The form that a protest takes is a reflection of the social structures that gave rise to it. Similarly, systems of social organisation have characteristic forms that manifest themselves through different actions and initiatives. However, it is important to note that these forms are not static and can evolve over time in response to various factors, such as changing societal values, technological developments, or economic or political crises. For example, twentieth-century social movements, such as those for civil rights or feminism, were often structured around large organisations and charismatic leaders, with mass demonstrations as the preferred mode of action. In the digital age, we are seeing more and more 'networked' movements, where organisation is decentralised and action can take many different forms, from street demonstrations to online awareness campaigns. As for the homogeneity of the actions undertaken, this can be due to several factors. In a given context, certain forms of action may be perceived as more effective or legitimate and therefore adopted more widely. In addition, the existence of cultural 'scripts' or social norms may direct people towards certain forms of action rather than others.
The etymology of the word "protest"[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Language reflects the complexity of social life and offers countless words to describe different situations. However, these terms are not always precise or distinct from one another. For example, words like "society", "community", "group" and "network" can sometimes be used interchangeably, although they have nuances of meaning. Some sociologists, philosophers and other thinkers have suggested that our linguistic and conceptual categories can mislead us into perceiving sharper divisions between social phenomena than actually exist. For example, we might think of the distinction between 'private' and 'public' as neat and clear, when in reality these domains overlap and interact in complex ways. Furthermore, the use of certain words and their meaning can vary according to cultural, historical and even personal context. For example, the concept of 'freedom' can have very different meanings in political, philosophical or personal contexts. That said, although the words and concepts used to describe the social are sometimes vague or interconnected, they remain a valuable tool for analysing and understanding our world. By taking into account their complexity and context, we can deepen our understanding of social dynamics and human experiences.
The etymology of the word "protest" is linked to the idea of "testimony" or "affirmation". The Latin word "protestare" means "to declare publicly" or "to affirm solemnly". In fact, the term Protestant, derived from Latin, appeared in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, a religious movement that challenged certain doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. Protestantism was characterised by an insistence on personal reading of the Bible and individual interpretation of its meaning, in contrast to the Catholic insistence on the authority of the Church and the clergy. In this sense, "protest" in Protestantism was an affirmation of individual faith and a critique of established religious authority. Over time, the word 'protest' in a secular context has taken on a broader meaning to refer to any form of disagreement or challenge to a state of affairs or authority. This can take the form of mass street demonstrations, strikes, boycotts or other forms of collective action. These forms of protest may, of course, vary in terms of their level of confrontation or violence.
Protestantism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Protestantism, as its name suggests, was born out of a protest, a statement of faith that opposed certain practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church of the time. Protestantism marked a significant break with the Catholic Church, proposing a new interpretation of the Christian faith and criticising what its founders saw as the excesses of Catholicism. In distinguishing itself from Catholicism, Protestantism introduced progressive notions, laying the foundations for certain fundamental principles of modern thought. At the heart of these principles are the inherent dignity of man, free will and a call to oppose the status quo in order to build a better world. Human dignity, a fundamental concept of Protestantism, stems from the conviction that all people are equal before God and possess intrinsic worth. This concept is in direct contrast to certain interpretations of Catholicism, which gave considerable authority to the clergy. Protestantism also emphasised free will in faith, asserting that each individual has the ability and responsibility to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. This idea has helped to democratise the faith and make it more accessible to lay people. Finally, Protestantism has often encouraged a form of engagement with the world aimed at transforming society so that it is more in line with biblical principles. This has led many Protestants to become involved in movements for social reform, economic justice and education. These principles have played an essential role in the development of modern thought and have influenced areas as diverse as politics, economics, philosophy and science. They continue to be a powerful driver of contemporary discourse and practice in many aspects of social life.
Protestantism brought a humanist interpretation of society and religion, centred on the dignity and free will of the individual. This perspective led to a rereading and reinterpretation of biblical texts, which in turn gave rise to new religious institutions and practices. One of the major changes introduced by Protestantism is the concept of the "universal priesthood" - the idea that every believer has direct access to God and can interpret the Bible for themselves, without the need for a priest or other intermediary. This helped to democratise access to the faith and give individuals greater responsibility for their own religious practice. Protestantism has also emphasised the formation of communities of believers who gather to worship and study the Bible together. These communities, or churches, are often governed democratically, with members of the community playing an active role in decision-making. This contrasts with the more traditional hierarchical model of the Catholic Church. Finally, Protestantism has encouraged active engagement in the world, including efforts to transform society along Christian lines. This has often led Protestants to engage in social action and champion causes such as social and economic justice.
The principles introduced by Protestantism, such as individual dignity, free will, engagement with the community and the world, all have profound implications for the way we understand ourselves as individuals and societies. The issue of social cohesion is particularly relevant today, in an increasingly diverse and pluralistic context. The principle of respect for the dignity of every individual, regardless of their beliefs, origins or status, is fundamental to maintaining an inclusive and harmonious society. Similarly, the idea of free will encourages tolerance and respect for individual choices, including religious belief or lack of it. It is a key notion for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, two fundamental principles of democratic societies. Involvement in the community and the world, another core value of Protestantism, emphasises the importance of active participation in social and political life for the well-being of society as a whole. This can manifest itself in different ways, from involvement in local voluntary organisations to activism for global causes. Finally, the idea of individual interpretation of sacred texts is a reminder of the importance of education and literacy, not only for personal religious practice, but also for informed participation in public life. These principles have shaped not only Protestantism, but also the way we think about and live in our contemporary societies. They continue to shed light on key current issues, such as social cohesion and collective participation.
Beyond indignation or protest, what is essential is the creation of a collective meaning, the construction of a shared vision that unites individuals and mobilises them towards a common goal. It is often this ability to create collective meaning that determines the success or failure of a social movement or societal transformation. This process of creating meaning can be seen as a paradigm for change. Instead of focusing solely on problems or injustices, it is about proposing an alternative, a vision of a better future. This is what transforms indignation into constructive action. Social change can take many forms and involve a variety of strategies and tactics. However, whatever form it takes, it is almost always marked by strong symbolism. Symbols are powerful because they can encapsulate complex ideas and deep feelings in a concise and memorable way. They can help give a movement an identity, mobilise supporters and communicate the movement's message to a wider audience. Whether they are slogans, logos, songs, gestures or acts of civil disobedience, these symbols play a key role in building collective meaning and facilitating social change. They serve both to unify participants in the movement and to disseminate their ideas to a wider audience, creating the conditions necessary for social change.
The concept of protest is intrinsically linked to the idea of dialogue and exchange. A protest is often the result of dissatisfaction or disagreement with an existing situation, and represents a form of communicating these concerns to a wider audience, be it the authorities, the general public or other stakeholders. However, as the intensity of a protest increases, the opportunity for genuine dialogue can sometimes diminish. More intense protests can reflect deep frustration or anger, and can sometimes lead to increased polarisation and reduced communication between different groups. This is why protest, while an important form of social and political expression, is only one aspect of the response to injustice or dissatisfaction. To be truly effective, it often needs to be complemented by other forms of action, including dialogue, negotiation, education and community organisation.
Protest itself can take many different forms, from street demonstrations and strikes to direct action and civil disobedience. Each form of protest has its own strengths and weaknesses, and can be adapted to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specific context and objectives.
From Confrontation to Subversion: The Evolution of Sociopolitical Conflict[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Analysis of Traditional Conflict[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Political science takes a close interest in protests and social movements as major forces for social and political change. In this context, the notion of conflict is often a central component of the analysis. Conflict, in the context of political science, does not necessarily mean violence or war, but rather any situation in which two or more parties have conflicting objectives or interests. Conflicts can occur at all levels of society, from individual disagreements to large-scale social and political conflicts. Protest is often a response to a perceived conflict, be it a conflict of economic interests, social values or political power. Individuals or groups who feel aggrieved or marginalised by the status quo may use protest to express their dissatisfaction and demand change. Political science is interested in how these conflicts arise, how they are managed or resolved, and what the consequences are for society as a whole. This can involve the study of power structures, the resources available to different groups, the strategies and tactics used in conflict, and the factors that can facilitate or hinder conflict resolution.
Conflict can be seen as going beyond protest, and sometimes even as a post-protest phase. In protest, individuals or groups express their disagreement or dissatisfaction, often in a public and visible way. When these protests are not taken into account or resolved satisfactorily, they can develop into deeper and longer-lasting conflicts. Conflict can take many forms, from verbal disputes to direct action, civil disobedience and sometimes even violence. Unlike a protest, which is often a reaction to a specific situation, a conflict can involve more systematic and deep-rooted opposition. It can also be more complex and difficult to resolve, as it may involve fundamental disagreements over values, interests or power structures. While conflict can be a source of tension and disorder, it can also be a driver of change and innovation. By highlighting problems and injustices, conflict can stimulate debate, reflection and action, eventually leading to new solutions and positive change. So political science, along with other social science disciplines, takes a close interest in the dynamics of conflict, how it evolves and its impact on society. It is a complex and multidimensional field that requires an in-depth understanding of social, political and psychological processes.
Julien Freund was a French sociologist and political philosopher who was born in 1921 and died in 1995. He is known for his work on conflict theory, the essence of politics and political realism. Freund is best known for his book The Essence of Politics (1965), in which he develops a realist analysis of politics based on the ideas of Carl Schmitt, a German political theorist. In this book, Freund argues that conflict is an inevitable and fundamental element of politics. Freund has also written on other subjects related to politics, sociology and philosophy, including war and peace, ethics, power, freedom and authority. Although his ideas were controversial because of their association with Schmitt, who was criticised for his links with the Nazi regime, Freund nevertheless made a significant contribution to political and sociological theory. Freund resisted Nazi occupation during the Second World War, was arrested by the Gestapo and survived several concentration camps. These experiences undoubtedly had an impact on his later views on politics and conflict.
Julien Freund has made a significant contribution to the understanding of political legitimacy and violence. His work on these subjects is mainly based on a rereading and reinterpretation of earlier work in these fields, in particular that of Max Weber and Carl Schmitt. On the question of political legitimacy, Freund relied heavily on the work of Max Weber. For Weber, legitimacy was one of the key sources of political authority, and he distinguished three types of legitimacy: traditional legitimacy (based on established customs and traditions), charismatic legitimacy (based on the personality and charisma of a leader), and rational-legal legitimacy (based on established rules and laws). Freund took up and developed these ideas, focusing on the role of conflict and violence in establishing and maintaining political legitimacy. For Freund, legitimacy is not simply a question of consent or acceptance, but also implies a coercive dimension: to be legitimate, an authority must be capable of maintaining order and resolving conflicts, including through the use of force if necessary. As far as violence is concerned, Freund was strongly influenced by Carl Schmitt and his theory of politics. Schmitt argued that the essence of politics lies in the distinction between 'friend' and 'enemy', and that the possibility of conflict - including violence - is a fundamental characteristic of politics. Freund took up these ideas, emphasising that violence is not simply an aberration or failure of politics, but can in fact play a central role in establishing and preserving political order. These ideas have been controversial, but they have nevertheless made an important contribution to political theory, focusing on aspects of power, conflict and violence that are often neglected in more idealised approaches to politics.
Freund offers an in-depth reflection on conflict, insisting that it is not an accident or anomaly, but intrinsically linked to the nature of society and politics.
Freund sees conflict as a profound divergence of interests that can arise when there is tension between those who accept the current state of public space and those who desire change. Conflict then emerges from the contradictions inherent in society, shaping different positions and attitudes. According to Freund, conflict is not simply an aberration or a chance incident, but rather a reality inherent in human and social existence. To demonstrate this, he cites the example of Marxism, which cannot be considered an accident of history. On the contrary, Marxism is fundamentally rooted in conflict thinking. Karl Marx himself conceptualised society in terms of class conflict, arguing that power struggles between social classes - specifically between the bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production, and the proletariat, which sells its labour power - are the central engine of historical progress and social change. From this perspective, conflict is not an accident, but a necessary and inevitable mechanism of social dynamics. This perspective is similar to that of Freund, who sees conflict as a structural phenomenon rather than an anomaly. For him, understanding conflict is essential to understanding the nature of politics and society.
Freund argues that conflict is the result of a profound divergence of interests. He identifies a tension inherent in conflict, which exists between those who are satisfied with the current state of public space and those who want change. This conflict is fuelled by societal contradictions, giving rise to a variety of positions and orientations. He recognises the existence of several types of conflict, including social conflict and class conflict. In the social context, conflict shapes the structure of negotiations. Trade unionism, an inherent element of any democracy, is a representative example of this. Trade unions represent specific interests and negotiate these interests with governments on the basis of social conflict. For Marxists, these conflicts are the expression of an intrinsically contradictory mode of production. It is a balance of power that emanates from the societal changes to which some people are opposed. Class conflict is another important type of conflict. According to Marxist theory, society is divided into different classes, whose interests are fundamentally in conflict. For example, the bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production, is in conflict with the proletariat, which sells its labour power. This class conflict is seen as the driving force of history and social change.
Freund argues that all societies are inherently conflictual. Conflict is inherent in social existence; it is not necessarily negative, but can be a vector for progress. History shows that all societies have experienced various forms of conflict. When a society undergoes rapid and major change, it may struggle to keep pace, which increases the potential for conflict. There is a gap between the speed of change and the capacity of human beings to adapt. When social and political transformations are particularly drastic, this can lead to resistance and opposition to change. In short, conflict can be seen as a concept of discordance, reflecting the tensions inherent in any society on the move. Conflicts are therefore not simply unwanted disturbances, but can be seen as indicators of the deep-seated tensions and power struggles that structure society, and which can lead to its evolution.
Finally, for Freund, conflict is intrinsically linked to the conception of public space. Not only is it an inevitable feature of public space, but it also plays a decisive role in the way in which that space is understood and structured. In the philosophical and political sense, public space is the place where people come together to debate, exchange ideas and resolve their differences. Consequently, conflict is inevitable in the public space, as individuals and groups often have divergent points of view, conflicting interests and different ideologies. Thus, by engaging in public space, individuals potentially enter into conflict. This does not mean that every interaction in the public space is conflictual, but rather that conflictuality is an inherent possibility of participation in the public space. In this sense, conflict can be seen as a fundamental and necessary feature of democracy, which values open debate and diversity of opinion.
According to Freund and other social theorists, conflict is an inevitable component of social relations. This does not mean that every social interaction is conflictual, but rather that the potential for conflict exists in every social relationship. Differences in interests, values, perspectives and even understanding of situations can lead to conflict. Social relationships are dynamic and evolving, and conflict can be a driving force for change and adaptation. For example, conflict can stimulate innovation, encourage the evolution of social norms, or prompt individuals to re-evaluate their beliefs and behaviours. In this way, although conflict can be a source of tension and disagreement, it can also contribute to the vitality and progress of society.
Modern societies exhibit specific forms of conflictuality due to multiple causes. These forms of conflictuality may reflect the evolution of our societies in terms of values, economic structures, technologies and power relations. Here are some examples of potential causes:
- Economic and social inequality: Disparities in income and wealth can lead to tension and conflict. People who feel unfairly treated or dispossessed may protest against the status quo, leading to social conflict.
- Cultural diversity and ideological differences: Modern societies are often characterised by a wide diversity of cultures, religions and values. This can lead to conflict when different groups have incompatible worldviews, or when the rights and freedoms of certain groups are perceived to be under threat.
- Globalisation and competition for resources: Globalisation has increased competition for limited resources, which can lead to conflict between nations, regions or groups within the same society.
- Technological change: Rapidly evolving technologies have transformed many aspects of daily life and the economy, which can create tensions between those who adapt to new technologies and those who feel left behind.
- Environmental issues: Environmental challenges, such as climate change, can generate conflicts over the distribution of resources, responsibilities for mitigating the effects of climate change, and strategies for adapting our societies to these changes.
The nature and extent of conflict in a society can be greatly influenced by the speed at which the society changes. In our modern societies, characterised by a rapid pace of technological, economic, social and cultural change, conflict can become more frequent or more intense. These rapid changes can provoke feelings of insecurity, anxiety and disorientation, as people find it difficult to adapt or to understand the implications of the changes taking place around them. What's more, the benefits of these rapid changes are not always evenly distributed across society, which can create tensions between those who benefit from the changes and those who feel left behind or threatened by them. Indeed, there are often conflicts between the defenders of modernity, who see rapid change as a source of opportunity and progress, and those who value tradition, stability and continuity more, and who may perceive rapid change as a threat to their way of life or values.
The mismatch in temporality, or the gap between different speeds of change in a society, can be a major source of tension and conflict. Individuals and social groups have different rhythms of life, different expectations of the speed and direction of change, and different capacities to adapt to change. These differences can lead to misunderstandings, frustrations and conflicts. These conflicts are generally played out in the public arena, where different social actors express their opinions, defend their interests and negotiate their differences. The public arena is therefore not only a place of conflict, but also a place where the rules for managing conflict are defined and implemented.
Conflict is an inevitable and, to some extent, necessary aspect of any society. It arises from differences in interests, values, beliefs and perspectives between individuals and social groups. Conflicts can play a constructive role in a society. They can stimulate debate, innovation and change, by highlighting problems and injustices and encouraging people to seek solutions. Conflicts can also help to clarify positions and preferences, reinforce group identity, and hold ruling elites accountable for their actions. However, conflicts can also have destructive effects if they are not properly managed. They can lead to violence, social polarisation and political paralysis, and can erode social bonds and mutual trust. This is why it is crucial to have effective mechanisms for resolving conflicts and promoting dialogue and cooperation. It is therefore important to recognise and manage conflict rather than trying to suppress or ignore it. Suppressing conflict may simply lead to it erupting in more violent and destructive ways in the future. Effective conflict management, on the other hand, can enable a society to take advantage of the constructive aspects of conflict while minimising its destructive aspects.
Julien Freund distinguishes between two forms of conflict: struggle and combat. Each has its own characteristics and its own context:
- Struggle generally refers to a type of conflict that is structured and predictable. For example, class struggle is a type of conflict that occurs within an established social structure, and is often predictable in its forms and outcomes. In this context, the struggle is often organised and regulated in such a way as to maintain a certain order, as can be seen in the role of the security services at demonstrations. Struggle is also often a way for marginalised or disadvantaged groups to claim their rights and express their protest against unjust social structures.
- Fighting, on the other hand, refers to a type of conflict that can be more violent and less structured. However, even combat is often regulated in some way, as can be seen in the rules of conduct for warfare. The aim of combat is generally to control and limit violence, rather than letting it run unchecked. This reflects Max Weber's idea that the modern state is founded on the control and legitimate use of violence.
This distinction between struggle and combat provides a useful framework for understanding the different forms of social and political conflict. It allows us to understand that, although all conflicts may involve some form of violence, this violence can take different forms and be regulated in different ways.
Julien Freund distinguishes two states in the use of violence, the polemical state and the agonal state:
- The polemical state is a state of war or open conflict. The word "polemos" comes from the Greek and refers to the art of war. In this state, there is overt and often unregulated violence between entities, such as states. Managing this type of violence generally requires efforts to channel and control the conflict in order to prevent an uncontrolled escalation.
- The agonal state, on the other hand, is a state in which violence is transformed and made functional in order to prevent self-destruction. In this state, society finds ways to substitute security for violence. Conflictuality is then redirected towards competition, transforming violence into a mode of societal functioning. In this process, the idea of an "enemy" is replaced by that of an "adversary". Pure violence is abolished, and in its place a regulated and institutionalised adversity is introduced.
In short, in an agonal state, violence is captured by society and institutionalised, transforming conflict into competition. This allows society to legitimise itself, while avoiding the escalation of violence. It is a renunciation of violence in favour of an institutionalised structure of adversity. In this context, the weakest party is often the one unable to adapt to this structure of social adversity within the modern state.
While the agonal state has many advantages in channelling and institutionalising conflict, it also poses significant challenges. One of the most important is the risk that competition, which is supposed to be a healthy form of rivalry, can degenerate into full-blown violence. Maintaining balance in an agonal state requires delicate management. Social and political institutions need to be strong and flexible enough to contain and regulate conflict, while allowing healthy competition. This generally involves a balance between authority and freedom, between stability and change, and between individuality and community. If competition becomes too intense, or is perceived as unfair or rigged, it can easily degenerate into violence. Similarly, if individuals or groups feel oppressed, ignored or marginalised, they may resort to violence as a means of expressing their frustration and pressing for change.
Sport is a particularly good example of the agonal state defined by Julien Freund. It serves to channel the natural conflictuality of individuals, framing it in a competitive structure with clearly established rules. This structure allows aggression and competitiveness to express themselves in a controlled and productive, rather than destructive, way. However, sport can also be a place where violence can resurface at any time. Sports competitions can sometimes degenerate into violent conflicts, either on the pitch between players or between supporters in the stands. This is particularly the case in contact sports, where violence is an integral part of the game, but it is also true in almost all other sports. It is therefore important to maintain a delicate balance in sport. On the one hand, competitiveness and aggression must be allowed to express themselves within a controlled framework. On the other hand, care must be taken to prevent and manage violent outbursts, in order to maintain the integrity of sport and the safety of participants and spectators. Sport is therefore a striking example of the tension between the agonal state, which seeks to channel conflict in competition, and the potential for violence, which constantly threatens to spill out of this framework.
The contradiction is between having to manage sporting events without violence and being subject to the violence that emerges through sport. This contradiction is at the heart of many debates in the world of sport. On the one hand, there is a desire to minimise violence in sport in order to preserve its integrity and the safety of participants and spectators. On the other hand, there is a recognition that sport, as an expression of human conflict, is intrinsically susceptible to violent behaviour.
The Riot: A Violent Expression of Dissension[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Riot represents a form of degeneration of conflict, when it escapes all institutional control and is transformed into unstructured collective violence. While conflict, even intense conflict, can generally be contained and managed through institutional mechanisms (such as negotiation, mediation or the application of the law), rioting marks a breaking point where these mechanisms are no longer effective or relevant. The notion of riot encompasses a variety of situations, ranging from spontaneous revolt against a perceived injustice to mob violence with no specific aim. Riot is characterised by its disorganised and explosive nature, which distinguishes it from more structured forms of collective violence such as insurrection or war. While riots are a form of degenerative conflict, they are also sometimes a symptom of deeper social problems that have not been resolved through the usual institutional channels. So while rioting is a problem in itself, it is also often a sign of other problems that deserve serious attention.
Riot is often seen, particularly by philosophers, as a manifestation of uncontrolled collective emotion, where the rational and structured give way to the irrational and chaotic. It symbolises a violent and disorderly expression of collective anger or frustration that has found no other way of expression or resolution. From this perspective, rioting is seen as a degeneration of conflict, because it escapes the norms and structures usually associated with conflict management. It is dominated by emotion, which can overwhelm individuals and drive them to actions they would not have undertaken in a calmer or more rational state of mind.
Riot is often perceived as dangerous because it is generally driven by strong emotions rather than rational thought. Its impulsive and immediate nature amplifies its unpredictable nature, contributing to its image of instability. Rumours often play an important role in the genesis of riots, spreading unverified information that inflames emotions and contributes to the build-up of tension. This informal and unregulated mode of communication can fuel fear, anger or indignation, eventually leading to violent outbursts. In this way, riots highlight the power of emotion in the public arena and underline the crucial role of proper information and conflict management in maintaining social stability.
Riots are often sudden and intense, crossing the boundaries of social norms, laws and morality. They develop without prior thought or strategic planning, and can sometimes manifest an absence of mercy or discernment. The main challenge posed by riots is that they are difficult to control. These outbursts of collective violence represent a marked transgression of societal values, where normally accepted rules are momentarily set aside. It's a complex phenomenon that highlights the fragility of the social order and the power of collective emotions.
Riot can sometimes take the form of gratuitous violence or rebellion against the established order, sometimes with a quasi-recreational dimension, as if the chaos engendered provided a certain pleasure or liberation from the constraints of daily life. However, it is important to note that riots generally reflect deeper social problems. They are often linked to difficult material conditions, such as poverty and unemployment, as well as feelings of marginalisation and insecurity. These factors can lead groups of people to feel excluded, ignored or mistreated by society, which in turn can lead to outbursts of collective violence in the form of riots.
Classical philosophy strongly emphasised the importance of rationality in politics. Aristotle, for example, in his work "Politics", describes politics as a practical science that requires a rational application of theory to practice. Aristotle argues that politics is the art of determining the best way to organise the community, and that this can only be achieved by using reason to analyse and understand the complex situations facing the community. In other words, the true politician, according to Aristotle, is someone who can apply reason to politics in order to solve problems and promote the well-being of the community. Plato, in "The Republic", also defends the idea that reason should guide politics. For Plato, the ideal society is governed by "philosopher-kings", who are able to use their reason to see beyond the deceptive appearances of the sensible world and understand the eternal and unchanging forms that constitute true reality. Thus, for these classical philosophers, politics is not simply a matter of power or self-interest, but of the rational application of ethical principles for the benefit of the community. Politics, for them, is an art form that requires not only technical skills, but also the ability to think rationally and make ethical decisions.
Although classical philosophy has traditionally insisted on the importance of reason in politics, it must be admitted that emotion plays an important role in political behaviour, particularly in situations of conflict or social tension. Riots, for example, are often the result of a feeling of injustice, frustration or marginalisation, and they reflect the strong emotions of those involved. This does not mean, however, that emotion is in itself irrational or harmful. Emotions can provide valuable information about our environment and can effectively motivate action. However, they can also lead to destructive or impulsive behaviour if not properly managed. In contemporary political discourse, it is true that emotion has acquired considerable importance. Politicians are increasingly resorting to emotional rhetorical strategies to mobilise their voters. This can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how these emotions are used. On the one hand, they can encourage citizen involvement and participation. On the other hand, they can also be used to manipulate public opinion and encourage polarisation and conflict.
Subversion and Revolutions: From Altercation to Societal Transformation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Subversion is an interesting concept in political philosophy. The word "subversion" comes from the Latin "subvertere", which means "to overthrow" or "to upset". The prefix "sub" in Latin means "under" or "beneath", which adds an extra dimension to the idea of overturning - not only is something overturned, but it is done in a way that comes "from beneath" or from within. In a political context, subversion generally refers to an attempt to alter or overthrow existing power structures. This can involve various forms of action, from civil disobedience to clandestine resistance, as well as more subtle forms of criticism and questioning of dominant ideologies. In many cases, subversion is seen as a form of radical political activity. However, it can also be seen as an important aspect of any healthy political system, insofar as it allows for open contestation and debate, which is essential to the functioning of democracy. It is often through acts of subversion that new ideas and perspectives can emerge and be integrated into political discourse.
Subversion is a strategic and deliberate action aimed at destabilising or overthrowing an institution, a power structure or even an ideology. Unlike rioting, which is often spontaneous and unpredictable, subversion is characterised by premeditation and intentionality. Subversion is often a long-term process, as the overthrow of a system or power structure does not usually happen overnight. It usually involves careful planning and coordination between the different actors involved. Moreover, subversion can take many forms, ranging from civil disobedience and propaganda to more direct actions such as strikes, boycotts and even armed rebellion. It can also take more subtle forms, such as using art, satire or literature to criticise or challenge existing power structures. Subversion is generally perceived as a threat by those in power, and can therefore often be met with strong resistance or repression.
Building a force for transformation" is a fundamental concept in several disciplines, particularly in the military, strategic and geopolitical fields. It refers to the process by which a group or entity prepares to instigate significant change. In a military context, this idea is often applied to strategic planning, where the armed forces prepare to intervene to achieve an objective, be it victory in a conflict or the achievement of a specific political goal. From a geopolitical point of view, this may involve mobilising allies, using diplomacy, offering economic aid, using propaganda, or other tactics to influence the situation in a particular region or country. The aim is to bring about a change that serves the interests of the actor involved. In other contexts, such as the launch of a new business, technological innovation, or social and political change, this notion may refer to the mobilisation of resources, whether capital, technology, or human resources. However, regardless of the context, 'building the force to transform' requires a clear vision of the changes desired, a strategy for achieving them, and the ability to mobilise and align the resources needed to implement that strategy.
The following three strategies - ideological, political and strategic encirclement - are classic subversion techniques. Their aim is to restrict, weaken and ultimately overthrow the powers that be.
- Ideological encirclement: This approach seeks to counter the opponent's ideas by proposing a different, often more attractive or convincing, framework of thought. The aim is to win people's support and isolate the opponent by depriving them of their ideological support.
- Political encirclement: This strategy aims to influence, control or neutralise key political players, such as legislators, civil servants, opinion leaders or even the media. The aim is to limit the opponent's ability to make decisions and take action.
- Strategic encirclement: This involves creating a hostile environment for the adversary, which may involve mobilising resources, imposing economic sanctions or even military action. The aim is to restrict the opponent's ability to function effectively.
These three types of encirclement can be used independently or together, depending on the situation and the specific objectives. However, it should be noted that they all involve a degree of conflict and may result in resistance from the adversary.
Subversion is a strategy or series of tactics designed to weaken an opponent by bringing about change, often from within. This strategy is not limited to the use of brute force, although this may be part of the approach in some cases. Subversive actions can include activities designed to undermine the authority, morale, cohesion or credibility of the adversary. Subversion can take many forms, from disinformation and propaganda to creating internal dissension, mobilising the population or exploiting existing divisions. The aim of these tactics is often to change the power structures in place, to force the adversary to change its behaviour, or to alter the status quo in favour of the group carrying out the subversive actions. In the context of a struggle for power or control, subversion can be a powerful tool. It is a means of exerting influence or pressure without resorting to direct confrontation or violence. However, because of its indirect and often clandestine nature, subversion can be difficult to detect and counter, making it a potentially very effective strategy for those seeking to bring about change.
Roger Mucchielli was a French psychosociologist and philosopher who was born in Marseille on 11 March 1919 and died on 29 May 1983. He is best known for his work on the psychosociology of organisations and communication. Mucchielli contributed to a wide variety of fields, including education, psychology and philosophy. He trained in philosophy and psychology at the Sorbonne, where he studied under such eminent figures as Gaston Bachelard and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Later, he turned to the study of psychosociology, contributing to the emergence of this discipline in France. His most notable contributions include his analysis of interpersonal and group communication, his work on group dynamics and his thoughts on leadership. He is the author of numerous books on these subjects, including "La dynamique des groupes" and "Le travail en équipe". He has also developed the concept of "subversion", defined as an attempt to overthrow an existing power structure by clandestine and often indirect means. He analysed the techniques of subversion and their use in various contexts, including political and social conflict. Over the course of his career, Mucchielli has held a number of academic posts, including director of research at the CNRS and professor at the University of Paris X-Nanterre. He has also been active in the field of professional training, particularly in communication and leadership in organisations.
In his work, Roger Mucchielli identifies three main issues or objectives in subversion, each associated with specific techniques and justified by the nature of the conflict involved:
- Demoralising the target nation: This involves undermining the morale, unity and coherence of a nation or specific group, often through disinformation or propaganda campaigns designed to sow doubt and mistrust. Demoralisation can weaken a nation's resilience, making it more vulnerable to other forms of subversion.
- Discrediting authority: This involves efforts to discredit leaders or institutions in positions of authority. This can be done through communication campaigns that present the opponent as a threat, highlight their failures or exploit their controversies to diminish public confidence in them.
- Neutralising the masses: This aims to prevent popular support for the regime in power. For example, by manipulating public opinion through disinformation or propaganda, or by creating divisions within the population to weaken its support for the existing authority.
In all these cases, subversion is a form of psychological warfare, which can be employed insidiously and often under the radar. Although these tactics may be non-violent in themselves, they can also trigger or amplify violence if necessary, making subversion potentially very destabilising.
The media play a crucial role in the subversion process, as they are often used to influence public opinion. The propagation of information, whether accurate or manipulated, through the media can shape people's perceptions and direct their attitudes and beliefs. Subversion can be seen as a kind of "staging" where information is presented in such a way as to support a certain point of view or cause. For example, certain information may be highlighted while others are omitted or distorted, creating a certain image of reality that may not correspond to the actual situation. With the advent of social networks and digital platforms, the ability to disseminate information quickly and widely has been greatly amplified. These tools can be used effectively to influence public opinion, either for good by raising awareness of important issues, or for ill by spreading disinformation or propaganda.
The manipulation of information and the construction of a specific reality can lead to the erosion of trust in a regime or authority and the creation of an environment conducive to opposition and dissent. In some cases, this can be done by amplifying existing problems, distorting reality, or creating new information that incites discontent or dissent. This technique is often used in politics to discredit opponents or to generate support for a particular cause. While this strategy can be effective in the short term, it can have harmful long-term consequences, including misinformation, increased polarisation, erosion of trust in institutions and increased social instability.
Subversion is a powerful tool for influencing and changing the political landscape. It is used to create change within a political system by attacking its power structures and ideological foundations. By exploiting internal tensions, political disagreements and social inequalities, subversion movements seek to destabilise and eventually overthrow existing political regimes. These actions can take many forms, ranging from propaganda and disinformation to incitement to civil disobedience, as well as more direct and potentially violent activities. Despite its potential to bring about change, civil disobedience is not without its risks. It can lead to civil unrest, political instability and even violence. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the system that emerges from subversion will be better or fairer than the previous system. Ultimately, subversion is a complex and potentially dangerous tool for change, and its use must be carefully considered in the light of its potential repercussions.
Contemporary Renaissance of Protest: New Paradigms and Actors[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The Counter-Power : A Redefinition of the Concept[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The concept of counter-power is central to modern political theory. It is the idea that there must exist in a society groups or institutions capable of checking, balancing or challenging the power of the established authorities. These checks and balances can take many forms, including the media, the courts, trade unions, civil rights groups, or even broader social movements. Over the past twenty years, we have seen an upsurge in protest movements, often supported by modern technologies such as social media, which have transformed the way counter-powers can organise and act. For example, movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, the Gilets Jaunes in France and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US have all demonstrated how modern technologies can enable groups of citizens to challenge power and aspire to social and political change. These modern counter-powers have the ability to mobilise large groups of people quickly, disseminate information and maintain an open dialogue with the public. This enables them to exert pressure on the established authorities and to oppose policies or practices that they deem unjust. However, these movements also face many challenges, particularly in terms of internal cohesion, defining clear objectives, and resisting repression or co-option by the established authorities. The rise of modern counter-powers has profoundly transformed the contemporary political landscape, providing new opportunities for contestation and change, but also presenting new challenges and uncertainties.
Miguel Benasayag and Diego Sztulwark's book "Du Contre-pouvoir", published in 2000, offers an in-depth reflection on the evolution of forms of struggle and contestation in contemporary society. In this book, the authors suggest that the traditional dynamic of counter-power, based on the idea of direct confrontation with the established authorities in the hope of overthrowing or reforming them, may have lost its relevance in the current context. They argue that in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, where power is no longer concentrated in one place but is diffuse and spread across multiple networks and institutions, traditional strategies of confrontation may prove ineffective. Instead, Benasayag and Sztulwark propose the idea of a 'multitude' of micro-struggles, which seek less to seize power than to create spaces of autonomy and resistance within the existing system. These micro-struggles can take many different forms, from involvement in local community projects to participation in large-scale social movements. While this approach can open up new possibilities for resistance and action, it also raises many questions and challenges, particularly in terms of coordination and coherence between different struggles, as well as their ability to resist co-option or repression by the forces of established power. "Du Contre-pouvoir offers an interesting and provocative perspective on the dilemmas and potentialities of political struggle in the contemporary world.
In the 1970s, the dominant approach to political and social struggles was mainly guided by comprehensive and coherent ideologies. Collective action was widely understood as an attempt to seize central power in order to implement a comprehensive ideological programme, often geared towards a radical transformation of society. However, in the light of the relative failure of these approaches - partly due to the co-option of activists by the institutions they sought to transform, but also due to the challenges inherent in achieving large-scale social change - a new generation of activists has emerged, adopting a different approach. These modern activists tend to favour decentralised action, rooted in local communities and focused on concrete, specific issues. Rather than seeking to take control of existing institutions, they seek to create new spaces for autonomy and resistance within the system, through initiatives such as co-operatives, self-help groups, community gardens, independent media and so on. This reflects a growing recognition that today's global problems - such as climate change, economic inequality and the refugee crisis - are largely the result of past failures and cannot be solved simply by seizing central power. Instead, they require a multitude of local responses, tailored to the specific conditions of each community, but linked together by networks of solidarity and cooperation.
The paradox is that we can no longer hide behind grand ideologies for change, but we can no longer have grand programmes, which allow us to have projects and to be more active within society and in bringing about change. In this new order of things, the transformation of society is no longer based on adherence to a complete and coherent ideological programme, but rather on a series of specific and concrete projects that reflect the needs and aspirations of particular communities. This change can have several advantages. On the one hand, it may allow greater flexibility and adaptability in developing responses to social problems. Rather than trying to force the complex and diverse reality of society to conform to a predefined ideological vision, this approach allows the variety of local situations to be taken into account and solutions to be developed that are tailored to these specific situations. On the other hand, this approach can also encourage greater participation and deeper involvement by ordinary citizens in the processes of social transformation. Rather than feeling alienated by abstract and distant ideological discourse, individuals can feel more involved and invested in projects that directly affect their daily lives.
How can political effectiveness be achieved? Wouldn't it lie elsewhere than in subversion?
A recent trend in political and social thought emphasises local mobilisation and the development of alternative forms of power as a means of social transformation. From this perspective, counter-power is understood not as a force that directly opposes or attempts to overthrow existing power, but rather as a force that seeks to build new forms of power from below, often on the margins or outside the traditional structures of political power. This approach can include actions such as creating autonomous communities, setting up alternative economic systems, promoting popular education, and organising social movements around specific issues. However, this type of strategy is not without its own challenges and contradictions. For example, it can be difficult to avoid interaction with traditional power structures altogether, and there can be tensions between the need to preserve the autonomy of local initiatives and the need to build broader alliances to address issues on a national or global scale. Furthermore, while the development of local counter-powers can represent an important route to social change, it is also important not to underestimate the potential for resistance from existing power structures. In many cases, these structures may be able to resist or suppress counter-power efforts, or even co-opt or absorb such efforts to their own advantage. Finally, it should be remembered that building a counterweight is a long-term process that requires sustained commitment and solid organisation. It is not simply a question of sporadic mobilisations or isolated protests, but of ongoing work to build new power relations and transform existing social structures.
The issue of violence in a protest movement is complex and ambiguous. Often, groups facing systemic and institutionalised oppression feel obliged to resort to violence to make themselves heard, believing that this is the only way to draw attention to their demands. This raises a series of moral and ethical questions. On the one hand, it can be argued that the use of violence by oppressed groups is a legitimate response to the institutional violence they suffer. This perspective is largely influenced by theorists such as Frantz Fanon, who saw violence as a way for the colonised to regain their humanity in the face of the dehumanising violence of colonialism. On the other hand, there are strong arguments against the use of violence in protest movements. Some argue that violence is inherently immoral, regardless of the circumstances. Others point to the harmful practical consequences of violence: it can reinforce existing prejudices, alienate potential supporters, and give the authorities a pretext for suppressing the movement. Figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi have advocated non-violence as a more effective and ethical strategy for achieving social change.
The notions of violence and non-violence are not always clearly defined. Violence can take many forms, from direct physical violence to structural or symbolic violence. Similarly, non-violence does not simply mean the absence of violence, but often involves active and committed resistance. The issue of violence in protest movements remains an open question, subject to ongoing debate. Each situation is unique and requires careful analysis of the specific circumstances, the objectives of the movement, and the potential consequences of different strategies of action.
According to Marxist precepts, a proletarian revolution - often involving a degree of violence - is seen as necessary to overthrow the existing capitalist order and establish a more equitable society. However, there is an inherent tension between the pursuit of a better world - characterised by greater equality, justice and mutual respect - and the use of violence to achieve this goal. Many Marxist and socialist thinkers and activists have sought non-violent means of achieving radical societal change. For example, the concept of a "cultural revolution" implies a profound transformation of society's values and attitudes, which can potentially be achieved without physical violence. At the same time, there is a growing need to rethink strategies for action and activism. Contemporary protest movements are increasingly focused on local and grassroots action, working to build alternatives within existing structures rather than overthrowing those structures through violence. These movements often seek to challenge and disrupt the dominant social order through forms of direct action, civil disobedience, advocacy and cultural resistance. They also focus on creating new forms of community and social organisation that are more inclusive, egalitarian and sustainable. While the issue of violence continues to be a subject of debate and controversy within protest movements, there is also a wide range of non-violent strategies and approaches available to those seeking to transform society in a more egalitarian way.
Benasayag's book highlights an important shift in the nature of social protest. He argues that we are witnessing a shift away from traditional trade unionism - which generally focuses on defending the specific interests of a particular group of workers - towards a broader form of societal protest. In this new paradigm of social struggle, activists seek to challenge and transform the dominant structures and ideologies of society as a whole, rather than focusing solely on narrower issues of work and employment. This means that they can potentially have a wider and deeper impact, as they seek to change not only specific policies and practices, but also people's patterns of thinking and attitudes. This also has important implications for the way in which these movements organise and act. Instead of relying primarily on institutional structures such as trade unions, they can adopt more flexible and decentralised forms of organisation, and use a variety of tactics, including direct action, civil disobedience, public awareness and education, and the creation of concrete alternatives to existing systems. Benasayag's concept of "counter-power" is particularly relevant in this context. Instead of seeking to take control of existing power, protest movements aim to create a new kind of power - one that emanates from below and is rooted in the active participation and autonomy of individuals and communities. This has the potential to offer a more democratic and egalitarian way of transforming society.
The New Civic Movements: Dynamics and Impacts of Modern Protest[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Ulrich Beck, an influential German sociologist, is best known for his work on the 'risk society'. In "Power and counter-power in a globalised world", he examines the evolution of power in a globalised world. Beck analyses the transformation of political power on a global scale. He highlights the increase in the power of multinationals and non-state actors, along with the relative decline in the power of nation states. He also observes the development of what he calls 'global counter-power', which brings together social movements, NGOs, protest movements and other forms of activism that seek to challenge and reform the current global system. According to Beck, these movements constitute a form of cosmopolitan democracy that opposes authoritarianism and injustice on a global scale. Finally, Beck argues that globalisation has created a new type of risk - risks that are fundamentally incalculable and unpredictable, and that can have devastating consequences on a global scale. He therefore proposes a new form of policy, which he calls 'risk management policy', which focuses on preventing, minimising and managing these global risks. "Power and Counter-Power in a Globalised World offers a provocative and in-depth analysis of the challenges and opportunities of politics in a globalised world. It suggests that despite the considerable challenges we face, there are also opportunities for a new political engagement and a new kind of democracy that could rise to these challenges.
In "Power and counter-power in a globalised world", Ulrich Beck proposes the concept of "methodological cosmopolitanism" as a new tool for understanding and analysing social phenomena in an increasingly globalised society. Methodological cosmopolitanism is an approach that invites us to look beyond the national framework when analysing social, political or economic phenomena. Instead of focusing solely on national borders and cultural differences, this approach encourages us to take into account the interactions, interdependencies and exchanges that take place on a global scale. In other words, methodological cosmopolitanism seeks to reveal how global processes shape local realities and vice versa. According to Beck, the age of globalisation is forcing us to rethink traditional forms of social protest. Social movements are no longer just national, but transnational, and the issues they address are often global in scope, such as climate change, economic inequality, or human rights. In this way, Beck suggests that traditional forms of social and political struggle need to be revisited in the light of this new paradigm. The new forms of protest must be built on a scale that goes beyond national borders, because it is on this scale that the major problems of our time are now posed.
In today's globalised society, cultural, ethnic and national differences rub shoulders and mix in an unprecedented way, creating a kind of global cosmopolitanism. This is largely facilitated by technological advances, particularly in the fields of information and communication, which enable the rapid dissemination and exchange of information without borders. This phenomenon is often associated with globalisation and the digital revolution. People, information and goods can cross borders with unprecedented ease. This has led to greater interconnection and interdependence between people, cultures and economies around the world. However, while cosmopolitanism can be seen as a positive sign of global openness and interconnectedness, it also raises significant challenges. These include the management of cultural diversity, growing inequalities, the protection of human rights on a global scale, and the preservation of the environment. The concept of 'methodological cosmopolitanism' proposed by Ulrich Beck aims precisely to take account of these challenges, by proposing a new tool for understanding and analysing social phenomena in the age of globalisation. By adopting this approach, we can better grasp the complexity and interdependence of global problems, and find more effective and equitable solutions.
Ulrich Beck argues that we have entered an era of 'cosmopolitanism', in which globalised society is radically transforming the way we think and interact. In his view, this process of globalisation is leading to the 'depoliticisation' of the nation-state, meaning that political issues now transcend national boundaries and have become global. This is leading to an 'infrapolitisation' of society, where questions of policy and governance are decided at a global, sometimes even transnational, level. In this context, the nation state is no longer the only major political player. Other players, such as international organisations, multinational companies, NGOs and even individuals, are playing an increasingly important role on the world stage. This is leading to a cosmopolitan global society, where cultural differences are integrated and we realise that we are all part of the same world. This new reality also poses new challenges. For example, how can we ensure fair representation of all stakeholders in global decision-making? How can we protect the rights of individuals and communities in the face of the power of multinational companies and nation states? How can we manage cultural and political conflicts in an increasingly diverse and interconnected society? Beck invites us to reflect on these questions and to seek new ways of waging social struggle in the context of global cosmopolitanism.
According to Ulrich Beck and other globalisation theorists, the traditional concept of the nation state is being challenged in an increasingly interconnected world. The nation state, as we know it, was formed in the context of an international system in which each state had sovereign control over its territory and the ability to act independently on the international stage. However, globalisation has overturned this configuration. With the expansion of world trade, instant communications, transnational capital flows and international migration, many challenges and problems have transcended national borders and require international solutions. Issues such as climate change, global poverty, pandemics, international terrorism and cybercrime are examples of challenges that cannot be solved by a single state acting alone. In this context, the authority and power of the nation-state to regulate these problems is being called into question. Hence the idea of the 'depoliticisation' of the nation state. It is not that nation states have become insignificant, but rather that their role and function have changed. They are now engaged in a complex series of interactions with other actors, including non-state actors, within the framework of global governance.
The growing interdependence of nations and the development of globalisation have given rise to a series of global challenges that transcend national borders. These cosmopolitical challenges require collective action on a global scale. Here are a few examples:
- Poverty: Despite the progress made in recent decades, poverty remains a major global problem. Income inequalities are increasing and extreme poverty persists in many countries. Fighting poverty requires coordinated efforts to stimulate economic development, improve access to education and guarantee human rights.
- Risks: Many risks, such as financial crises, pandemics, terrorism and cybercrime, are global in nature. Managing these risks requires close international cooperation.
- Inequalities: Despite global economic growth, inequalities persist and, in some cases, are increasing. Inequalities in wealth, education, health and life chances are worrying and require global attention and action.
- Global warming: Climate change is arguably the most pressing cosmopolitical challenge of our time. The impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events and loss of biodiversity, are being felt around the world. Tackling climate change requires collective action on a global scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
In this context, the role of politics is not disappearing, but it is changing. Governments, international organisations, businesses, NGOs and citizens are all called upon to play a role in managing these global challenges.
The emergence of the cosmopolitan society and global challenges raises complex and unprecedented issues that require a new way of thinking and acting. Traditional paradigms based on national sovereignty and the nation-state are being called into question, as they are no longer sufficient to solve today's problems. These global challenges transcend national borders and require international cooperation on an unprecedented scale. They call for a rethink of our concept of governance, requiring multilateral and multi-sectoral approaches, involving a multitude of actors, from governments and international organisations to businesses, NGOs, civil society groups and ordinary citizens. Furthermore, the complexity of these challenges requires an interdisciplinary approach, where different branches of knowledge - from the social sciences to the natural sciences and the humanities - need to work together to come up with viable solutions. Finally, there is a need to develop new structures and institutions capable of managing these problems on a global scale. The question of power and authority in this cosmopolitan society is becoming complex, as it has to be shared and negotiated between many actors at different levels - local, national, regional and global. We are facing a period of profound change and reinvention. The challenge is to create new forms of cooperation, governance and power adapted to this globalised and interconnected reality.
Ulrich Beck proposes a reinterpretation of the concept of the state and politics in the age of globalisation. In his view, the state and politics need to be rethought to take account of the global challenges facing our society. In this sense, the new struggles are no longer limited to the class struggle, but also concern transnational and global issues such as the environment, social and economic justice, human rights, etc. These struggles manifest themselves in a variety of ways. These struggles manifest themselves in a variety of ways, ranging from product boycotts to environmental policies and advocacy for equal rights. From this perspective, the conflict has not disappeared, but it has been transformed. It has moved from the national to the international stage, and has taken on new forms, going beyond the old methods of political mobilisation. This is a major change, because it means that the struggle for change is no longer confined within the borders of one state, but extends to the whole of global society. This implies a new way of thinking about political engagement and the struggle for social change, which goes beyond national borders and is based on global solidarity and collective action. This paradigm shift poses major challenges in terms of coordination, cooperation and conflict management on a global scale. It also calls for a new understanding of power and governance structures adapted to this globalised reality. It is important to understand that this cosmopolitical philosophical position will be able to take a considerable step forward, because all the barriers have been removed. Tomorrow's challenges are not about state sovereignty.
Cosmopolitan protest, in the context of globalisation, has given rise to new forms of activism that transcend national borders. Increasingly, social movements are no longer confined to a single country, but involve a coalition of actors scattered across the globe, joining forces to tackle global challenges. A notable example of this new activism is the emergence of what might be called "movements of the voiceless". These groups, which can include people who are homeless, unemployed, undocumented, etc., are often marginalised within their own societies. However, as part of cosmopolitical protest, these groups mobilise and form alliances to defend their rights and interests. These "have-nots" are what are often referred to as "active minorities" in protest movements. Despite their marginal status, these groups can have a significant impact on policies and practices, both nationally and internationally. These new forms of protest demonstrate that globalisation, despite its challenges, also offers new opportunities for political engagement and social change. Whereas traditional forms of political mobilisation can be limited to some extent by national borders, cosmopolitan protest allows marginalised groups to make their voices heard on a much larger scale.
Faced with the global and transnational issues of our time, traditional forms of protest can appear insufficient or outdated. These forms of protest, generally based on corporatist or sectoral demands, are designed to operate within the borders of a nation state. They often focus on issues specific to a group of individuals (such as a particular professional class) and seek to put pressure on the government of their country to bring about political or social change. However, in the face of challenges such as climate change, global poverty, global economic inequality and other transnational issues, these forms of protest can seem limited. These challenges require coordinated action on an international scale and cannot be fully addressed by actions at national level alone. This is why we are seeing the emergence of new forms of protest that seek to transcend national borders and mobilise around global causes. These cosmopolitan protest movements, as Ulrich Beck has called them, seek to influence decisions and policies at a level beyond the national, often involving non-state actors such as international organisations, NGOs and multinational companies. Through this approach, they hope to be able to deal more effectively with the global challenges of our time.
New generations have adopted new methods of social and political mobilisation, often in response to pressing global issues that threaten their future, such as climate change or rising inequality. Many young people are increasingly involved in activist and protest movements that go beyond national borders. For example, the "Fridays for Future" movement initiated by Greta Thunberg has mobilised thousands of young people around the world to demand action on climate change. In addition, young people are increasingly using digital media and social networks to organise themselves and make their voices heard. These tools enable them to quickly mobilise large numbers of people, share information and raise public awareness of their causes. These new forms of action are transforming the modalities of protest and dissent, and could have a profound impact on the way political and social decisions are made in the future.
Modes of action for social and political protest have evolved, and several social groups play an important role in this renewal.
- Young people: As mentioned above, young people are often at the forefront of protest movements, particularly on issues such as climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and social justice. They use digital platforms to mobilise and coordinate, and are often willing to mobilise outside the traditional structures of politics.
- Active women: Women have played a leading role in many recent protest movements, such as the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, or the women's marches to defend women's rights. More and more women are also taking up leadership positions in social and political movements.
- The middle class: The middle class can be an important driver of social and political change, especially when faced with economic pressures or diminishing prospects. For example, in many countries, the middle class has been at the forefront of protests against economic inequality and social injustice.
- Those with a high level of cultural capital: People with a high level of cultural capital - i.e. a thorough knowledge of the arts, literature, music, history, etc. - can play a crucial role in mobilising people to take action. - can play a crucial role in social mobilisation. They can use their influence to raise awareness of important issues, mobilise others, and challenge conventional wisdom.
These diverse social groups contribute to the richness and diversity of contemporary forms of protest, which can reinforce their impact and relevance in an increasingly diverse and globalised society.
In today's society, community involvement has evolved considerably. It is no longer necessarily a question of aligning oneself with a defined ideology or political programme, but rather of choosing a specific cause that resonates with our personal values and convictions. This dynamic reflects a wider change in the way people interact with politics and society. People see themselves less and less as passive members of a political, social or ideological group, and more and more as autonomous actors capable of making informed choices about the issues that affect them most. In this context, associations play a key role in providing a space where people can express their individuality while working collectively towards common goals. Associations enable people to get involved in specific causes - be it the environment, social justice, education, health or other issues - and to work actively to resolve them. For example, someone who cares deeply about the environment might choose to get involved in an environmental association. They can help organise events, lobby policy-makers, raise public awareness of the cause, and make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change. This form of community involvement reflects a profound change in the way people engage with politics and society. It reflects a move towards more individual, autonomous engagement focused on specific causes, rather than on defined ideologies or political agendas.
The democratisation of access to information and the rise of social media have radically transformed the public arena and the ways in which social mobilisation takes place. We are witnessing the emergence of a form of direct democracy, where instant communication and the possibility of decentralised collective action are more accessible than ever. Action forums have been revitalised, enabling groups of citizens to mobilise rapidly around issues that affect them directly. Social media, in particular, have a crucial role to play in this process. They provide a platform for disseminating information, sharing views and organising collective action on a scale and with a speed that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. This immediacy also has consequences for the way in which mobilisations are perceived and reported. Events are relayed in real time, often by the participants themselves, which can have a significant impact on the visibility of the cause and on the pressure exerted on political decision-makers. However, it should be noted that this direct democracy and immediacy also present challenges. It is more difficult to maintain consistency and continuity in discourse and action, and it is also easier to spread incorrect or misleading information. Moreover, the immediacy and speed of information dissemination can also lead to a form of information overload, making it difficult for the public to engage meaningfully with all the issues before them.
We are currently witnessing an upsurge in community activism in many industrialised countries. This form of activism is often based on pragmatic action and a desire to participate quickly and effectively in social debates, without being crushed by the weight of traditional mobilisation structures. Associations enable individuals to become actively involved in causes that are close to their hearts. Unlike traditional political structures, which can be perceived as being far removed from the day-to-day concerns of citizens, associations are often able to respond to issues that are closer to the reality experienced by their members. What's more, associative activism offers great flexibility. It allows individuals to choose causes that are in line with their convictions and day-to-day concerns. This ability to choose is important in an age marked by a multitude of social and environmental issues. Choosing to focus on a specific cause can give meaning to one's commitment and make one feel that one is having a concrete impact. This rise in community activism is also accompanied by challenges, particularly in terms of the coordination and sustainability of the actions taken. What's more, not all associations have the same resources or the same ability to make themselves heard, which can create inequalities in the representation of different issues.
We are also witnessing the emergence of counter-expertise, often carried out by citizens' groups, associations, non-governmental organisations or independent academics. These players are striving to produce alternative knowledge and propose intermediate solutions to societal problems, in response to proposals made by the powers that be or by lobbies. These counter-experts play a crucial role in public debate. They often bring new and different perspectives to bear on complex issues, they question established knowledge, and they highlight the vested interests that can influence certain political or economic decisions. This form of activism, based on expertise and information, helps to rebalance the balance of power by giving greater weight to voices that would otherwise be marginalised. It also acts as a counterweight to the influence of lobbies, which often have considerable resources at their disposal to assert their interests. Counter-expertise also poses challenges, particularly in terms of credibility and legitimacy. To be effective, it must be based on rigorous and transparent methods, and it must be able to withstand criticism. In addition, as with any form of activism, it must find ways of making itself heard in an often crowded public arena.
New forms of activism and social action have evolved and diversified considerably. These new methods are often aimed at drawing the attention of the public and the media to specific issues and raising wider awareness. They also seek to highlight the limitations and inadequacies of existing institutional arrangements. These unconventional actions can take a number of forms, from spectacular demonstrations (sometimes known as "fist actions") to direct action, hacktivism or "name and shame" (which consists of making public the reprehensible actions of companies or governments). These new forms of activism often seek to be innovative and creative in order to maximise their impact and visibility. They also rely on new technologies and social media to spread their messages and mobilise the public.
The rise of the Internet has radically transformed the ways in which people engage in social protest. It has made previously unknown or ignored issues visible, and has given everyone the opportunity to make their voices heard, share information and mobilise public opinion on an unprecedented scale. The Internet offers tools for creating, organising and disseminating information or protest campaigns on a global scale, almost in real time. This gives activists a much greater capacity for action and influence, and enables them to bypass traditional media and institutional structures, which are often perceived as being too slow, too bureaucratic or too aligned with the powers that be. This democratisation of information and activism has led to the emergence of an international counter-power, fuelled by public opinion and capable of challenging governments and big business. Social media platforms have become major forums for public debate, mobilisation and action. This movement has also helped to marginalise trade unions and other traditional forms of collective representation, which may find it difficult to adapt to these new modes of action and new communication tools. This raises important questions about the evolution of forms of social struggle in the digital age and the role of trade unions and other traditional players in this new landscape.
In this new environment, social mobilisation has become much more reactive and rapid. Thanks to the internet and social networks, it is now possible to launch a mobilisation campaign in a matter of hours, or even minutes, and reach a global audience.
These mobilisations are characterised by their ability to be organised horizontally, without recourse to institutional or hierarchical structures. Individuals can mobilise around an issue or cause that affects them directly, and can act autonomously, without waiting for the endorsement or support of a political party, trade union or other organisation. This dynamic creates a form of direct democracy, in which each individual can express his or her opinion and act to defend it. However, it can also pose problems in terms of coordination, sustainability and representativeness. These mobilisations are often reactive and short-lived, which can make it difficult to bring about lasting change. In addition, the fact that each individual can choose his or her own cause can lead to fragmentation of collective action and a concentration of attention on certain issues to the detriment of others. Finally, the absence of formal structures can pose problems of representativeness and legitimacy, particularly in terms of decision-making and defining demands.
The phenomenon of mobilisation around the "without" - i.e. people who are deprived or marginalised - has grown enormously with the rise of social networks and the internet. It reflects a more emotional commitment, a form of humanitarianism that places compassion, solidarity and empathy at the heart of action. Movements such as "Sans-Papiers", "Sans-Abri" and "Sans-Terre" are examples of these mobilisations. These groups seek to draw attention to the social, economic and political injustices and inequalities of which they are victims. This "emotional humanitarianism" plays on people's feelings to mobilise them. Shocking or moving images and stories are widely disseminated to arouse indignation, compassion or empathy, and thus incite action. However, this approach can also be criticised. Some believe that emotional humanitarianism risks reducing complex problems to matters of sentiment, and obscuring the real political, economic or social issues at stake. What's more, this approach can sometimes lead to a form of selective compassion, where only certain causes or certain victims are taken into account.
The new protest movements are made up of different groups, each bringing its own perspective and experience.
- People in situations of suffering: This group includes people directly affected by the problems the movement is fighting against. They may, for example, be people living in poverty, or victims of discrimination or social injustice. These individuals may be the most passionate and determined in the movement, because they are fighting for their own well-being and that of their loved ones.
- Activists in "sans" associations: These individuals are often highly politicised and involved in the movement. They may be volunteers, long-term activists or people who have joined the movement because of their personal convictions. They play a crucial role in organising and coordinating the movement, and are often behind awareness-raising campaigns, demonstrations and other actions.
- Resource persons: These are individuals who bring specific skills, knowledge or resources to the movement. They may be lawyers, researchers, media professionals, celebrities or anyone whose contribution can strengthen the movement. These people often help to develop strategies, establish links with other organisations or gain visibility in the media.
These three groups are all essential to the success of a protest movement. Together, they form a powerful coalition that can challenge the status quo and work for meaningful social change.
One notable example of these new protest movements is alterglobalism. This movement is characterised by its resistance to neo-liberal economic globalisation and its advocacy of a fairer and more sustainable model of global development. Altermondialists call for a world where social, environmental and justice concerns are at the heart of political and economic decision-making.
The anti-globalisation struggle has distinguished itself by its ability to publicise itself and use the media to promote its causes. Here are some of the strategies used by this movement to maximise its visibility:
- Use of social networks and the internet: Anti-globalisation activists actively use digital media to share information, organise events and mobilise supporters. The Internet has made it easier to organise coordinated actions on a global scale and has enabled the movement's messages to be disseminated more widely.
- Direct action and spectacular demonstrations: anti-globalisation activists are known for their mass demonstrations, sit-ins, blockades and other forms of direct action. These events often attract media attention, which helps to raise public awareness of their causes.
- Cooperation with journalists and the media: The alter-globalisation movement maintains relations with the media to spread its message. Activists can organise press conferences, provide information to journalists, or even create their own media to control their narrative.
- Lobbying and reporting: The movement uses data and research to support its demands. By producing detailed reports and holding conferences, this information can be presented more officially and attract the attention of political decision-makers.
The anti-globalisation movement's ability to make effective use of the media and to publicise itself has played a crucial role in its growth and influence.
Protest movements and social activism are often faced with this paradox. On the one hand, they need to attract the attention of the media and politicians in order to make their demands heard and achieve their objectives. On the other hand, they run the risk of being recuperated, co-opted or distorted by political institutions or other entities seeking to use their energy and mobilisation for their own ends.
There are several possible scenarios for political recuperation:
- Co-option: Political parties or governments may seek to incorporate the demands of a movement into their own programme or discourse, often watering down or modifying those demands to make them more acceptable to their electoral base.
- Neutralisation: The powers that be may try to neutralise a protest movement by absorbing it into institutional structures, offering its leaders positions or benefits that may dissuade them from continuing the struggle.
- Denaturing: The message and objectives of a movement can be distorted or misinterpreted, either intentionally by political opponents or unintentionally through misunderstanding or oversimplification.
- Instrumentalisation: A movement can be used as a tool by political actors who do not necessarily have a real interest in its demands, but who see in it an opportunity to gain support or discredit opponents.
These risks underline the importance of protest movements maintaining their autonomy and integrity, clarifying their objectives and values, and remaining vigilant against attempts at political recuperation.
The Internet plays a fundamental role in strengthening counter-power and promoting direct, participatory democracy. It facilitates access to and dissemination of information, enabling everyone to share their ideas and points of view, thereby reducing dependence on the traditional media. In addition, the Internet facilitates the rapid mobilisation of communities around specific issues, as illustrated by online petitions and activism on social networks. It also provides a platform for sharing expertise and knowledge, enabling the creation of counter-expertise capable of challenging institutional discourses. In addition, thanks to its ability to promote transparency and accountability, the Internet offers tools for monitoring institutions and holding them to account. Finally, by rapidly gathering citizen support, the Internet can influence the policies of governments, businesses and other institutions, bringing to the fore issues that are priorities for citizens and encouraging direct engagement in governance.
The Internet has the power to incite activism and bring about meaningful change in our institutions, by stimulating targeted conversation and action around issues that people consider to be priorities. It facilitates a rapid dynamic of exchange and information sharing, which can rapidly lead to collective awareness and coordinated action. This challenges traditional power structures, which are often slow to react or change, and strengthens society's ability to directly influence policies and institutional decisions. The rise of the Internet has given rise to an innovative form of direct democracy, characterised by its ability to produce effective results. By giving a voice to diverse online communities and fostering citizen engagement, this digital democracy is challenging traditional political parties, corporations and large international firms. The latter must now take account of these new voices and reconsider their priorities in the light of the concerns and demands expressed by these online communities. The power of this renewed form of democracy is such that it can influence decisions and policies on a massive scale, redefining the traditional political and economic landscape.
The Internet has greatly amplified the power to publicise problems and issues of general interest, forcing companies to pay attention and respond to current problems. This is a new dimension of corporate social responsibility, where companies must not only manage their own affairs, but also take into account the wider concerns of society. What's more, this capacity for large-scale mobilisation can sometimes obstruct or influence international debates, by emphasising specific points of view or highlighting hitherto neglected issues. This is a new form of citizen participation that changes the traditional dynamics of public and political debate.
Forecasting and Foresight: Are Future Conflicts Moving Towards a New Form of Subversion?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
We may be witnessing the emergence of new forms of subversion and protest. With the growth of global connectivity and access to information, it is easier than ever for individuals and groups to organise and coordinate subversive actions. In addition, frustration and dissatisfaction with growing socio-economic inequalities, unresolved environmental problems and political dysfunction can fuel these protest movements. However, it is important to note that violence is not an inevitable feature of these renewed forms of subversion. While some groups may resort to violent methods to press their claims, others adopt peaceful strategies of resistance and protest, such as non-violent demonstrations, civil disobedience campaigns, or the use of social media to raise awareness and mobilise the public. So while we may see an intensification of conflict and tension as people fight for change, it is also possible that these conflicts will take new and innovative forms, which are not necessarily more violent, but which may be more disruptive, creative and focused on mobilising public opinion.
In certain fringes of the extreme left, there is a discourse that advocates a radicalisation of action and a reappropriation of subversion as a tool for social and political change. This can be seen as a response to what they see as the failure of traditional institutions to respond to current societal problems, including growing economic inequality, the climate crisis and the rise of the far right. However, these discourses are not representative of all currents of thought on the far left, which is in fact very diverse, and advocacy of a more radical or subversive approach does not necessarily mean support for violence. Subversion can take many forms, including non-violent actions aimed at disrupting the status quo and bringing about change. It is also crucial to recognise that radicalisation of discourse can have serious consequences, particularly if it leads to further polarisation of society and escalation of violence.
In some sections of society, particularly among radical left-wing groups, there is a tendency to reinterpret power relations in binary terms: those who oppress (generally perceived to be the political, economic and cultural elites) and those who are oppressed (marginalised groups, workers, minorities, etc.). This worldview is based on a profound critique of traditional liberal democracy, which these groups consider inadequate or flawed. They often argue that the current political system favours the elites to the detriment of the people, creating systemic inequalities. For some, this implies that we are not really living in a democracy, but rather in a kind of oligarchy or plutocracy in disguise. The call for subversion and the resurgence of ideas associated with urban guerrilla warfare can be interpreted as a reaction to the feelings of alienation and powerlessness felt by some in the face of what they perceive to be an unjust system. These individuals and groups argue that more conventional methods of protest and resistance, such as peaceful activism or political lobbying, are insufficient to bring about the societal change they desire. In this context, individual and collective action, even if it is contentious and potentially violent, is seen as a necessary means of paralysing and ultimately transforming the existing system.
Le groupe Tiqqun, qui s'est formé à la fin des années 1990, était une collective française radicale qui a publié divers textes théoriques sur la nature du pouvoir, du capitalisme et de la résistance dans les sociétés contemporaines. Tiqqun s'est concentré sur des questionnements philosophiques profonds et complexes, cherchant à déconstruire les structures de pouvoir existantes et à comprendre comment les formes de résistance et de subversion pourraient émerger. Cela implique une réflexion intensive, tant sur les conditions actuelles que sur les possibilités futures. Par exemple, ils se sont interrogés sur la nature de l'individu et de la collectivité, sur la manière dont le pouvoir est exercé et résisté, et sur la possibilité d'une transformation radicale de la société. En particulier, ils se sont intéressés à la manière dont les formes de pouvoir s'insinuent dans les aspects les plus intimes de nos vies, créant ce qu'ils appellent le "Biopouvoir".
The Tiqqun group is committed to a critical and subversive approach. Their aim was to examine and question the power structures in place and the mechanisms of oppression in society. They sought to demonstrate how these mechanisms are often hidden behind seemingly neutral or banal structures and practices, influencing our daily lives in profound and often invisible ways. By highlighting these forces, Tiqqun aimed to encourage wider awareness and resistance. Their work was therefore very much a form of intellectual subversion, aimed at destabilising established conceptions and practices and opening the way to new possibilities for thought and action.
Tiqqun's approach reflects their desire to escape traditional categories and classifications. Their work is often deliberately provocative, complex and open to multiple interpretations. By refusing to be easily defined, they have sought to challenge dominant assumptions and norms, while resisting any attempt to co-opt or simplify their ideas. The ambiguity of their work, far from being a weakness, is in fact an integral part of their subversive strategy. For example, by avoiding positioning themselves clearly within the traditional political spectrum, they have been able to avoid being easily labelled or delegitimised. This has enabled them to remain open to multiple points of view and to resist the tendency towards polarisation and essentialisation that often characterises political debate. In short, Tiqqun's approach illustrates how subversion can take forms that are not only direct and overt, but also indirect and subtle, challenging power structures not only through confrontation, but also through ambiguity, complexity and resistance to categorisation.
The feeling of an absence of solutions seems to be the result of growing frustration with the impression that the traditional political system is incapable of responding effectively to current challenges. When neither the left nor the right seem to offer convincing alternatives, some people may feel desperate and think that the only way to achieve change is by radical or even subversive means. This can lead to 'a coming insurgency', a wave of protest and radical resistance born of the feeling that the status quo is intolerable and that the current political system is incapable of providing viable solutions. This is a potentially unstable and unpredictable situation, where traditional forms of politics and civic engagement can be challenged and new movements and ideologies can emerge.
Faced with a sense of powerlessness and despair due to the absence of social solutions, some individuals or groups may be tempted to resort to more radical, even subversive, methods to bring about the change they feel is necessary. It is important to note that subversion and urban guerrilla warfare, often associated with violent acts of resistance, are generally seen as strategies of last resort when normal channels of social and political change are perceived to be ineffective or inaccessible. Reactualising urban guerrilla warfare" can mean using unconventional resistance tactics, ranging from civil disobedience to armed resistance, to disrupt the existing social and political order. However, these methods are generally controversial and can lead to major social and political conflict. Moreover, they may not produce the desired results and may even aggravate the social problems they seek to resolve.
An insurrection is coming because the present has no way out. No alternative seems possible on either the left or the right. If there are no social solutions, we are in a logic of despair, so we have to resort to subversion. So we need to revive urban guerrilla warfare. In contexts of deep social and political dissatisfaction, some may be tempted to revive the theories and practices of insurrection. The aim would be to disrupt or paralyse existing structures, often perceived as oppressive or unjust. However, these modern insurgent movements, while they may borrow tactics and strategies from the past, also tend to introduce innovations. For example, they may exploit digital technologies to coordinate actions, share information, mobilise support and highlight injustices. They may also adopt more decentralised and horizontal approaches to organisation and decision-making, as opposed to traditional hierarchical power structures.
There is a fundamental tension between radical protest movements and the conventional democratic framework. On the one hand, a functional democracy is supposed to provide avenues for discontent and social change through elections, lobbying, public debate and other forms of political participation. On the other hand, protest movements can develop when these conventional channels are perceived as inadequate, blocked or corrupt. They may seek to challenge existing power structures and bring about change more radically or rapidly than is possible within the conventional democratic process. This does not necessarily mean that they are undemocratic. Indeed, many see themselves as trying to extend or revitalise democracy, making it more participatory, inclusive or responsive to the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens. Some protest movements may seek to reform the system from within, while others may seek to disrupt or overthrow it. While some protest movements seek to promote more radical or expanded forms of democracy, others may have agendas that are actually anti-democratic. For example, they may seek to establish an undemocratic form of authority or control, or to impose their own values or ideologies without respect for the principles of pluralism and freedom of expression. Ultimately, whether and how protest movements can fit into a democracy depends very much on the specific contexts, objectives and strategies of these movements, as well as on how democracy itself is understood and practised.
Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
- NSC-68: Forging the strategy of containment with analyses by Paul h. Nitze edited by sS. Nelson Drew - National Defense University - Fort Lesley J. McNair Washington, DC
- Techniques de manipulation des masses, La subversion
- Roger Mucchielli, La subversion, C.L.C; Nouvelle éd. revue et mise à jour édition, (1976), ISBN 978-2-900395-02-8
- Jean Delaunay (général), La foudre et le cancer : face à l'atome et à la subversion la guerre se gagne en temps de paix, Paris, Éditions Pygmalion/Gérard Watele1985.
- Günther Friesinger, Johannes Grenzfurthner, Frank Apunkt Schneider (Hrsg.): Context Hacking: How to Mess with Art, Media, Law and the Market edition mono / monochrom, Wien 2013, ISBN 978-3902796134.
- “How Do People Rebel? Mechanisms of Insurgent Alliance Formation.” The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, http://www.graduateinstitute.ch/home/research/research-news.html/_/news/research/2018/how-do-people-rebel-mechanisms-o