Social and political activism
State-centred but organizationally fragmented
in Made in France
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This chapter provides an opportunity to address formal definitions of politics more directly by focusing upon social movements and political parties. I group them together because, in the literature on France, analysis rightly often emphasizes how the French state is frequently active in the structuring of both. The empirical material presented here largely confirms this claim. In the case of environmentalist movements, I show how and why the latter have consistently looked to the state for financial and symbolic backing. More surprisingly, this has also been the case for the Parti Socialiste and the centre-right party which today calls itself Les Républicains. Indeed, these two parties have not only received considerable state subsidies, many of their leaders have themselves been senior state civil servants. In contrast, the gilets jaunes movement of 2018–19 arose largely as a protest against the state and its elites. However, before rushing to just pigeonhole it as simply ‘populist’, it is important to realize how much its demands have also been structured as regards what they expect from a state they see as impotent. This sentiment of impotency has also impacted upon the two political parties dealt with here: neither have successfully managed to structure and maintain a relationship with their respective militants. Indeed, through becoming largely empty shells, since the early 2000s both have participated in a chain reaction that has led to the emergence of competing parties and generalized dissatisfaction with the nation’s professional politicians.

Made in France

Societal structures and political work

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