The LEGIPAR research project is based on two observations. The first one concerns the necessity of a well-informed and objective analysis of the (de)legitimation of the French and European political systems. Most of the studies, mainly theoretical, which have identified a democratic crisis tend to neglect the place and the role of parliaments and their members in the legitimation and governance processes, and lean instead towards a focus on alternative forms of participation. However parliamentary representation still plays a crucial role in the mechanisms of contemporary democratic systems and should thus be reintegrated in the analysis of their current performance and future evolution. The second observation concerns the paucity of studies of parliamentary issues in France. Whereas legislative studies constitute a very dynamic branch of political science at the international level, they members are lacking.
project seeks to remedy this double intellectual and disciplinary deficiency by dealing with the question of parliamentary representation in a global and systematic way and by adopting a more sociological perspective. This objective will be pursued not only by making use of the usual elements of analysis to comprehend parliamentarians' identity, activities, perceptions and values, but also by proposing a truly innovative approach grounded on four methodological and epistemological propositions;
overcoming the dichotomy between actors- and institutions-centered approaches of representation by using the notion of "eligibility" and the sociology of parliamentary roles;
the combined and well-reasoned use of both quantitative and qualitative methods (“mixed-methods research”);
the study of representation from the standpoint of both representatives and citizens;
the comparative analysis of the members of the French Parliament and the French members of the European Parliament.
These four propositions
will be operationalised in three ways; 1. a systematic study of the deputies’ socio-biographical profiles, political careers, and individual values; 2. an analysis of their activity in both the legislative arena and their constituency; 3. the evaluation of those activities by their constituents, gathered from focus groups. These data will allow an analysis of the contribution of parliamentary representation to the legitimation and governance of French and European political systems, and a detailed examination of four specific themes; 1. the consequences of new forms of participation for political representation; 2. the impact of legislative activity and partisan discipline on parliament’s capacity to influence; 3. gender representation; 4. the effects of European integration. LEGIPAR
has a twin ambition: to lay the foundations of French legislative studies and to investigate the common diagnosis in comparative politics of a crisis political legitimacy in contemporary multilevel systems. As a consequence of its triangulated, mixed-method approach, empirical analysis, and theoretical concerns, the proposed project will illuminate the (de)legitimation of parliamentary representation at national and European levels by studying the legislature’s contribution to participation and mobilization, accountability and debate, and the definition of rules and public policies. Parliaments, according to different opinions, are either considered as vectors of the crisis of legitimacy (feeble representation, marginal influence, total discipline), or as institutions which help to safeguard the extended links between the apex and the base of the structure of representation.