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Revista de Sociologia e Política

On-line version ISSN 1678-9873


LOUAULT, Frédéric. Electoral defeats and political careers: the case of the Rio Grande do Sul workers' party (PT). Rev. Sociol. Polit. [online]. 2011, vol.19, n.40, pp.233-253. ISSN 1678-9873.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the importance of defeat in electoral competition, thus inverting the classical focus of electoral analysis. Often forgotton within (or left out of ) work in Political Science, the theme of electoral defeat raises crucial problems for our understanding of the democratic political game. Through a study of Workers' Party (PT) electoral experiences in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul between 1982 and 2008, we present some of the challenges of electoral defeats in relation to the construction of the political careers of collaborating candidates: reactions to defeat and acceptance of the rules of the game; mobilization of resources and mobility within the political field; political breaks and exit from professional politics. In the first part of this work, we propose a sociological model of trajectory (and more precisely, the "bifurcation submodel") as a frame of analysis that enables us to renew classical approaches to the relations between electoral defeat and political career. On this basis, we are able to show how some defeats may be upsetting elements that influence the trajectory of political personnel. This is followed by our conclusions, in which we present some concrete forms of direct or indirect bifurcation generated by electoral defeat: both those of the smaller and the more radical sort.

Keywords : electoral competition; electoral analysis; defeat; Workers' Party; Rio Grande do Sul.

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