James McAuley is the Paris correspondent for The Washington Post. (March 2019)

Follow James McAuley on Twitter: @jameskmcauley.

IN THE REVIEW

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A yellow vest demonstration, Paris, December 2018

Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France

by Christophe Guilluy, translated from the French by Malcolm DeBevoise
Even in France, a country where protest is a cherished ritual of public life, the violence and vitriol of the gilets jaunes movement have stunned the government. In a series of Saturday demonstrations that began in mid-November and have continued for three months, a previously dormant anger has erupted. Demonstrators have beaten police officers, thrown acid in the faces of journalists, and threatened the lives of government officials. There has been violence on both sides, and the European Parliament has condemned French authorities for using “flash-ball guns” against protesters, maiming and even blinding more than a few in the crowds. But the gilets jaunes have a flair for cinematic destruction. In late November they damaged parts of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; in early January they commandeered a forklift and rammed through the heavy doors of the ministry of state. This is a modern-day jacquerie, an emotional wildfire stoked in the provinces and directed against Paris and, most of all, the elite.