Beyond the mainstream

La gauche de la gauche

in The French party system

The growing influence of la gauche de la gauche was accompanied by the mushrooming of various militant groups and associations campaigning against racism, unemployment, homelessness and homophobia. This was boosted from the turn of the century by an emerging anti-capitalist movement. This chapter argues that the phenomenon of the 'social movement' was the product of a process of social and political polarisation to which France's party system had been unable to respond. The lack of response was because of the broad consensus which governs most areas of policy. The literature on social movements generally stressed their emergence in two waves, the post-1968 liberation movements and the post-1981 movements typified by SOS Racisme. The chapter outlines the way in which fundamental ideological differences between the parties of the mainstream left and right were being eroded. Under the Fifth Republic, revision of the electoral system forced parties to combine in alliances.

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