Provencal - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The villages of Provence tend to be stratified on the basis of landownership. Families who own and operate large agricultural holdings tend to enjoy both wealth and prestige compared with the landless segment of the village population. However, wealth does not necessarily confer political rank and influence. Since the economies of rural villages are complex, with villagers earning incomes from diverse sources, some villagers may become relatively wealthy earning incomes as owners of local businesses, such as hotels, cafés, butcher shops, and hardware stores. The wealthiest members of the village do not necessarily monopolize local power, as efforts often are made to elect officials who reflect the diversity in wealth and occupation at the local level. Hence, landless agricultural laborers, housewives, and schoolteachers have been elected to serve on municipal Councils, as well as large and small farmers.

Political Organization. France is a constitutional republic, headed by an elected president, who forms the government. The president is responsible for the appointment of government ministers and the prime minister. France also has a parliamentary system, which is composed of two houses of elected representatives, the National Assembly and the Senate. The main units of local government are the departments, the communes, and the overseas territories. The department is composed of from 11 to 70 cantons. Cantons are in turn composed of communes, which are the smallest administrative units in France. Each commune has a municipal council headed by a mayor, which is composed of elected representatives who sit for six-year terms. The main political parties in France include the Gaullist party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Français (RPR). The Socialist party of France (PSF) forms the current government of France headed by François Mitterrand. Other important parties are the Communist party (PCF) and the ultra-Right National Front party (PFN).

Social Conflict. One of the main sources of social conflict is political allegiances. These differences become most apparent around election time, when animosities between supporters of the various political parties at the local level can develop into brawls in public places as well as attacks on private property. Political allegiances often reflect class differences in the local population, as agricultural laborers as well as small farmers historically have tended to support the parties of the Left while large landowners have tended to support the parties of the Right. Conflicts between agricultural laborers and their employers revolve around wage rates, conditions of work, and terms of employment, and differences over these issues have often resulted in strikes and work stoppages.

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