The Politics of Protest Avoidance: Labor Mobilization and Social Policy Reform in France

Daniel Béland and Patrik Marier (2006)
Mobilization: An International Journal, 11(3): 297-311.


Students of public policy and social mobilization alike should pay more attention to the political strategies of protest avoidance. Distinct from traditional blame-avoidance strategies, protest avoidance occurs when elected officials, facing direct and nearly inescapable blame, attempt to reduce the scope of social mobilization triggered by unpopular reforms. In recent decades, successive French governments have introduced major, unpopular reforms in the field of public pensions, and because of the concentration of state power in France, avoidance of blame was nearly inescapable. Focusing on the 2003 pension reform, we argue that by dividing the labor movement through strategic bargaining, and by launching controversial reforms during or immediately before the summer holiday season, French governments reduced the scope of labor mobilization and facilitated the enactment of these proposals. Beyond the field of social policy, the concept of protest avoidance could shed new light on an understudied phenomenon: the strategies political actors pursue to reduce the scope of social mobilization against them.