in the face of power, the spontaneous expression of citizens
History of a concept. Since Emmanuel Macron promulgated, on April 15, the law raising the…
History of a concept. Since Emmanuel Macron promulgated, on April 15, the law raising the legal retirement age to 64, part of the French population has continued to demonstrate their opposition to this reform, which they consider unfair, and let it be known loudly. On the ground, the movements of the Head of State and ministers are regularly disrupted by concerts of pans.
What should the government do? Stop deploying on the territory or continue to act as if nothing had happened? In a democracy, the people have three weapons to make themselves heard: the right to vote, the right to demonstrate and the right to express themselves publicly. In a landmark book, Principles of Representative Government (Calmann-Lévy, 1995), the philosopher Bernard Manin has identified three ages of democracy: that of the notables in the 19e century, eaten away by party democracy in the 20the century, with the opposition between a right and a left, and, finally, the democracy of the public – a denomination that the philosopher prefers to that of “democracy of opinion”.
Democracy of opinion succeeded representative democracy, but it should not be confused with the dictatorship of the media and polls. It draws its legitimacy from the spontaneous expression of citizens who, together, form an opinion. Its skyline remains that of a horizontal public space where everyone can express themselves. In fact, it is constantly changing.
Very Ve Republic
This is a vague term in which the media are the primary actors; but each era has its favorite tool. In the 1990s, democracy of opinion went through polls, then continuous news channels took over from the 2000s, before being overtaken by social networks in the mid-2010s. But , whatever the tool on which it is based, this notion is the subject of vehement criticism on the part of intellectual elites and people who feel out of step with the evolutions of public opinion. “Democracy of opinion has long referred to excessive use of polls by governments, but today polls are considered less dangerous than social networks”notes the political scientist Loïc Blondiaux.
According to his colleague Vincent Martigny, “Democracy of opinion is not the opposite of representative democracy, it is a deepening of it”. It also works very well with the presidential regime of the Ve Republic, which established a direct relationship between the elected president and the people who voted for him – but also against his opponent. By its emotional dimension, it suits Emmanuel Macron, because it allows him to take the pulse of the population. However, as media historian Alexis Lévrier reminds us, “Mr. Macron is one of the presidents who theorized the most upstream their practice of power: establishing verticality and keeping journalists at a distance”. In A novel character (Julliard, 2017), the writer Philippe Besson makes the future president say: “We have to find a direct presence, disintermediated with the people. »
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