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The latest in the French protests, will punishment work? Expert comment

Dr Alex Corcos from the department of French Studies comments on the latest on the protests in France. As PM Edouard Philippe has announced plans to punish those who hold unsanctioned protests following the weeks of unrest caused by the Yellow Vest movement. He comments:

"The gilets jaunes protests have harnessed anger from vast swathes of French society, perhaps a broader constituency than seen before.

The symbol of the high-vis jacket (a better translation, if you ask me) demonstrates the stakes of the protests: ordinary French people (every motorist is mandated to have one in their vehicle by law) rising against a self-serving political establishment. They are also frequently worn by professionals such as cleaners etc., those who do the hard, low paid work which actually transforms the world in which we live. Like the sans-culottes of the revolutionary era.

The attempts to quell and suppress this discontent come from a centrist President whose administration views his own program of neoliberal reform - bringing French labour law and the tax system, which traditionally contain hard won protection of workers' rights closer to the US or UK's more corporate-friendly systems - as something inevitable and necessary, rather than as a political choice (much like with the austerity narrative in Britain.)

The gilets jaunes protesters refuse to admit that the 'streamlining' of the French economy is anything other than a former banker président des riches rigging the system in favour of his old pals in finance. The initial fuel tax, which Macron and his fans describe as a 'green tax', signals Macron's decision to place the burden of decarbonisation onto the French lower-middle and working classes, whilst according his big business pals greater and greater freedom to fire and suppress the wages of these precarious workers.

The continued protests represent a democratic vision for the future of France versus a technocratic one. This latter is a kind of power which brooks no opposition to its 'reform' due to an almost religious conviction in the free-market economy."


Alice Scott
Media Relations Manager - Science
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476574255 or 07920531221
E-mail: alice dot j dot scott at warwick dot ac dot uk