Neuere und Neueste Geschichte

Forschungsprojekt

Curing a Democratic Sickness? Political Actors and the Rise of Electoral Abstention in France, Germany and Switzerland in Post-War Times (1945‒1989)

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin


Pessimistic stances on the state of democracy may be as old as democracy – and universal franchise – itself. Yet abstention has particularly emerged as a democratic »sickness« in »old« democracies since the first post-war decades.

This research project proposes to take a new look at abstention, not as a political phenomenon per se, but rather as an object of contention leading to multiple interpretations and practices in the political sphere. To that aim, it asks how political actors – politicians, officials, but also journalists and political scientists – have »dealt« with abstention through the post-war era in France, West-Germany and Switzerland. These three Western European countries, while each having distinct political systems, have experienced similar evolutions throughout the post-war decades: sinking turnout rates, a weakening of traditional party ties, and the emergence of new forms of participation, particularly around 1968.

This research project proposes to take a new look at electoral abstention, not as a political phenomenon per se, but rather as an object of contention leading to multiple interpretations and practices in the political sphere.

Abbildung: Plakat, Mai 1968, Autor/in unbekannt, gallica.bnf.fr / BnF.

Following a transnational perspective, the project aims to reveal similarities, differences as well as circulation patterns in discourses and practices regarding abstention in the three countries. On the one hand, it identifies and compares the specific political conjunctures that bring about the problematizing of abstention as a »symptom« of a crisis of democracy. On the other hand, it aims to explore the many ways in which political actors have also tried to act on abstention.