French Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 407–432 | Cite as

French critical citizenship: between philosophical enthusiasm and political uncertainty

  • Janie PélabayEmail author
  • Réjane Sénac
Original Article


This paper sketches the portrait of French critical citizens on the eve of the 2017 presidential election. Following the work of Norris (Critical citizens: global support for democratic government, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999), critical citizenship has emerged as part and parcel of the crisis in representative democracy. While critical citizenship is mainly discussed as a sign of civic apathy and distrust of political institutions and elites, our objective is to investigate the “positive” face of critical citizenship with a focus on what French critical citizens value and aspire to. Drawing on data from the CEVIPOF 2017 French electoral survey, we analyse the socio-demographic and political profile of four groups (Non-Critical Citizens, Demo-Reformers, Demo-Transformers and Demo-Exiters) and examine what is theoretically at stake in their respective models of democracy, criticism and aspirations.


Critical citizenship Representative democracy Participation Distrust France 


Supplementary material

41253_2019_95_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (123 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 124 kb)


  1. Abdelzadeh, Ali, and Joakim Ekman. 2012. Understanding critical citizenship and other forms of public dissatisfaction: An Alternative Framework. Politics, Culture and Socialization 3 (1–2): 177–194.Google Scholar
  2. Amnå, Erik, and Joakim Ekman. 2014. Standby citizens: Diverse faces of political passivity. European Political Science Review 6 (2): 261–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Christiano, Thomas, and John Christman. 2009. Contemporary debates in political philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crouch, Colin. 2004. Post-democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dalton, Russell, Susan Scarrow, and Bruce Cain. 2003. New forms of democracy? Reform and transformation of democratic institutions. In Democracy transformed? Expanding political opportunities in advanced industrial democracies, ed. B. Cain, R. Dalton, and S. Scarrow, 1–20. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dalton, Russel. 2008. Citizenship norms and the expansion of political participation. Political Studies 56 (1): 76–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Delannoi, Gil, and Oliver Dowlen (eds.). 2010. Sortition: Theory and practice. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic.Google Scholar
  8. Geissel, Brigitte. 2008. Reflections and findings on the critical citizen: Civic education—what for? European Journal of Political Research 47 (1): 34–63.Google Scholar
  9. Gilligan, Caroll. 1982. In a different voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Guilluy, Christophe. 2014. La France périphérique: Comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires. Paris: Flammarion.Google Scholar
  11. Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 1996. Democracy and disagreement. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Habermas, Jürgen. 1994. Three normative models of democracy. Constellations 1 (1): 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Habermas, Jürgen. 1995. Reconciliation through the public use of reason: Remarks on John Rawls’s political liberalism. The Journal of Philosophy 92 (3): 109–131.Google Scholar
  14. Inglehart, Ronald. 1977. The silent revolution: Changing values and political styles. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Inglehart, Ronald. 1990. Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Inglehart, Ronald. 1997. Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kymlicka, Will. 1990. Contemporary political philosophy: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 1985. Hegemony and socialist strategy: toward a radical democratic politics. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  19. Landwehr, Claudia, and Nils Steiner. 2017. Where democrats disagree: Citizens’ normative conceptions of democracy. Political Studies 65 (4): 786–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mouffe, Chantal. 2013. Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  21. Mulhall, Stephen, and Adam Swift. 1996. Liberals & communitarians. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Muxel, Anne. 2007. L’abstention: Déficit démocratique ou vitalité politique ? Pouvoirs 120 (1): 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Norris, Pippa (ed.). 1999. Critical citizens: Global support for democratic government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Norris, Pippa. 2011. Democratic deficits: Critical citizen revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2019. Cultural backlash: Trump, brexit, and authoritarian populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  27. Rawls, John. 1993. Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Rawls, John. 1995. Reply to Habermas. The Journal of Philosophy, 92(3): 109–131, and 132–180.Google Scholar
  29. Sandel, Michael. 1998. Democracy’s discontent: America in search of a public philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Havard Universitry Press.Google Scholar
  30. Teorell, J. 2006. Political participation and three theories of democracy: A research inventory and agenda. European Journal of Political Research 45 (5): 787–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Waldron, Jeremy. 2004. Law and disagreement. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Warren, M.E. 2009. Citizen participation and democratic deficits: Considerations from the perspective of democratic theory. In Activating the citizen, ed. J. DeBardeleben and J.H. Pammett, 17–40. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sciences Po, Center for Political Research (CEVIPOF), CNRSParisFrance

Personalised recommendations