In Search of Lost Radicalism

The Hot Autumn of 2010 and the Transformation of Labor Contention in France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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This article asks whether the wave of protest in the fall of 2010 in France can be interpreted as evidence of persisting radicalism. It argues that, in spite of appearances, the French labor movement is no longer radical. This claim does not imply that industrial conflict is disappearing. Strong legacies and institutional processes still feed conflict in the workplace and often push workers to use contentious, extra-institutional means; but industrial conflict is not what it used to be, with the total number of working days lost to strikes decreasing steadily over the past forty years, and with conflict itself being reconfigured and transformed. Labor contention is no longer driven by an offensive agenda and has become essentially defensive. If there is radicalism left in France, it might be best described as a "radicalism of tradition." The article concludes by discussing the relevance of "radicalism" as an analytical category to make sense of labor contention in contemporary France.

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