Richard Davis (Bordeaux) : L’exceptionnalisme démocratique de la Grande-Bretagne ? Des années 1930 au débat sur le « Brexit ».
Nous publions sur ce blog les abstracts des interventions à la journée d’étude Critiques de la démocratie, autoritarismes, populismes en Europe: quelles continuités et ruptures entre l’entre-deux-guerres et aujourd’hui?, dans une autre langue que celle de l’intervention pour favoriser le dialogue. Pour commencer aujourd’hui, l’intervention de Richard Davis, professeur en civilisation britannique à l’Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne dans le premier panel: Le retour des années 1930? qui aura lieu le jeudi 14 mars 2019 à 13:30.
L’exceptionnalisme démocratique de la Grande-Bretagne ? Des années 1930 au débat sur le « Brexit »
This paper seeks to question the ways in which British democracy in the 1930s was often presented both at the time and in the years since as part of Britain’s exceptional status relative to the rest of Europe. This idea, of course, predates this period and elements of it can be seen still in the current political debate around Brexit which will also be addressed in the final part of this paper.
The role and the views of Stanley Baldwin, perhaps the most archetypal of British inter-war leaders, in promoting and defending the idea of British democratic exceptionalism will be one of the key points. That Britain saw relatively little support for movements of the far right or the far left in the interwar years is undeniable. The view put forward by Baldwin, followed by others at the time and since, that democracy was somehow inherent in the British political system and in the collective British mind set, that fascism and communism were essentially un-British, alien ideologies that could never take root in Britain, will be questioned.
Despite the ultimate failure of such extremist movements the fears that they provoked for leaders such as Baldwin were nonetheless real. The need to not only defend British democracy but also to manage and cultivate it was often uppermost in their minds.
In conclusion, this paper will consider the current debate around Brexit and its consequences for British democracy and governance. Here too it is possible to identify elements of British exceptionalism, particular in the arguments put forward by the Brexiteers. However, such claims to British exceptionalism appear today far less convincing at a time when the country’s democratic credentials appear less convincing. Comparisons will be made also between the relative consensus established in Britain in the 1930s around the National government and the deep divisions that are presently pulling the country apart and undermining its political system.