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Scandals as a Positive Feature of Liberal Democratic Politics: A Durkheimian perspective

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractPolitical scandals are an indicator of freedom of speech, an open and aggressive media and strong political competition. Émile Durkheim’s ideas on social cohesion have a particular resonance in liberal democracies, and raise the question of whether scandals can only occur in liberal democracies. Scandals enable an interrogation of the collective moral code and public opinion is used to punish the “deviant” behaviour of politicians, who are elevated to a symbolic position of moral authority. This form of non-violent social conflict between competing political groups performs a positive role in maintaining a healthy and vigilant democracy, albeit with the presence of some negative side-effects, such as incursions into the private sphere.

Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne School of Social and Political Sciences John Medley Building West Tower, Parkville, Victoria 3010 Australia, Email:


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