MYF - The Mystery of the Yellow France Olivier Fillieule

The Yellow Vests (thereafter YV) movement originates in a Facebook group launched in January 2018. This was the beginning of a mobilization, considerable and hitherto unseen in many respects: this movement sprang from calls on the Internet, with no external support. It was noteworthy in its duration, its territorial scope and its occurrence in urban, suburban and rural areas. While the participants were in a variety of social positions, all shared the feeling that their living conditions had deteriorated, placing them in a situation of vulnerability which they considered unjust. All indications are that the vast majority of YV had, until that point, been uninvolved in any political, union or group activity, including voting.

Hence our question : Does participation in a broad social movement have any chance of lastingly transforming the relationship to politics and the modes of participation of groups in retreat? And if so, does this necessarily translate into an attraction towards so-called populist parties and the model of illiberal democracies?

The aims of this research are threefold:

  1. To investigate the personal consequences of participating in the YV movement that is, ways in which political commitment generates or modifies dispositions to act, think, and perceive either consistent with or breaking with the results of previous socialization ;
  2. To explore worldviews, and political positions of dominated groups in a context of socioeconomic strain. Literature links downward social mobility and the resulting frustrations, to the decline of activism, the increased rate of abstention, the reduced feeling of class belonging and the withdrawal from institutional politics. All this supposedly leading to an orientation towards populist parties and so-called illiberal political systems. We consider the YV movement as an ideal laboratory to question the reality and relevance of these links and to question the ways in which the working class can escape the dilemma between political withdrawal and surrendering oneself to far-right political parties.
  3. To demonstrate the value added of an innovative combination of methodological tools, especially life histories and life calendars (LHC), social media data and field research.

The research is conducted in two contrasted areas (a semi-rural district in South East France and southern suburbs of Paris).


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Project page on the SNSF website


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