[article] Disembodying the Legislative Body

This notebook is not very alive at the moment, but it should change soon with the arrival of a new project.

Meanwhile, I am making this short post to announce the publication of a new article in issue 3 of the young political anthropology journal Conditions humaines / Condition politique. It is entitled: “Disembodying the Legislative Body. Representing, Deliberating and Voting Remotely in Times of Crisis (open access).

Here is the short summary:

This article examines the effectiveness of parliamentary representation should elected representatives deliberate and vote remotely for being unable to be on the premises of the Palais Bourbon. Such practices are still in the early stages of development, but are likely to mature in the near future, according to the representatives who advocate them, because of the guarantees they would offer in terms of efficiency and resilience of the legislative power. However, it is possible to consider, and this is the paper’s main argument, that such future development of remote working tools in parliamentary practice stems above all from the willingness of a new generation of representatives to relocate their activities at the level of their constituencies. In this sense, this article points to the potential emergence of a new doctrine of “forming assembly” in 21st-century France or, at least, to an evolution of the conditions of actualization of the democratic ideal.

The article also has a long abstract in English, an innovation proposed by the journal, to encourage multiculturalism in research, without resorting to the (costly and overly homogenising) solution of full translation into English. Ideally, the idea would be to offer long abstracts also in Spanish, Portuguese, etc. In this way, as many non-French-speaking colleagues as possible, who cannot read the text, are able to get a clear idea of it. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to do these other translations one day? In any case, I personally like the concept!

Here is the long summary:

This article examines the effectiveness of parliamentary representation should elected representatives deliberate and vote remotely for being unable to be on the premises of the Palais Bourbon. Such practices are still in the early stages of development, but are likely to mature in the near future, according to the representatives who advocate them, because of the guarantees they would offer in terms of efficiency and resilience of the legislative power. However, it is possible to consider, and this is the paper’s main argument, that such future development of remote working tools in parliamentary practice stems above all from the willingness of a new generation of representatives to relocate their activities at the level of their constituencies. In this sense, this article points to the potential emergence of a new doctrine of “forming assembly” in 21st-century France or, at least, to an evolution of the conditions of actualization of the democratic ideal.
This study’s context is the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that broke out in spring 2020. For several weeks, the French representatives were for the most part under strict lockdown rules, like the rest of French population, and thus prevented from participating in legislative activities. This resulted in an institutional crisis given that the people’s representatives could not mobilized in the crisis. The functioning of the National Assembly was halted, so that the competences of the legislative power were transferred to the executive power. To avoid a similar crisis in the future, a cross-party working group was set up to consider possible solutions. It resulted in regulations allowing representatives to work remotely, in particular for deliberating and voting, which were ratified by a modification to the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, on 1 March 2021.
However, these new rules are in strong contradiction with one of the age-old principles of French democracy, established in the Tennis Court Oath (
Serment du Jeu de Paume) in the early days of the Revolution. Since then, it has been a rule that any obstacle to the physical gathering of representatives is a direct threat to national sovereignty. How, then, are we to interpret the unprecedented shift in “forming assembly” that the introduction of remote working for representatives entails?
In order to provide an answer, it is necessary to underline first of all how the articulation between the local and national scales of the parliamentary mandate have constituted a structuring tension in the French parliamentary history. In this respect, a tug of war seems to have always opposed representatives and the institution itself; the former wishing to prioritize their activities in their constituencies and the latter concerned to impose upon them that they sit at the Palais Bourbon as much as possible. Secondly, an examination of the working group’s discussions shows that the representatives see the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to relax working conditions that many consider unbearable. The law banning accumulation of elective mandates has had a structuring effect for this allowed to elect representatives quite unfamiliar with the political culture of previous generations, which led them to commit to their duties in a new manner.
Eventually, the overall picture suggests the emergence of the new attitude of representatives with respect to the legitimacy of political action, which they view more connected to their
constituencies. This trend may be the result of a convergence of two dynamics: the renewal of political staff on the one hand, and the transformation of democratic aspirations in French society, recently marked by the Yellow Vests movement, on the other. In the National Assembly, remote working tools might be therefore interpreted not so much as instruments intended to prevent new institutional crises but rather as an opportunity for deputies to impose a new balance between their local and national activities in the exercise of their mandate, to the detriment of their legislative work in the Palais Bourbon.

Have a good read! :)



Citer ce billet
Jonathan Chibois (2022, 4 avril). [article] Disembodying the Legislative Body. LASPIC | Carnet. Consulté le 17 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/qqo0

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