The Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) protests that started in November 2018 have rocked French political culture and led critics to denounce the movement as being a threat to democracy, or worse. Among other things the protestors were accused of being barbarians, philistines, racists, anti-Semites and reactionaries who would destroy both France and European civilization. In fact, this book argues that the protests must be understood as part of a wave of protests against the extension of the market into all areas of social life that have been taking place around the world since the 1980s. While the Yellow Vest protests embrace a range of actors that cut across the French political spectrum the agenda that rapidly emerged from the movement in the shape of the ‘People’s Directive’ shows that it is a broadly progressive protest that has articulated radical ideas and practices with a view to transforming French political culture by means of direct democracy. The end goal is to be a new social order which is environmentally sustainable and built around principles of social justice. In this respect its ideas and actions are a challenge to mainstream French political culture.
Peter Wilkin is reader in Social Science at Brunel University.
Chapter 1: The Core Eats Its Own
Chapter 2: Napoleon IV? The Macron Presidency, or, How to Build a Gilets Jaunes
Chapter 3: The Return of the Yellow Peril: Les Beaufs are Coming!
Chapter 4: A Threat to Democracy? The Gilets Jaunes Break the Rules of the Game
Chapter 5: The Emperor Strikes Back: How Dare They Speak?
“Fear of a Yellow Planet: The Gilets Jaunes and the End of the World provides a compelling account of one of the most misunderstood movements of recent times. Tracing its history and practices, Wilkin convincingly situates Gilets Jaunes in relation to central developments in the modern world-system and, in so doing, significantly advances our understanding of protest movements today. This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in the current populist moment and what it means for progressive politics. “
“Wilkin sees the world in a single protest movement and does so in style. Fears of a Yellow Planet is a refreshing, and much needed, counter-perspective on progressive populism, too long derided and conflated with its negative counterparts. The book offers a compelling case study of the Gilets Jaunes as people’s politics in action, expertly situated within its wider historical, conceptual and political frames of reference. Compellingly written and timely, it deserves careful attention from all those seriously invested in thinking through and beyond the major problems confounding our global and national systems.”
“Peter Wilkin’s accessible and scholarly work expertly explains the ideological, economic ,and cultural context from which the French Gilet Jaunes movement emerged. The book draws out significant differences in forms of populism and in doing so carefully defuses myths about the movement. Fear of a Yellow Planet’s sympathetic analysis of the Gilet Jaunes provides a valuable resource for all those interested in contemporary French politics as well as those resisting neoliberal capitalism, especially during its authoritarian and chauvinistic turn.”
Wilkin’s astute and utmost delightful book presents a successful counter-argument that straightens the record by presenting an astute and research-based illumination of what the Yellow Vests truly are.