Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty deliver an unprecedented vision of French political history

Book. The company is bold. Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty embarked on A history of political conflictsubtitled Elections and social inequalities in France, 1789-2022. A sum of 864 pages published at Seuil which will, no doubt, feed the political and social reflections of the start of the school year. This ambitious work, which appears Friday, September 8, comes at the right time, given the debates launched concerning the “cohesion of the nation” or the modification of the institutions of the Ve Republic.

A specialist in economic inequalities, a subject that he has helped to place at the heart of political agendas in France and internationally, the economist Thomas Piketty, director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, professor at the Paris School of Economics and columnist at Worldhas already written three authoritative sums: High Incomes in France in the XXe century (Gret, 2001), Capital in the XXIe century (Threshold, 2013) and Capital and Ideology (Threshold, 2019). As for Julia Cage, 2023 winner of the Best Young Economist Prize (awarded by the Cercle des Economistes and by The world), she is a specialist in political economy and in particular the media, one of the fundamental cogs of democracy. She also chairs the Society of Readers of World since January 2020.

For “write a history of electoral behavior and social inequalities spanning more than two centuries”, the authors were helped by a large number of collaborators who listed all the electoral data collected at the level of the 36,000 municipalities of France. An ancient democracy and a country of written law, France has, in fact, kept archives of the various elections over more than two hundred and thirty years, which constitutes an incredibly rich democratic palimpsest. The results of 41 legislative elections, 12 presidential elections and 5 referendums are thus collated. On the other hand, the legislative elections under the censitaire monarchies (1815-1848) and the electoral results of overseas France have been set aside in the context of this work.

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But how do we know who is voting for whom? For this central question, the authors can only rely on electoral information at the municipal level – which implies a territorial and not an individual level. They did not benefit, in fact, from opinion studies before the 1950s. Hence the need, as the authors themselves admit, to be extra careful with regard to interpretations, but also to find another reference base. : the geosocial cl.

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