Browsing by Subject "radikaali demokratia"

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  • Bickert, Irinja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    In my thesis I look at the yellow vest demonstrations in the light of historic urban spaces in Paris and the history of political participation. I focus on the most active period of yellow vest demonstrations, from November 2018 to end-May 2019. My main theoretical approaches draw on the concept of radical democracy by Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, Pierre Rosanvallon’s counter-democracy, Jürgen Habermas’s public sphere, and the global city developed by Saskia Sassen. My main question is: in what kind of historically-, economically- and politically-charged spaces the demonstrations took place in Paris? And my second question is: How did the yellow vests reflect changes in the political arena and how did the government respond to the protests? I investigate the cityscape of Paris by undertaking an ethnographic walk in the city. The ethnographic walk is an observational, self-conscious, reflective way of walking and looking to better understand an area’s physical and social context. The pictures and fieldnotes I took and made during the walk form my first assemblage of sources. My other sources consist of articles from French newspapers and magazines as well as government sources. I have selected those articles in particular that deal with the yellow vests in relation to French society, with physical places, and the control of space and their historical meanings. My research shows that the demonstrations in Paris took place in centres of political and economic power, and that those places and their historical layers have a certain significance for the movement. The Champs-Élysées, representing global capitalism and the Parisian elite, served as the primary locus for the yellow vests and their actions. They marched to the Presidential Palace because they wanted to show their discontent with Macron and his policies. The yellow vests damaged the Arc de Triomphe, which can be interpreted as a direct attack on an iconic national symbol. Bastille Square, a highly important site in the French Revolution, served as a gathering place for both the yellow vests and their counter movement, the “red scarves”. Place de la République, in turn, symbolizes the French Republican values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The yellow vests used forms of political participation and mechanisms of control over representative democracy, which I interpret as actions of counter-democracy. Their actions also manifested radical democracy, as the movement created open conflict and confrontation. The populist movement of the yellow vests acted in response to Macron’s centre-liberal politics. The government responded to the protests by expanding the power of the police forces and by tightening protest-related restrictions, as well as by holding a large national debate in order to enrich the public conversation. My research shows that Paris is indeed a “global city”, a primary node in the global economic network and represents the contra side as juxtaposed with the French countryside represented by the yellow vests. The demonstration sites in Paris reflect the economic, cultural and political history of France, as well as different dimensions and aspects of society and its activities. The revolt of the yellow vests is part of a historical continuum of revolutions and social movements in France, which according to my research, is also reflected in their use of the public urban space.