Yellow vests: puzzle-like scattered thinking


What do thinkers think of this singularly eruptive symptom of changing times?

Faced with an unprecedented crisis that expresses all the facets of anger, rage and violence, whose new faces, media figures that spontaneously appeared, move the French because they talk about their widely shared distress; in the face of the somewhat stunned astonishment of institutional politicians, of the patent observers of society; in the face of a situation whose causes are relatively well diagnosed but whose magnitude and outcome are poorly understood; in the face of this sudden and brutal revolution of the Yellow Vests, how is it to be understood and how is it to be thought about? Let us turn to the pros, those who have an interpretation of all the upheavals of our civilizations, those who trade in their intellectual agility. What do think the thinkers, the intellectuals who are usually so prolific, the philosophers who are always ready to draw their theory, the sociologists who are full of studies, what do they say about this singularly eruptive symptom of changing times? A review of a class of gutter-thinkers that seems more than ever to have vanished like a jigsaw puzzle.
Dince fluorescent yellow has taken possession of our roads, roundabouts, towns and villages, streets and monuments in the metropolises, many media figures have succeeded one another on television screens and in newspaper columns in an attempt to give explanatory keys to a phenomenon whose watchword is "unprecedented". Terms were coined and soon flourished, such as "jacquerie", but what quickly became apparent was the immense astonishment that this spontaneous movement aroused. Time will certainly have to pass and minds will have to calm down to understand what is at stake in this phenomenon. Philosophers undoubtedly have something to say to help us shed light on the brutal changes in our societies. They do not hold any truth but can point to origins, directions, hidden forces. What is emerging today is a great dispersion of ideas, a symptom of the confusion of this strange time we are going through.

Accidents of globalization?

Let's start at the beginning. What are yellow vests? Thinkers hesitate and propose traces of definitions which, together, make up an impressionist painting, certainly colourful but singularly blurred.
Yellow jackets are the casualties of globalization. " wrote Bernard-Henri Lévy. They launch, in the night of the downgraded, a distress signal, a call for help, an SOS.  Cynthia Fleury pushes the idea further. Globalization is at the source of this movement but it is not an accident, it is a logical end, the culmination of a process of wear and tear that is coming to an end: " We have reached the end of this globalised, deregulated, tax-optimised capitalism, which pits those who can benefit against those who can turn unfair competition to their advantage against those who are trapped and cannot play by the new rules of globalisation.. »
Alain Finkielkraut refers to he too the " left behind by happy globalisation ». For him, the yellow vests are the " forgotten progressives "; they were " the blind spot of triumphant diversity, and are reminded ». If they put on yellow vests, it's so that everyone can see them. « They say: we exist ». Michel Onfray wrote also: "This France from below makes its suffering known modestly, simply, without big words and long speeches, without ideology and blablas, just by saying simple things and wearing this fluorescent vest that signals danger.. »

Reinventors of class struggle?

Marcel Gauchet, who was the first to theorize the "social fracture", feels that the Yellow Vests movement comes from there and is a form of expression, but pushed, in an unprecedented way, to its extreme. He defined his social fracture as a phenomenon where separation takes precedence over confrontation. A kind of opposite of class struggle. But he notes today that the yellow vests embody an unprecedented upheaval in French social history: " they personify a will to put an end to the phenomenon of separation that characterizes the social fracture and reaffirm a dynamic of class struggle, but this time devoid of any membership, partisan or trade union, except national membership. The yellow jackets thus symbolize a brutal return of the class struggle in a reinvented form. ".
A class struggle that is neither right nor left. For Jean-Claude Michéathose who revolt." already have enough revolutionary consciousness to refuse to have to choose between left-wing and right-wing exploiters ». Michel Onfray is in the same vein when he esteems that the yellow jackets understood that there was " an alternative to this representative democracy that cuts the world in two, not between right and left, sovereignists and progressives, liberals and anti-liberals, no, but between those who exercise power and those over whom it is exercised ".
Another gulf seems to be emerging between those who would be interested in " the end of the world "and those who must respond to the challenge of" at the end of the month ». This is a good formula, but it poses a difficulty for intellectuals which they must now try to highlight: how to think about political time without setting the short term economic and social concerns against the long term ecological peril. « It is as if ecology has become the priority concern of the privileged. Ecological concern must remain universal ", thinks Alain Finkielkraut.

Referential disturbances

The lack of structuring of the movement as a historical reference disrupts philosophers. This movement is like nothing else. It is not May 68 revisited forty years later. Cynthia Fleury reminds quite rightly that " May '68 was essentially a revolution around freedom against authority. Today it's an insurrection against inequality.. "The sociologist Michel Wieviorka observes that this movement " is nothing like May '68, nor the strike of 1995, and its actors don't talk about it. It is in no way revolutionary, in the sense that it does not aim to take over state power.. »
To which other historical model are the yellow vests attached? The sociologist Alexis Spirewhich has just been published by Éditions du Seuil, Resistance to taxation, attachment to the State"...tries to seek kinship with the jacqueries." in the sense that they were popular explosions that brought together people in the countryside far beyond the agricultural workers alone and that lacked a mandated representative and a coherent vision of emancipation. "Another point in common with the current movement," they were directed against the nobility who were seen as a caste deaf to the difficulties encountered by the people. " But he immediately adds that the comparison must be qualified: " The Ancien Régime was a reign of arbitrariness and fiscal inequalities were glaring. The jacqueries went on the attack of the castles, sometimes in alliance with the bourgeoisie of the cities. They were accompanied by great violence on the part of the insurgents, but also in the repression that ensued.. "We're not quite there (yet). 
Some seek to see in the yellow vests reminiscences of Pujadism. There is the same anti-elite discourse, whether political or economic. Alexis Speyer points out: " The theme of the small against the big is a common thread in the mobilizations against taxes, but it is not enough to make it the umpteenth pujadist movement, because it is not the same social morphology. ".

Complex object not analyzed

Without a relevant historical comparison, the movement of the Yellow Vests is a complex object that seems to escape analysis. Marcel Gauchet is concerned about it because he sees much more than a social fracture, a real "social dislocation". Let's listen to him: " We're even further along in the fragmentation of society. Between blocks, that's what this movement shows, which no longer even have a common language. We no longer understand each other. And for a political and democratic society, that's the most serious thing.... "He clarifies his thought by explaining that this " France's difficult end of the month " she comes from far away. « And as alwayshe says, what is unpredictable is when there is a turnaround in the form of a protest. You suffer, you suffer, and then one day it explodes. There's no seismograph for this kind of phenomenon.... »
According to him, the divide is no longer just social, it has become moral. « We've lost the common language. "You don't know what we're going through...″ versus "you don't understand globalization″. This is the exchange we are witnessing. It's obviously a dead end.. » 
Cynthia Fleury also observes this dialogue of the deaf: " There are in the Yellow Vests all those who are abandoned, forgotten, who work, who are not the assisted or the profiteers, who are not the poorest but who cannot make ends meet. It is this France, this silent majority that has been silent until now, that is now coming together. "This spontaneous movement, as described, could lead to solutions, discussions, agreements and perhaps real progress. But on the contrary, it worries the philosopher. Indeed, the great characteristic of the Yellow Vests seems to be an entry into resentment. « And it's highly flammable. Resentment has never been a common class consciousness, a dialogue.... »
You have to hear the resentment. Bernard-Henri Lévy is urging politicians; one must not say " Hide these people that I cannot see... "or" get rid of those yellow vests that don't smell like diesel... ». Society would be suicidal if it remained deaf. Politicians might see this social eruption as an opportunity to reinvent politics and citizenship. If not, all philosophers agree that anything can happen, even the birth of monsters.
Road Safety Campaign 2008 with stylist Karl Lagerfeld

When the thought is destitute, you have to heal...

How can we understand, how can we hear this despair that is being forged by an immense regression overwhelming millions of people? Bernard Stiegler, in his last book believes that " thought, in all its forms is absolutely helpless ». She's too late. On the other hand, it is never too late, according to him, for groom. " And if thinking is deprived it's because it has stopped thinking as a cure, as a cure. "
Bad mood, anger, rage, violence, resentment are, each in their own way, the various symptoms of a disease caused by an exorbitant and exorbitant technosphere. A globalized technosphere that has left humans in a perfect therapeutic destitution. Time bombs and other explosive charges resulting from this inability to think accumulate. One way of "healing" would be to ensure that responses are humanized. Put humans back at the heart of all political decisions. Not to run away from reality or pursue shadows or dogmatic totems. Will this still be enough today?

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