In the last decade our confidence in democracy, political institutions and elected politicians has been shaken by unprecedented cynicism, volatility, and antagonism. Conventional scholarship is struggling to explain this crisis. This book offers a fresh approach to the scrutiny of Parliament and democratic politics, drawing together ethnographic work by anthropologists and a handful of political scientists from around the world. With a mix of theory and empirical material, Parliaments are portrayed as architecture, as a place of work, a meeting place and the fulcrum of democracy - revealing how elected politicians relate to those they represent. With a sense of history, geography, gender, culture and politics, Parliaments are explored in their rich variety, their common trends, the changes being thrust upon them as well as the continuities they manage to sustain. By analysing ethnographic insights from across Europe, the US, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, the well-worn geo-political categories are transgressed. The US is contrasted with the UK, while parallels are found between France, Israel and Bangladesh. Across the world the work of politicians entails endless shapeshifting and continuities are created by meeting spaces, rhythms, and ideological riffs. The performance of politics requires rituals, mediated communication and a claim of representation. The result is a mess of contradictory and paradoxical processes of alliance and opposition; both consolidation and challenge to power; and confusion about ethics and truth. This new world requires a more complex theory of democratic powers that can take account of global patterns and local specificity. Anthropology is uniquely placed to respond to this need.
An Anthropology of Parliaments The Everyday Making of Democratic Politics
eBook (22 Apr 2021)
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