Reconceptualising the Permanent Campaign. The Role of Non-Electoral Political Communication in Western Europe
Permanent campaigning is one of the most distinctive features of con temporary political communication. In fact, there is a sort of consensus among scholars regarding its existence and its importance in nowadays politics (see, for example: Blumler – Kavannagh, 1999; Farrell, 1996; Mancini – Swanson, 1996; Norris, 2000; Schmitt-Beck – Farrell, 2002). However, research has not yet made a decisive attempt to understand the way the permanent campaign is conceived and designed, the impact it has in the political media discourse, and the consequences this par ticular type of campaign has over policies. This doctoral thesis will reconceptualize the original idea of Sidney Blumenthal (1980), strictly attached to presidential politics, applying it to the parties in office and to the main opposition parties. The main goals are the description and the analysis of the political and media strategies that end up configuring the political landscape in Western European countries. To do so, this research combines content analysis (press and television), and interviews with politicians, political consultants and political journalists. The impor tance and effectiveness of campaigns in Western societies will only be assessable when research attempts to study how permanent campaign ing is currently operating. The works about the official electoral cam- paign periods take for granted that these days may have a special impact among the electorate. If contemporary campaigns are a sort of contin uum, scholars should undertake the challenge to break away from the traditional concept of the campaign if it does not reliably reflect our political reality. The study of permanent campaigning will hopefully offer innovative findings about contemporary politics and political communication. More specifically, it may help us to understand better to what extent politics is being affected by processes such as homogeni zation, Americanization or globalization of political communication. It may also offer interesting findings regarding how different political traditions, forms of state, political and media landscapes, and electoral systems affect the daily political communication strategies, and conse quently, some political decisions in Western countries.