By Olivier Fillieule, University of Lausanne

In the 1990s social movement studies in France witnessed an exponential growth, resulting in a significant accumulation of knowledge. The combined influence of Marxist concepts, the socio-genetic and configurational thought of Norbert Elias, Bourdieusian critical sociology, and the expanding dominance of an interactionist paradigm in research on activism, lent some originality to current research.

The lion’s share of the last twenty years of publications in social movement studies has been dedicated to three domains.

First, the diversity of repertories of action, signalling the critical importance of Charles Tilly’s legacy. For example, on demonstrations (Fillieule and Tartakowsky 2013), hunger strikes (Siméant 1998), squats (Péchu 2006), rent strikes (Hmed 2006), public meetings (Cossart 2013) or ethical consumption (Dubuisson-Quellier, 2009; Balsiger 2010). Research also examined modes of resistance to authority, associated with the initiative to import social movement theory in research on the MENA region (Bennani-Chraïbi, Fillieule 2003, 2012; Zaki 2005; Vairel 2014), on Turkey (Gourisse 2014) on Latin America (e.g. Massal 2005) and on black Africa (Siméant 2014).

Second, and apart some developments in gendered social movements and feminist protests (Fillieule and Roux, 2009; Bereni research has mainly focussed on the “new struggles” of the day. For example humanitarian commitments (Dauvin and Siméant 2002; Collovald et al. 2002); the struggles of the most deprived populations – the homeless, unemployed, and others (Pierru 2003; Dunezat 2004; Péchu 2006; Mathieu 2006, 2014; Chabanet and Faniel 2013); anti AIDS activism (Pinell and al 2002; Broqua 2005; Voegtli 2009), associations connected with immigration (Siméant 1998; Hamidi 2006; Hmed 2006), and antiglobalization (Agrikoliansky and al. 2005; and Sommier, and al. 2008; Sommier and Fillieule 2013). Also, “68” began to interest university researchers (Pagis 2014), long after Sommier published her pathbreaking Ph.D. devoted to this issue from the perspective of a comparative analysis of France and Italy (Sommier 1998).

Finally, French researchers have explored at length the question of activism and the process of commitment, especially with reference to an interactionist model of careers (Fillieule 2001, 2010). Consequently, contrary to the North American academic field, where researchers specializing in the subfield of studies of socialization have kept their distance from the sociology of activism, the French have considered socialization studies pivotal. Ethnographic qualitative approaches have proven best able to analyse activist work and its social divisions (Fillieule 2005; Pagis 2008; Joshua 2015).

Two other French specificities deserve mention. First, unlike the United States, where the success of social movement studies has produced an effect of closing off the field, its exponential development in France has, on the contrary, translated into an invasive spreading of its instruments and issues into a great number of academic domains. There is an important point of convergence with the increasingly voiced ambition across the Atlantic to reposition the study of protest activities in the context of the political, economic and social relations which surround them, taking into account the multiplicity of actors involved and their strategies.

Second, in terms of methods, the French usually exercise caution with respect to undue simplifications of a stratospheric comparativism, arguing that we learn more about the dynamic of protests and collective action from in-depth case studies than in compiling vast data bases that risk stripping the explanatory factors chosen of all meaning. It offers a genuine means of investigating many paths outlined in theory but still unexplored in practice, due to the lack of adequate methodological tools: the logic of activist trajectories; emotions and affects (Latté 2008; Traïni 2009, 2011); the dynamics of events; and the face to face interactions which comprise the texture of protest.

Reference List

Social Movement Studies in France: A Short Overview

Some handbooks summarizing and synthesizing French research:

Neveu, E. 1996. Sociologie des Mouvements Sociaux, Paris, La Découverte.

Céfaï D. 2007. Pourquoi se Mobilise-t-on ? Les Théories de l’Action Collective, Paris, La Découverte.

Fillieule, O., L. Mathieu and C. Péchu. (eds). 2009. Dictionnaire des Mouvements Sociaux, Paris, presses de Science-Po.

Fillieule, O., E. Agrikoliansky and I. Sommier. (eds). 2010. Penser les Mouvements Sociaux, Paris, La Découverte.

Accornero, G. and O. Fillieule (eds.). Forthcoming 2016. Social Movement Studies in Europe. A State of the Art, New York/Oxford, Berghahn books.

Agrikoliansky, E., O. Fillieule and N. Mayer. (eds). 2005. L’Altermondialisme en France. La Longue Histoire d’une Nouvelle Cause, Paris, Flammarion.

Balsiger, P. (2010) ‘Making Political Consumers: The Tactical Action Repertoire of a Campaign for Clean Clothes’, Social Movement Studies 9(3): 311-329.

Balsiger, P. (2014) The Fight for Ethical Fashion. The Origins and Interactions of the Clean Clothes Campaign. Aldershot, Ashgate.

Bennani-Chraïbi, M. and O. Fillieule. (eds). 2003. Résistances et Protestations dans les Sociétés Musulmanes, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po.

Bennani-Chraibi, M. and O. Fillieule. 2012. ‘Towards a Sociology of Revolutionary Situations. Reflections on the Arab Uprisings’, Revue Française de Science Politique, 62(5) : 1-29.

Bereni, L. 2015. La bataille de la parité. Mobilisations pour la féminisation du pouvoir, Paris, Economica.

Broqua, C. 2005. Agir pour ne pas mourir, Paris, Presses de Science-Po.

Chabanet, D. and J. Faniel (eds). 2013.  Les mobilisations de chômeurs en France : problématiques d’alliances et alliances problématiques, Paris, l’Harmattan.

Collovald, A. et al. (ed.). 2002. L’Humanitaire ou le Management des Dévouements, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes.

Cossart, P. 2013. Le Meeting Politique. De la Délibération à la Manifestation (1868-1939), Rennes, PUR.

Dauvin, P. and J. Siméant. 2002. Le travail Humanitaire. Les Acteurs des ONG du Siège au Terrain, Paris, Presses de Science-Po.

Dubuisson-Quellier, S. 2009. La Consommation Engagée, Paris, Presses de sciences Po.

Dunezat, X. 2004. Chômage et Action Collective. Luttes dans la Lutte. Mouvements de Chômeurs et Chômeuses de 1997-1998 en Bretagne et Rapports Sociaux de Sexe, Ph.D. dissertation. Paris: University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

Fillieule, O. (ed.). 2005. Le Désengagement Militant, Paris, Belin.

Fillieule, O. 1997. Stratégies de la Rue, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po.

Fillieule, O. 2001. ‘Post-scriptum : Propositions pour une Analyse Processuelle de l’Engagement Individuel’, Revue Française de Science Politique, 51(1-2) : 199-217.

Fillieule, O. 2010. ‘Some Elements of an Interactionist Approach to Political Disengagement’, Social Movement Studies, 9(1) : 1-15.

Fillieule, O. and D. Tartakowsky. 2013. Demonstrations, Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood.

Fillieule, O. and P. Roux. 2009. Le sexe du Militantisme, Paris, Presses de Science-Po.

Gourisse, B. 2014. La Violence Politique en Turquie. L’Etat en Jeu (1975-1980), Paris Karthala.

Hamidi, C. 2006. ‘Éléments pour une Approche Interactionniste de la Politisation. Engagement Associatif et Rapport au Politique dans des Associations Locales Issues de l’Immigration. Revue Française de Science Politique (56) : 5–25.

Hmed, C. 2006. Loger les Etrangers « Isolés ». Socio-Histoire d’une Institution d’Etat : la Sonacotra, 1956-2006, Ph.D. dissertation. Paris: University of Paris I.

Johsua, F. 2015. Anticapitalistes. Une sociologie historique de l’engagement, Paris, La Découverte.

Latté, S. 2008. Les ‘Victimes’. La Formation d’une Catégorie Sociale Improbable et ses Usages dans l’Action Collective, Ph. Dissertation. Paris: ENS.

Massal, J. 2005. Les Mouvements Indiens en Equateur. Mobilisations Protestataires et Démocratie, Paris, Karthala.

Mathieu, L. 2006. La Double Peine. Histoire d’une Lutte Inachevée, Paris, La Dispute.

Mathieu, L. 2014. La fin du Tapin. Sociologie de la Croisade pour l’Abolition de la Prostitution. Lormont, éd. François Bourin.

Pagis, J. 2014. Mai 68, un pavé dans leur histoire, Paris, Presses de science Po.

Péchu, C. 2006, Droit Au Logement, Genèse et Sociologie d’une Mobilisation, Dalloz, Paris.

Pierru, E. 2003. L’Ombre des chômeurs – Chronique d’une indignité sociale et politique depuis les années 1930, Ph Dissertation, Amiens, Université of Picardie.

Pinell, P. et al. 2002. Une Epidémie Politique. La Lutte Contre le Sida en France (1981-1996), Seuil, Paris.

Siméant, J. 1998. La Cause des Sans Papiers, Paris, Presses de Science-Po.

Siméant, J. 2014. Contester au Mali. Formes de la Mobilisation et de la Critique à Bamako, Paris, Karthala.

Sommier, I. 1998. La Violence Politique et son Deuil. L’Après 68 en France et en Italie, Rennes, PUR.

Sommier, I. and O. Fillieule. 2013. ‘The Emergence and Development of the “no Global” Movement in France: A Genealogical Approach’, in C. Flesher Fominaya and L. Cox. (eds). Understanding European Movements, London and New York, Routledge, pp. 47-60.

Sommier, I., O. Fillieule, and E. Agrikoliansky. (eds). 2008. Généalogie des Mouvements Altermondialistes en Europe. Une Perspective Comparée, Paris, Karthala.

Traïni, C. (ed.). 2009. Emotions… Mobilisation!, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po.

Traïni, C. 2011. La Cause Animale, 1820-1980. Essai de Sociologie Historique, Paris, PUF.

Vairel, F. 2014. Politique et Mouvements sociaux au Maroc. La Révolution Désamorcée?, Paris, Presses de science po.

Voegtli, M. 2009. Luttes Contre le Sida, Luttes Homosexuelles: Histoires Croisées d’Engagements Militants en Suisse, PhD dissertation, University of Lausanne and EHESS.

Zaki, L. 2005. Pratiques Politiques au Bidonville, Casablanca (2000-2005), PhD Dissertation, Paris, Institut d’Etudes Politiques.