France on a quest : a large-scale study for reconciling the people

Early February, FAIRE attended the launch event of the large-scale study titled, “France on a Quest: the Reconciliation of a Nation Divided,” by Destin Commun, a French offshoot of More In Common. Serving to change mindsets everyday by advancing public debate, our team was profoundly interested in this study, which provides opportunities for open discussion, looking to defuse debates  and build pathways for strengthening unity among the French.

Let’s go back to this event and take a look at the results of this in-depth study, which questions our value system and analyzes discord in hopes of re-making society.

Destin Commun, an association placing society at the heart of its missions

A charitable organization under the French law of 1901, Destin Commun is the French section of the non-profit More In Common, active across Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It functions as a true laboratory of ideas that aims at building a more united and peaceful society capable of facing current and future challenges.

Destin Commun has been working on this large-scale study for a year as part of their strategic mission to develop a more unified France.

In light of this mission, the association organized a big event early February to unveil and share the results of its study. Najat Vallaud Belkacem, ex-Minister and board member of More In Common, attended the opening of this event. Thoroughly convinced by the need for such a study, she was able to call to mind the need to recreate a common narrative within which each individual could find a place.

Utilizing social psychology to get at the heart of french belief systems

This study was carried out under a particular context pointing to the progressive breakdown of our society. In truth, societal divisions have never appeared as sharply as they do now, and debate, wherever it may arise, has never seemed as hostile.

In collaboration with the Kantar Institute and its partners, Destin Commun notably based this study on interviews taken from a large sample of French nationals. What is unique about this study is the way in which it strives to differentiate people according to the ways in which they think or, rather, their value system, and not in accordance with who they are per se.

Six groups of individuals emerged at the outcome of this work:

  • Disillusioned activists
  • Mitigators
  • Liberal optimists
  • ‘Wait and See’ Individuals
  • Overlooked Individuals
  • Identitarians

Each of these six groups of individuals could be further classified into three versions of a France that live in parallel to each other. The classification functions according to each group’s perception of both cultural change and the degree of social and civic inclusion.

Among the three versions of France identified, we find the following: Tranquil France (30%), Polemical France (32%), and France of the Forgotten (38%). This latter represents not only the highest percentage of the population surveyed but includes, among the six reported above, the group with the highest number of individuals (i.e., the Overlooked – 22%). It comprises people who distance themselves from public debate and identify themselves according to their sense of indifference.

Fear and Rejection of the Other: Border Shutdown and Social Withdrawal as a Threat to French Unity

In the current context, French unity is at a high risk of breakdown. During the launch party, the danger of an emerging “identitarian community” was notably suggested, as the temptation toward social withdrawal is high and certain topics now generate deep fissures. It is therefore urgent that we defuse the risks of polarization, in particular with respect to questions of identity and immigration.

According to Destin Commun, “Tranquil France” consisting of “Mitigators” and “Liberal Optimists” must come out of their “bubble,” as they are the pillars of France’s social and civic system. They have a genuine role to play in inventing a more peaceful national narrative.

Beyond discord: a pathway to cohesion

While France might be at a crossroads, there are—as the study suggests—reasons to hope. 61% of the French believe that “our divisions may be overcome,” and 83% think that the we ought “to pull together and confront the problems we face.”

For Destin Commun, it is important to work on narratives that will bring us together. One of their hypotheses examines ecology as a viable means to bring the people together. Indeed, 68% of the French believe that the environment is an issue that can move us past our conflicts. The question now is how to take action in order to build unity.

Don’t hesitate to consult Destin Commun’s website, to find out more about their work and read the full results of their study.