July 14, 2024

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Built General Tough

Why does the left no longer appeal to the popular classes? Thomas Piketty’s analysis

A monumental work: an international team of around fifty researchers set out to study electoral behavior as a function of income, heritage, level of education, ethnic origins and religion (“Political cleavages and social inequalities”, edited by Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano and Thomas Piketty, Seuil). It is the first time that the question has been approached in such a systematic way, over such a long period (1948-2020) and in no less than fifty democracies. In the West, the structuring of the vote according to social class has disappeared. In this process, the left became the party of graduates, what economist Thomas Piketty called “the Brahmin left”. He returns for “the Obs” on this evolution and its consequences.

OBS. When did the popular classes turn away from the left?

Thomas Piketty. During the period 1950-1980, in most Western democracies, the popular vote went towards the social democratic parties, the “bourgeois” vote towards the conservative parties. And this, whatever the measure used to define “popular”: level of education, income, assets. Higher education graduates voted conservative more often than those with the baccalaureate, who voted more conservative than those with the patent, and so on. We see this structure in all these countries, despite the very different political histories:

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