Janine Mossuz-Lavau

What Does the Pluralistic French Left Want? Publication date : February 1, 1998

Why did the French left win the most recent parliamentary elections? Can this victory be reduced to an opposition vote, a more or less logical conclusion tothe major social movements that had shaken France for two years: demonstrationsfor women's rights, nation-wide strikes in November-December 1995, petitions against the Debré laws limiting immigration? What is the meaning for theFrench left of the return to power of the Socialists and Communists after the Mitterrand era, which left in its wake disappointment and disillusion? In an effort to answer these questions, Janine Mossuz-Lavau has interviewed some 50 people of different ages and from different backgrounds (professional,social, geographical, etc.). What emerges from this sociological enquiry,carried out through a series of partially-guided interviews, is that the Frenchleft and right remained radically opposed over a major difference in values.Above all, the enquiry underscores the existence on the French left of a widespectrum of currents and aspirations. Today, those who cast their ballots forthe left may include Communists, so-called "left-wing" National Front sympathisers, staunchly faithful voters, disappointed voters, centre leftists,far leftists, voters whose sympathies fluctuate like a pendulum from left toright and back, and those who claim to be neither on the left nor on theright. With new elections looming on the horizon, Janine Mossuz-Lavau's study, withits series of portraits of the French, is a helpful attempt at defining whatvoters in France today expect from a left-wing government. Janine Mossuz-Lavau is a political expert and research director at the Centrenational de la recherche scientifique and at the Fondation nationale dessciences politiques. Her publications at Editions Odile Jacob include Les Français et la politique and (with Anne de Kervasdoué) Les femmes ne sont pas des hommes comme les autres.