Anne-Claire Defossez, visiting researcher, Institute for Advanced Study; Didier Fassin, professor of social science, Institute for Advanced Study
The emergence of the yellow vests movement, its rapid extension, its endurance, and its popularity have been a source of surprise and confusion among politicians as well as commentators. Whereas it was initially viewed as a mere reaction to an increase in fuel tax, it soon appeared to be a broader protest against the policies led by Emmanuel Macron regarded as deepening economic inequalities. Instead of responding to the claim to more social justice, the government first expressed contempt but soon used repression, the violence of which caused hundreds of severely wounded. Characterized by a unique repertoire of action, an unusual combination of social groups and a grassroots organization without clear leaders, the mobilization challenged traditional forms of democratic representation. While it is too early to assess its long-term signification, it has however revealed the resistance of the “classes populaires” to authoritarian neoliberalism.
Didier Fassin is professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. A physician, sociologist, and anthropologist, he has conducted research in various countries on issues related to inequality and immigration. His recent works are ethnographies of the police, the justice system and the prison institution as well as on the idea of crisis.
Anne-Claire Defossez is researcher in social sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. A sociologist, she was previously a public manager heading the administration of two large cities in the Paris region. Her current work is about women’s participation in local politics and about the crisis of democratic representation in France.