As we know, the French are among the most pessimistic people in the world, the most negative about globalization, the most worried about the future; their savings rate is also higher than average, whatever the circumstances, just in case...
Since 2007, the notions of local, traceable, nostalgia, home-made have provided reassuring responses and strengthened the walls of the Gallic village, supported by borders and “made in France,” embodied in brand strategies or political projects.
Meanwhile, debates on competitiveness, flexicurity, re-industrialization have developed out of the shake-ups created by:
- The consequences of previous choices,
- The impact of deficits and debt on financial balances,
- Domestic demographic, cultural and sociological transformations,
- The industrial goals of large groups,
- The capacity to anticipate – or not – the real impact of global prospects, such as China being the number 1 economic power by 2016 or US energy independence by 2020.
The mythification of France’s “30 Glorious Years” and the museification of the boom years can no longer suffice; yes, the sanctuaries are there to preserve them, but their imaginary motto (“I will maintain”) presents a serious risk of setbacks and anachronisms.
Sometimes, public opinion sanctuarizes its own values and resists the shocks brought by change; sometimes it’s the Authorities who sanctuarize notions that are no longer held by public opinion, and the misunderstanding begins.
Nowadays, the shocks are dislocating the sanctuaries: the permanent work contract has been called into question, hourly production costs are perceived as a handicap, the laws of 1905 seem out of step with radical Islam, the social shock absorbers are raising questions about their collective cost, the strategic choices made by India or China are reversing the balance of power.
The consequence of these tectonic shifts: a country caught between the desire to change nothing, outlets, sudden transformations, individual determination to get by.
In other words, we could also have called Ipsos Flair France 2013 “Syncopated Society” (in music, syncopation and offbeat refer to a rhythmic element in conflict with the beat).
Firstly, with the beat of institutions that have lost control of everything: neither citizens nor consumers are behaving as expected, “economic patriotism,” “loyalty and commitment,” the same tough combat.
Secondly, the counter-rhythms from the special interests that are exploiting the various breakdowns:
- Technological counter-rhythms with universal access and the mobility of online network systems,
- Cultural counter-rhythms, with the gap between consumer-citizens’ criteria and the discourse coming from players in society (politicians, media, corporate world).
A couple of examples
With the President of the Republic calling on people to make an effort, IKEA’s French advertising incites people to “Profit” (Njut)!; hardly surprising therefore that fewer and fewer French people accept the idea of making sacrifices.
With most advertisers reasoning in terms of purchasing power, the upper socio-professional groups have no taboos to declare: “it’s not about being rich or poor, but about whether you’re a sucker or not.” Nor are they the last to profit from alternative selling or distribution channels, to adopt habits out of step with their resources, to juggle between price comparison sites in order to buy as cheaply as possible.
Within this context, how far can the sanctuarization of values and habits go in terms of anachronism and dogmatism, “normal” or normative, disruption and creation?
The clue to the fact that the French – lacking a compass – are engaging in the art of fugue lies in the emergence of new current affairs commentators:
- The social geographers who analyze France’s situation according to whether the place of residence is the city center or suburbs,
- The psychoanalysts for whom the description of politicians is mythology (Prometheus or Epimetheus) or Hugolian poetry “the eye was in the tomb and was staring at Cain.”
The debates of the future will play out between electoral sociology and architecture, in a relentless fight between the super-ego and the id.
In the meantime, Ipsos Flair France 2013 keeps forging ahead.