The lecture will be held on Monday 18 February 2019 at 17:00 at Faculty of Education Open Access Area, Old Humanities Bldg., Rm 224.
Starting in mid-November 2018, major protests have taken place throughout France. Many commentators have described what is widely known as the “yellow-vest” movement as unprecedented in French modern history. Using a mixture of traditional and innovative action repertoires such as rallies, demonstrations, the occupation of public and private spaces or on-line activism, the protests have taken place on a more-or-less weekly basis and have been initiated in the main by people drawn from middle and working classes. Public support has been overwhelmingly positive – approximately 80% in late November 2018; 60% in late January 2019. Protesters throughout France numbered approximately 300,000 in November 2018 and were still around 100,000 by late January 2019. Public authorities struggled to contain the movement despite the massive deployment of law-enforcement personnel, the withdrawal of controversial policies, the initiation of new social and fiscal policy measures, or the putting in place of large-scale security measures.
This paper reviews the social and political significance of the French yellow-vest movement. It is divided into four parts. The first part reviews the issues that spurned yellow-vest protesters to demand social and fiscal equality. The second describes the movement’s key stages and public authorities’ responses. The third part of this paper analyses the broader social, economic and political contexts that were crucial contributory factors to the movement. The final part of the paper assesses the debate in France around the movement’s perceived historical novelty.