This article argues that the high level of protest activity in France is, at least partly, the result of distrust between the government and the trade unions, and that such distrust is inevitable in a society where unions are sometimes strong enough to mobilise against the government but not confident in their own future strength. This trust problem can be overcome if governments are willing to make institutional changes that commit them to future policies, but such political engineering is costly and unstable, which explains why governments sometimes prefer open confrontation. The empirical part of the paper analyses four French social and labour market reform initiatives in the 1990s and 2000s, demonstrating that the ideas developed in this article help to explain important features of contemporary French policy-making.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Political Science