CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Yellow Vest Unrest: Situating the Gilets Jaunes Within France’s Political Protest Tradition

Nina K. Selipsky, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Anne Norton

Date of this Version: 06 April 2020



Originating in November 2018, the gilets jaunes (or Yellow Vest) movement began as a protest against French President Emmanuel Macron's planned fuel tax. The movement quickly swelled from a primarily rural grievance to a tide of general resentment against Macron’s government and slipping standards of living. Through a combination of theorists’ historical accounts, news articles, and published interviews with gilets jaunes participants, this thesis traces the origins of the gilets jaunes and analyzes how they fit into France’s broader culture of protest. Barricades and street demonstrations are historic aspects of French political life that continue through today. This project connects the Yellow Vest movement to other significant moments such as the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, and May 1968. It assesses how the primary themes and grievances of the gilets jaunes fit (or do not fit) into common definitions of populism and France’s traditional political party system. Finally, it examines the French literature on spectacle and assembly to explain what makes the activist nature of French political thought so powerful that it persists to this day.



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