality NONE of them can even built a Schweizer Uhrwerk – and as we all know –
that –
if ‘they’ (WHOEVER) would be
STILL in control of it – these ‘politics’ would work like a Schweizer Uhrwek
and not completely randomly like the effort of a group of Right-Wing Idiots trying to overthrow the government of a Right-Wing Racists Science Denying Idiot –
know
as
‘FF von Clownstick’!

51

nastywoman 06.13.22 at 11:13 am

and looking at the French election -(besides that it will be very much different next week)
If you guys take it as some kind of proof of a political three or two party system – think again –
(like a good pro EU Socialist) – as that ‘the broad coalition’ of the so called ‘Left’ under Mélenchon doesn’t include ‘the Pro EU Socialists’ and if Mélenchon keeps on trying to
get more voters from the Crazy and Racist Right by pretending that he also is some kind of nationalistic… ‘Populist’ – there soon might be another new Socialistic French Party which sees the solidarity with it’s (other Left) Europeans as high as a priority as (absurdly?) Macron –
and thats ‘the thing’ –
in times where the ‘Angst’ – and or ‘the hate’ against ‘the otherness’ of the others –
has become the main ‘political’ motivation to vote –
(or not vote at all – like so many French who have given up on politics) –
why not starting another new party –
everywhere –
which has just one phrase for it’s program:
‘Jeder denkt nur an sich –
nur ich denk an mich’

And that truly could become THE ONE PARTY everybody is dreaming about.
out of some very nasty nationalistic reasons tries

52

TM 06.13.22 at 2:36 pm

rg 20: “since it was Le Pen in 2002 who showed the far right was coming back by knocking out the socialist Jospin”

Respectfully, Jospin wasn’t defeated by the fascists, he was defeated by leftists and their nihilist failure to back a common progressive candidate and instead engage in useless third-, fourth and fifth-partyism. While soft neoliberal is a broadly accurate description of Jospin’s policies, he was a decent progressive who among others tried to establish the 35 hour week. Leftists took for granted that he would make it to the runoff and thought they could engage in some symbolic posturing by supporting fringe candidates in the first round. This is what defeated Jospin. In other words it was the same leftist stupidity that gave Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 the electoral college and again in 2017 and 2022 cleared the way to the French runoff for Le Pen (daughter). While this behavior isn’t as dangerous in the French electoral system as it is in the US, it’s reckless and stupid and the people engaging in it should have known.

53

TM 06.13.22 at 3:35 pm

Neoliberalism is such an elastic concept but to the extent it’s meaningful in the context of economic policy, I don’t see much evidence that it’s being replaced by a new paradigm. On the political right, it’s simply wrong to interpret Trumpism as a significant departure from hard neoliberalism. Trumpist economic policy was 90% Republican orthodoxy only with some isolationism thrown in. On the left, there is more social democratic (in the old sense) rhetoric but a real radical shift? Where is the evidence? The collapse of the French Socialist Party and the reconstitution of a new left coalition (a very interesting development although I don’t think Mélenchon’s can be trusted and I strongly hope that the new coalition will not turn out to be another one-man macho show) seems an outlier, at least in Western European comparison (which I recognize is a limited view). The recent German elections stabilized the existing party system (six parties, not three (*) ) and weakened both the hard left and right.

I do think (and hope) it’s possible that the experience of major crises like Covid, now the Ukraine war (with its disruptive effect on energy and food markets) and climate change (the effects of which simply can’t be ignored any more) might stimulate more confident state interventionism. The response to Covid has already been quite interventionist (prime example is Macron himself: (as an example, about Macron: https://www.politico.eu/article/macron-france-presidential-election-campaign/) but it’s unclear whether this experience will lead to long term change. Likewise, the sanctions regime against Russia shows that our neoliberal EU and US institutions are quite capable of taking drastic economic measures if they want to. With a global food crisis looming, even more drastic measures (including price controls, confiscation of windfall profits, rubust industrial policy and perhaps even nationalizations) will be needed. And now that everybody understands the absolute imperative to get away from fossil fuels, states will have to do more than “let the market handle” the energy transition. As an example, Germany had a vibrant solar industry a few years ago but the government saw fit to stand by and watch as this industry was destroyed by “market forces” in part of its own making, with the result that we now have to import almost everything from China. Perhaps this is a true inflection point and politics will prove capable of doing what is needed.

(*) As a side note, I think JQ you should pay more attention to party systems in countries with proportional representation. Two- or three-party systems simply don’t exist where votes are counted and apportioned fairly.

54

TM 06.14.22 at 7:21 am

Scott P: “It seems to me that Germany does have a two party system”
Really it doesn’t and never, ever had – there was a one party system for a certain historical period but outside that it was always multi party. Governing coalitions change from election to election.

SusanC: “Agreed, we now seem to have, in many countries, three parties or factions squeezed into an electoral system designed for two,”
Some countries, perhaps, but many more countries never designed their electoral systems this way.

It’s frustrating how anglocentric this blog still remains. No, the British two party system is not the model which the rest of the world emulated. It really doesn’t hurt to look a bit beyond your own nose folks.

55

TM 06.16.22 at 11:12 am

Useful NYT article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/opinion/france-elections-melenchon-macron.html

It is important to understand that what is happening in France is not a left landslide. Far from it, electoral support for the left is still historically low (NUPES 26% , non-affiliated left and ecologists another 6%), and support for the extreme right still high (19+4%). The difference is purely a more pragmatic electoral strategy and disunity on the right (the Republican right generally refuses to ally with the extreme right) which given the electoral system will benefit the left and Macron.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_French_legislative_election

56

Tm 06.16.22 at 9:31 pm

Forgot to mention the record low election turnout of 47%. This despite the fact that the contrast between the parties and platforms couldn’t have been greater. It’s beyond me why so many people have stopped caring.

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