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The Yellow Vests Movement in France: The Rise of Populism or A Crisis of Elite Politics?

October 15 , 2019 10:50 AM by XU Zhenzhou

The Yellow Vests Movement in France: The Rise of Populism or A Crisis of Elite Politics?

[Author]XU Zhenzhou

[Abstract]The Yellow Vests Movement, which began in France in November 2018, shows no sign of abating any time soon. Scholars have expressed mixed opinions about the movement, and some often compare it with the May 1968 Paris uprising. This article argues that the Yellow Vests Movement is not a manifestation of the rise of populism; rather, it indicates a profound crisis in representative democracy as a political system. As important products of and agents for representative democracy, political parties, trade unions, and mainstream media have failed to detect, incorporate, and respond to public opinion and concerns appropriately. Instead of channeling public demands into representative institutions to achieve compromises and solutions, political parties, trade unions, and mainstream media continue to, just as they did in the May 1968 protests, stand on the margins of the movement and have forgone their political obligations and functions. Whether or not the Yellow Vests Movement signals a new pattern of political life in France, and whether or not it has become an alternative to the existing representative democracy remains to be seen.

[Source]The Journal of International Studies, Vol.40, No.5, 2019, pp.9-39.