The presentation consisted of notes from the field which reflect on the relationship between the conjunctural forces that prevail in contemporary France and the emergence of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) insurgency. As is now well known, this movement has been alternatively claimed by the left as a citizen’s revolution and the right as a patriotic revolution. Met with aggressive repression by the forces of order, this eruption, so some have argued, is the most recent manifestation of the militant tradition of the notoriously contentious French. By asking how the current climate of economic austerity combined with ecological neoliberalism has conditioned the rise of a movement that not only cuts across political and ideological differences but also some social divisions, these notes offer some thoughts on how the Gilets Jaunes (GJ) both continues and breaks with this tradition. Based on observation, but not participation in the mobilisations in Paris in 2019, these reflections focus on how the contradictions in contemporary capitalism are refracted through the disparate political aims of this militancy.
Winnie Lem is Professor of Anthropology at the Department of International Development Studies at Trent University in Canada. In spring 2020 she was a guest at the IWM.
Notes on Militant Populism in Contemporary France: Contextualising the Gilets Jaunes
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