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FORTHCOMING MANUSCRIPT – OUT THIS MONTH
What has led to the recent revival of the extreme right in Western democracies such as France and Australia, and what impact has their success had on mainstream politics? What shift has taken place in recent times as ideas and groups that once were considered marginal and undemocratic have come to play an important part in mainstream politics?
A poll published last week in Le Monde confirmed a very worrying trend in French politics. Following Marine Le Pen’s breakthrough in the 2012 presidential election, wherein the Front National leader received more than 6.5 million votes, and its first members of parliament since the 1980s were elected, the extreme right party appears increasingly normalised in French politics. When Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round of the 2002 election as a result of the poor performance of the two mainstream parties, hundreds of thousands of French people took to the streets to express their disgust at a party that’s rooted in neo-fascism.
Ten years on, things have changed dramatically and there were very few demonstrations when Marine Le Pen beat her father’s 2002 record by more than 1.7 million votes. More importantly for the future of the party, this latest poll shows that the mainstreaming of extreme right discourse has succeeded and that the stigma attached to the party has all but disappeared. Indeed, only 18 per cent of respondents in Le Monde believed that the UMP should fight the Front National (down from 38 per cent in 2002), while 28 per cent felt that, depending on the circumstances, alliances were a valid strategy (up from 15 per cent).
With Gerhard Hoffstaedter
MOOCs (massive open online courses) and more freely available lectures and university content are transforming the education landscape, and alliances between academia and corporations are ever-increasing. But this revolution in education might pose a lethal threat for hardly commodifiable disciplines such as those of the humanities.
Hundreds of thousands accessing knowledge for its own sake is even more cause for rejoicing than if they were receiving diplomas, a commodity in exchange for their learning. In a way, TEDx, Coursera and others like them are taking part in the democratisation of education by removing it from the shackles of consumerism and the market, a place where truly emancipatory education has no future. However, such developments must be advanced with caution, as their consequences on the production of knowledge could be detrimental, in particular within the fields of humanities and social sciences. Continue reading
Let’s be clear, access to quality lectures for free is a fantastic achievement, allowing hundreds of thousands to access knowledge for its own sake. But with Tedx, Coursera and others like them taking part in the democratisation of education by removing it from the shackles of consumerism and the market, there is a risk that such developments will be detrimental to the exploration of knowledge in the long term.
Carole Cadwalladr recently reported in the Observer that free online access to tertiary courses and lectures was set to revolutionise education. She imagined a United Kingdom where “the ‘second-tier’ universities … could struggle in the brave new free education market world”. What her piece ignored is that these universities are already struggling, not because of the “free education market”, but because of the hegemony of free market strategies in education. This is particularly striking in the humanities, an area of study to which only one paragraph was dedicated, but that could be the greatest loser in this recent transformation of the education landscape.
This came after Abbott had tabled a motion to remove Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is currently involved in various fraud and sexual harassment scandals. While the content of the motion may have been reasonable, the fact that it came from the ‘Mad Monk’ was the final straw for Gillard, whose time in office has been marked by reccuring gender-based attacks. Abbott knew the path was a dangerous one for him; in 2010, he declared he had ‘always been very wary of debates involving women’.
Labor has just lost another election in Australia to the opposition in an electoral race that was dominated by negative messages, where both parties attempted unsuccessfully to differentiate themselves from their federal counterparts. This is just the most recent illustration of the limits of modern parliamentary democracy in Australia.
Such issues dominate the media and will have a significant impact in the election of an unpopular leader next year as Australian Prime Minister, be they Labor or Liberal. Both are currently unable to improve on their low approval ratings, with neither able to inspire populist hope, or engage in a substantial policy debate.
This kind of anti-politics is turning voters away from the democratic process and politics in general.
Being able to vote for a “lesser of two evils” rather than for a positive vision of society and politics is proving unsustainable for voters, as the situation in Queensland is proving. After delivering the LNP a landslide victory, voters are now dismayed with the LNP for implementing its austerity measures. Resistance in the form of petitions, demonstrations and public outrage are now emerging in response.
Francois Hollande has a tough challenge ahead, having won the French presidency.
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has won the French presidential election with 52% of the vote, ousting sitting president Nicolas Sarkozy.
In hindsight, there have been few surprises in this campaign and election. Of course, many French people and commentators have been shocked or disappointed by the various twists and turns, but all that happened was predictable in a cold-headed analysis.
France went to sleep last night knowing that almost a fifth of those who felt compelled to vote in the first round of the presidential election chose a party formed on an openly neo-fascist platform. Although the Front National’s Marine Le Pen failed to access the second round, her result is far more concerning than her father’s in 2002. Jean-Marie Le Pen received just over 16% of the vote and a ticket to the second round, but that particular election also witnessed a record level of abstention. This year, France saw one of its biggest turnouts since the birth of the Fifth Republic with ‘only’ 20% abstaining.
Therefore, while the Socialists celebrated Francois Hollande’s strong lead, and deservedly, the mood was in part dampened by the historic result of the FN. More importantly, its acceptance as a serious and normalised contender on the French political landscape proved of utmost concern.
Similarly, Mélenchon was not able to fully express his satisfaction at his impressive result (11%), and proclaim the possible rebirth of a strong left-wing alternative in France. While the Front de Gauche might have sown the seeds for the growth of another strong contender in French politics, Marine Le Pen’s exploit lessened its claim to have gathered the discontented.