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Newcomers to Power: How to sit on someone else's throne. Socialists conquer France in 1981, non-socialists conquer Sweden in 1976
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Switching from the role of opposition to the role of ruler is a difficult process for political parties and politicians as collective and individual actors. This change of roles seems to be particularly painful in countries where power shifts are rare. In such cases the newcomer to power has to confront a whole political culture formed by the predecessor in power who also happens to be his ideological enemy.

This doctoral thesis investigates the enigma of newcomers to power who abandon their own ideological principles once power is won. The answer is sought in the theoretical discussion on political rationality and the nature of the rational actor. It is argued that the human agent structures his acts to fit a narrative, and that a newcomer to power senses the obligation to conform to the traditions of the country whose ruler he has become, even when these traditions go counter to his own ideology.

Two case-studies guide and develop the book's theoretical arguments: the monuments' policy put in place by the new French socialist President and government after the power shift in France in 1981, and the measures the new Swedish non-socialist government took to save the commercial steel industry in 1976. Both cases illustrate the phenomena of newcomers to power who succeed hegemonic rulers - gaullist/liberals in France, social democrats in Sweden - after several decades in opposition. Both cases also illustrate policy-making in political domains heavily loaded with national symbolism.

Concluding that the studied newcomers to power were caught in a paradox of legitimacy which made betrayal of their own ideological principles the most rational course of action, this book contributes to our understanding of the emotional and rational complexity of political decision-making. It also unveils the contradictory demands posed to a new ruler by the democratic system. Bringing the story to the "right' ending in order to secure both applause and diffuse legitimacy appears to be a decisive although unarticulated goal which guides a newcomer to power.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2001. , 227 p.
Skrifter utgivna av Statsvetenskapliga föreningen i Uppsala, ISSN 0346-7538 ; 148
Keyword [en]
Political science, France, Mitterrand, Sweden, non-socialists, social-democrats, political parties, ruler, narrative, rationality, legitimacy
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-1536ISBN: 91-554-5122-5OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-1536DiVA: diva2:161114
Public defence
2001-12-12, Brusewitzsalen, Department of Government, Gamla Torget 6, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2001-11-12 Created: 2001-11-12 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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