“Since 1789, we’ve all had good reason to worry whenever riots break out in Paris,” says Acton research director Samuel Gregg. “Whether it’s 1848 or 1968, social upheaval in France rarely ends well.”
The sheer fury vented throughout France by the gilets jaunes movement over the past three weeks has highlighted specific grievances animating many French citizens. The truth, however, is that the burning cars, blocked highways, vandalism, lawlessness, and running battles between rioters and police in the streets are symptomatic of more formidable challenges facing France.
But what’s really disturbing is that it’s not as if France’s political leaders and many ordinary Frenchmen don’t recognize the political and economic dysfunctionalities presently weakening French society. If you look at mainstream newspapers like the center-right Le Figaro and the center-left Le Monde or glance at Francophone social media, you quickly realize that these problems are publicly debated every single day. More rarely discussed is not only why France’s politicians seem unable to address these issues but also why many French citizens won’t support long-overdue changes.