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The characteristics of traditional French social movements

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The emergence of the contemporary French political structure and the impact of 1789.
    1. French social movements.
  3. Pattern and opportunities of the French contemporary political system.
    1. Tilly's view.
    2. The social movement practices.
  4. French political protests and revolutionary situations.
    1. The French administrative and political system.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. References.

The events of May-June 1968 in France broke out in the wake of an international wave of protest that occurred previously in many countries such as the United States, Germany and Italy (Duyvendak 1992, 137-138). The events of 1870, 1919 and 1936 provide also many examples of disruptive and short term insurgencies trying to bypass the institutionalized frame so as to claim demands for political change. Can we thus talk about ?French exceptionalism? in terms of patterns and dynamics of social movements' political protests? Social movements, in the frame of political process theories, can be define as ?strategically and/or thematically connected series of events, produced in interaction with adversaries and carried out by a coherent network of organizations and participants who use unconventional means of attaining political goals? (Duyvendak 1992, 30). In this theoretical frame, the political opportunity structure (POS) based on formal institutional structures, informal procedures and strategies, and the configuration of power, determines to a large extent mobilization patterns of ?challengers? and ?members? strategies such as repression or facilitation (Kriesi and Koopmans 1992, 172; Duyvendak 1992, 60-66). Why French social movements are often disruptive, revolutionary and short term collective action processes?

[...] Conclusion In a contemporary perspective between the 18th century and nowadays, French social movements have seen their repertoires of action evolving according to the social and political environment. This evolution reflects partly the options and the opportunity offered by the different successive steps of state-making. In France the state structure and the configuration of power gave little place to popular claims. The strongly centralized and concentrated State shaped to a large extent the form and scope of social movements mobilization and explains why they often turned out into disruptive outburst: ?challengers? are more sensitive to potential triggering factors and more prone to become radical when there are little means to articulate and channel popular expectations Moreover French social movements create news opportunities of being taken into account when they shape, at least influence the state system. [...]


[...] This bourgeois order then experienced under following regimes, the Consulate and Empire (1799-1814), the Restauration (1815-1830), the July monarchy (1830- 1848) and the Second Empire (1852-1870), an accelerated centralization of the administration and of the power with an Assembly submitted to the Chief of the Executive and its government. Thus, if the revolution of 1789 and its social movements were not the only source of influence, they left undoubtedly a heavy inheritance concerning the formal political and administrative structure of the French state as well as its configuration of power. [...]


[...] in three sections, each of being divided in two subsections; the first section account for the emergence of the contemporary French political structure and the rise of new repertoires of action, particularly through the study of the revolution of 1789, its consequences and its inheritances; the second section explores the structure and weak POS of the French political system alongside the development of contemporary social movements' strategies: in this respect, the events of 1936 and the rising influence of unions provide a relevant insight of these evolutions; and lastly, the third section tries to explore the revolutionary aspect of French social movements, their goals and limitations, particularly through the relevant events of May-June 1968. [...]

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