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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
The “Yellow Jackets” movement started as a protest against the increase in the domestic consumption tax on energy products, including petroleum (TIPP). The struggle against social injustice and fiscal inequalities lied at its core. In particular, limiting the wealth tax (ISF) to property assets was a bone of contention.
French secondary technical qualifications.
Position on the left is based on the added rates for the items “very left-wing”, “left-wing” and “somewhat left-wing”.
Position on the right is based on the added rates for the items “very right-wing”, “right-wing” and “somewhat right-wing”.
In this article, we refer to the different parties in question using the name effective at the time of the survey.
See Appendix for data on Macron and his political movement.
The question about ‘good’ democracy was as follows: “Here are different ways to define what democracy should be. What is your opinion of these different propositions? Please evaluate each answer on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = completely disagree, 10 = completely agree)?” Five randomized items that begin with “Democracy is…” were then proposed to the respondents (for details, see Table 3).
The following question was put to respondents: “People have different opinions about the way in which France is governed. Some of these opinions can be critical. Do the following criticisms seem pertinent to you?” To answer, respondents were invited to evaluate their level of agreement with each of the seven randomised items (see Table 4) on a scale from 0 to 10 (0 = completely disagree, 10 = completely agree).
The question was phrased as follows: “People have different opinions about how France might be better governed. Do the following propositions seem pertinent to you? Please evaluate each answer on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = completely disagree, 10 = completely agree)”. For details of the six randomised items, see Table 5.
In the module, the meaning ascribed by respondents to French citizenship was studied using the following question: “Some people believe that, in order to be a genuine French citizen, it is essential to have some of the following characteristics. For others, this is not essential. In your opinion, to be a genuine French citizen, is it important to….” Six answers were then proposed. Respondents were asked to evaluate each of them on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = absolutely not important, 10 = absolutely important). The six items were: “Respecting each individual’s rights”; “Taking part in elections”; “Living on French territory”; “Identifying with the typically French way of life”; “Being informed about and interested in politics”; “Engaging for the benefit of the collective”.
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.
Amnå, Erik, and Joakim Ekman. 2014. Standby citizens: Diverse faces of political passivity. European Political Science Review 6 (2): 261–281.
Christiano, Thomas, and John Christman. 2009. Contemporary debates in political philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.
Crouch, Colin. 2004. Post-democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
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.
Dalton, Russel. 2008. Citizenship norms and the expansion of political participation. Political Studies 56 (1): 76–98.
Delannoi, Gil, and Oliver Dowlen (eds.). 2010. Sortition: Theory and practice. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic.
Geissel, Brigitte. 2008. Reflections and findings on the critical citizen: Civic education—what for? European Journal of Political Research 47 (1): 34–63.
Gilligan, Caroll. 1982. In a different voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Guilluy, Christophe. 2014. La France périphérique: Comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires. Paris: Flammarion.
Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 1996. Democracy and disagreement. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1994. Three normative models of democracy. Constellations 1 (1): 1–10.
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.
Inglehart, Ronald. 1977. The silent revolution: Changing values and political styles. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Inglehart, Ronald. 1990. Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Inglehart, Ronald. 1997. Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kymlicka, Will. 1990. Contemporary political philosophy: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 1985. Hegemony and socialist strategy: toward a radical democratic politics. London: Verso.
Landwehr, Claudia, and Nils Steiner. 2017. Where democrats disagree: Citizens’ normative conceptions of democracy. Political Studies 65 (4): 786–804.
Mouffe, Chantal. 2013. Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. London: Verso.
Mulhall, Stephen, and Adam Swift. 1996. Liberals & communitarians. Oxford: Blackwell.
Muxel, Anne. 2007. L’abstention: Déficit démocratique ou vitalité politique ? Pouvoirs 120 (1): 43–55.
Norris, Pippa (ed.). 1999. Critical citizens: Global support for democratic government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Norris, Pippa. 2011. Democratic deficits: Critical citizen revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2019. Cultural backlash: Trump, brexit, and authoritarian populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Rawls, John. 1993. Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Rawls, John. 1995. Reply to Habermas. The Journal of Philosophy, 92(3): 109–131, and 132–180.
Sandel, Michael. 1998. Democracy’s discontent: America in search of a public philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Havard Universitry Press.
Teorell, J. 2006. Political participation and three theories of democracy: A research inventory and agenda. European Journal of Political Research 45 (5): 787–810.
Waldron, Jeremy. 2004. Law and disagreement. New York: Oxford University Press.
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.
Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
See Table 6.
About this article
Cite this article
Pélabay, J., Sénac, R. French critical citizenship: between philosophical enthusiasm and political uncertainty. Fr Polit 17, 407–432 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-019-00095-5
- Critical citizenship
- Representative democracy