Left-Wing or Right-Wing Populism?

A Comparison of the Demands of the French Yellow Vest Movement to the 2017 Presidential Programs of Rassemblement National and La France Insoumise

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author:
Ingeborg Misje Bergem Researcher, University of Oslo, Norway

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Abstract

This article reviews the political views of the Yellow Vest Movement (YVM) and explores whether it can best be described as a left-wing populist movement, understood as being primarily inclusionary and focused on socioeconomic issues, or a right-wing populist movement, understood as being primarily exclusionary and attentive to struggles over ethnic identity. This examination will be done by comparing the YVM's political demands to the presidential programs of the Rassemblement National (RN) and La France Insoumise (LFI), which in this article is used as prototypes on right-wing populism and left-wing populism. Since its early beginning in 2018, the YVM has been branded as an avatar of the extreme right. By comparing the claims of the YVM to the programs of the RN and LFI, I argue that this interpretation of the YVM is not substantiated by their actual political demands, which are more aligned with LFI than with the RN.

Contributor Notes

Ingeborg Misje Bergem studied political science and French area studies at the University of Oslo. She is currently completing a PhD on the Yellow Vest Movement and the crisis of representation in France at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Oslo. In 2019, Misje Bergem co-authored the article “The Political Theology of Populism and the Case of the Front National” with Ragnar Misje Bergem (Philosophy and Social Criticism 45, 2 [2019]: 186–211). In 2022, she published the article “Leaving the Discursive Definition of Populist Social Movements: The Case of the Yellow Vest Movement” (Political Studies, January 7, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1177/00323217211063727).

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