Are the Yellow Vests populist? A definitional exploration of the Yellow Vests movement

Aktiviteetti: Puhe- tai esitystyypitSuullinen esitys


The Yellow Vests is one of the most fascinating movements in recent years. Ongoing since 2018, it made a big societal impact in France and beyond. However, just simply defining what the Yellow vests movement is, has been a challenge for journalists and scholars alike, even more so when trying to explore their complex and sometimes contradictory ideological and political linkages.

With their core belief that society is undergoing a profound crisis associated with the polarisation between the people and the elite, the Yellow Vests are described by some scholars as “an example of ‘pure’ populism that is neither left nor right” (Guerra et al, 2019). However, this idea of a ‘pure populism’ in the case of the Yellow Vests is problematic as it can be argued that it is at the same time both left and right. In some countries, the Yellow Vests movement was co-opted and capitalized on by the far left or the far right, sometimes both. The anti-immigration, anti-semitic and conspiracionist positioning of some of the French leading grassroot figures have attracted public attention and circulated widely in social and countermedia, making the hypothesis of a “pure populism” less plausible.

This paper explores the definitional challenges around the Yellow Vests, especially as a ‘populist movement’ and reflects on the difficulty and potential pitfalls in the usage of that populist label to make sense of such a multifaceted and complex movement.
Aikajakso4 toukok. 2021
Tapahtuman otsikkoHelsinki Conference on Emotions, Populism and Polarisation
Online event
Tapahtuman tyyppiKonferenssi