Publish at March 22 2016 Updated January 28 2022

Youth and social movements: becoming an active citizen

Citizenship at the heart of the movement

Although young people are not often taken seriously by their elders, we find that over time they worry politicians more when it comes to social movements. Intractable and fiery, young voters sanction with their vote those who did not support them.

The defense of the labor market

For Michel Fize, a sociologist specializing in adolescence, the quietness felt by politicians stems from the fact that young people are in a crisis context. In order to safeguard their comfort in life, they rise to the occasion against any attempt by the powers that be to diminish social gains or freedom. It is also very often on professional issues that the youth are the most intransigent, even succeeding in having texts that bother them profoundly modified or outright withdrawn.

This has been the case several times in recent years, the most recent ones being undoubtedly the withdrawal of the First Hiring Contract (CPE) or again in recent weeks against the Minister's labor bill, Ms. El Khomri. The latter case particularly affects young people, as it seems to call into question a number of gains such as overtime, the length of working hours for apprentices... which worry them.

For another researcher, Anne Mixel, this can be explained because youth is unpredictable and still weighs heavily in the electoral balance. Now, the presidential deadline is looming and the government in power had promised to support young people who feel cheated and abandoned in view of the proposed law.

Towards a practice of citizenship

Taking to the streets en masse allows them to display a clear desire to fight against a law that would further precariousize a labor market hurt by the economic crisis. In concrete terms, the March 9, 2016 demonstration gathered between 224,000 (Ministry of the Interior figure) and 500,000 people (organizer figure) but it was especially in the universities that the mobilization was the most surprising: 300 people in Grenoble, 400 in Rennes and Toulouse, 700 in Paris 1 and the same in Paris 8.

However, Alain Touraine, a labor sociologist, warns about the clear difference between contestation and social movement. The latter often leads to a profound modification of one or more aspects of civic life: paid vacations, marriage for all... These confrontations are an opportunity to change the life of the country in order to reinforce a position of power or to change it.

In the latter case, the collective opposition of all the classes gathered against a power considered too authoritarian on one or more issues allows everyone to reflect on the major issues of our time. Protest is a weaker opposition, one that does not allow crowds to gather to bend the government.

While French school curricula continue to reinforce citizenship through the EMC (moral and civic education) and the citizen's course, we can see that this is bearing fruit with more constructed high school and student interventions, even if it does not systematically succeed as during the retirement reform in 2010.

Photo credit: Shutterstock: 329796599


Alain Touraine, from Social Movements to Actor - Jean Lebel

Young people are simply demanding to be taken into account in the development of reforms - Mattea Battaglia - Le Monde

Social unrest: France mobilized - Louis Morin - Alternatives économiques

Mixed results against the El Khomri law - Le Figaro

The government is right to fear the youth - Denis Peiron - La Croix

Manif du 9 mars les jeunes préparent un "premier tour de chauffe" contre la loi du travail - Amandine Cailhol - Libération

Loi travail: dans la jeunesse le mouvement est lancé

Les réformes des retraites de 1993 à 2012 - Vie publique

Retreats a reform against youth - Boudon, Prieur, Terrien, Banaziak and Gourzones

The EMC in the BO of June 25, 2015 - National Education website

The approach to bring the values of the Republic to life in school - operational measures at the start of the 2015 school year - Éducation nationale - January 2015

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