The Power of Politics: New Social Movements in France

The Power of Politics: New Social Movements in France

The Power of Politics: New Social Movements in France

The Power of Politics: New Social Movements in France

Synopsis

The early development of a strong antinuclear movement during the 1970s made France the prototypical country for new social movements (NSMs). However, in the 1980s, these French NSMs experienced a strong decline. Duyvendak (research fellow, Amsterdam School for Social Science Research) compares the development of these NSMs in Francefor peace, the environment, an end to nuclear technology, solidarity, squatters' rights, women's rights, and gay rights--to the development of similar campaigns in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Excerpt

Ever since the revolution of 1789, France has been seen as a country characterized by protest waves and violent interactions between a strong state and an underdeveloped civil society. The events of 1830, 1848 and 1871 fitted into the picture of a particular French tradition, which drew its inspiration and rhetoric from The French Revolution. Burke, for instance, wrote about the French: "It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." (cited in Hirschman, 1991:106) Other telling examples are: "Mass demonstrations and processions have always been a traditional French means of expressing support of protest" (Wright, 1989:262); "France: Nothing but Opposition" (according to the title of an article written by Grosser 1966); or "Protest (w)as a way of life," as described by Hoffmann (1974).

The events of May '68 in Paris once more confirmed the idea of France as the mother of all revolutions. "The occasion in May 1968 when students erected barricades in the boulevards of Paris and fought pitched battles with the CRS still stands in popular imagination as the apogee of the international student revolt." (Rootes, 1982:17) The early development of a strong antinuclear movement during the 1970s only served to confirm this image, and France appeared as the prototypical country for "new social movements" (NSMs), a term not coincidentally coined in this country. "During the 1970s, France was not only one of the countries in which the NSMs were strongly developed ..., it even "exported" its movements to other countries." (Leggewie, 1985:135)

During the 1980s however, political mobilization seemed to have vanished. Particularly the NSMs experienced a sharp decline. French postindustrial society did not eventuate the emergence of a strong new movement, as was predicted by the leading sociologist Alain Touraine. Without entering into a discussion of the type of society foreseen by Touraine, it is evident that the NSMs have not been the carriers of' a postindustrial, postmaterialist or programmed society. Perhaps French society has become more "programmed," but if this be the case then we can only conclude that this has been at the expense of NSMs.

How to understand this? Should the image of France as a country in permanent turmoil be corrected in general: has the traditional image been . . .

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