In total contrast to the current view that tends in particular to highlight the decline of the nation-state - squeezed out as the local and the global levels increase in importance - and also likes to argue that values and behaviour are becoming ever more similar, at least within Europe, this article by Luc Rouban shows that the differences are growing between countries and also, within each country, between the executives (both in the public and the private sectors) and the workforce.
Luc Rouban draws on the results of the first phase of the "European Social Survey", carried out in 2002-2003 on a sample of 19,000 employees in both the public and private sectors. He reveals, in addition to the real French malaise, the very different degrees of politicisation of the workforce from country to country, whether this is measured in terms of their participation in elections or their involvement in voluntary organizations or trade unions. He stresses, however, that the younger age-groups are in general less inclined to vote than their elders, although the level rises in line with the level of education.
One of the explanatory variables appears to lie in attitudes to work, which in turn strongly influences the level of involvement in public life. Both are quite closely correlated with the employees' levels of confidence and independence.
The victory of the "No" vote in the French referendum on the European Constitution in May 2005 is then hardly surprising, the author argues. Interest in Europe remains weak, especially in France, where there seems to be a widening gulf between the executive class and the workforce, whatever their age-group.
Luc Rouban concludes that diverging trends outweigh converging ones within Europe, and he highlights the risks arising from a deep gulf between the elite and the majority of employees; this is particularly striking in France. In contrast to all that is said about European unification and the increasing importance of the local dimension, he stresses the rise of nationalist sentiments that are not merely economic but also cultural.