The Gilets Jaunes Protests, Macron’s Democratic Experiment, and Deliberative Mini Publics

An SNF Agora Case Study

By almost any measure, public confidence in government has dropped. Across Western democracies, widespread demonstrations, whether on the streets or online, suggest growing citizen disillusionment. What should elected representatives consider when responding to protests and citizens’ demands?

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This case study examines five interventions by French President Emmanuel Macron between 2018 and 2021 in response to demands by gilet jaunes protesters, including the eventual introduction and implementation of deliberative mini-publics, government-initiated forums that allow citizens to access balanced information, deliberate, and make recommendations about social and political reforms. It then asks readers which intervention(s) they would pursue and why.

This case is appropriate for:

  • High school, college, and graduate students
  • Educators
  • Policymakers
  • Political reformers, practitioners, and community leaders
  • Government representatives and staff

By the end of this study, you should be able to:

  1. Identify the complex nature of the demands citizens make of their government and the politicization of citizen grievances;
  2. Articulate some of the responses available to political leaders in the face of protesters demanding greater voice in social and political reform and government decision-making;
  3. Develop an understanding of nontraditional forms of political participation (versus more traditional forms such as voting, petitions, and townhalls) and the value of providing citizens with opportunities for greater consequential voice in between elections;
  4. Describe democratic innovations, especially government-led DMPs; and
  5. Think of creative ways to improve on the lessons learned from France within the American political context (how might we apply this case study to the US, at the local or national level?).

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