LFounded three years ago, the “yellow vests” movement has brought to the forefront demands for the democratization of public action. An article recently published in the journal Sociology, written by Guillaume Gourgues, Alice Mazeaud, Héloïse Nez, Jessica Sainty and Julien Talpin, analyzes the sources of the strong disaffection for representative democracy, all social groups combined.
In 2014-2015, 8 collective interviews bringing together a total of 59 people were organized, varying social class, degree of militant commitment and political orientation from one group to another. With this method, it was a question of bringing out the elements of debate and convergence around two questions: the appreciation of the current political system and the projection towards an ideal political system.
All the participants express deep dissatisfaction with the political system, including the most militant respondents. The complaints are numerous: lack of representativeness of elected officials (poorly elected by few voters, and belonging to the most favored groups of the population, which cuts them off from the majority of their “represented”), lack of renewal, political parties little concerned with the general interest … The criticism is more virulent in the two groups of working classes, and more subdued among the well-off and non-militant participants: the latter share the discontent of the other groups, but show a form of distance, as if their life depended little on it.
Citizen expertise … or not
All the participants concede that the exercise of power requires a form of expertise, which is not available to all citizens. Once this observation has been made, the differences appear: groups of right-wing activists and apprentices conclude that citizens cannot therefore make government-type decisions, while left-wing activists and associative activists value citizen expertise, which must be stimulated by training and neutral and balanced information, which is currently absent due to the media lacking independence (which all participants deplore).
But despite this very critical perception of the political system, none express the desire for a radically different democratic system, which appears impossible to set up anyway. While some direct democracy tools are mentioned (referendum, drawing lots, participatory democracy devices), they are, at most, confined to either local use or limited to very specific questions. Finally, the article concludes much more with resignation than with apathy or consent.
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