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Faced with war, young people worried but ready to get involved

On military issues, lucidity, concern and patriotism are the dominant feelings among French youth, as revealed by the study carried out by sociologist Anne Muxel, deputy director of the political science research center at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF).

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Faced with war, young people worried but ready to get involved

On military issues, lucidity, concern and patriotism are the dominant feelings among French youth, as revealed by the study carried out by sociologist Anne Muxel, deputy director of the political science research center at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF). Commissioned by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, this survey, carried out by IPSOS between June and July 2023, questioned 2,300 French men and women, aged 18 to 25, about their relationship to “the military universe”. According to this study, one in two is attentive to “warfare”.

“Contrary to what is often put forward in dominant discourses, young people have not given up investing in public affairs. They are not withdrawn into cautious individualism,” the report explains. Moving away from the “anti-militarism” prevalent among the youth of the 1970s, the new generation is leaning more towards a “renewed patriotism”, according to Anne Muxel. A small majority (57%) say they are ready to join the army in the event of war. The proportion varies according to political party and gender, but overall the French remain concerned. In the event of war, one in two women and three quarters of men are ready to enlist. They are 47% left and 72% right.

Further dissociating themselves from their elders, 62% of respondents are in favor of the restoration of compulsory military service. Historian at IRSEM, Maxime Launay, recalled Friday, during the presentation of this study, that three-quarters of the students in 1980 called for its removal. Results which may be surprising, as this youth was born and lives in a French society which has not been confronted with “classic” war on its soil for several decades. “Despite the period of relative pacification of conflicts, we see that young people perceive the news of the war and the importance of the military,” indicates Anne Muxel.

New threats, such as terrorism, environmental peril and cyber warfare, have been well internalized by the new generation. At the heart of concerns, we also find the war in Ukraine and its possible developments. 77% of young people say they are worried about the economic consequences that this conflict could have in France, and 73% of them say they fear that it will spill beyond Ukraine. The nuclear attack is also a great cause for concern. “For this generation, we have moved beyond deterrence, and we can come to a nuclear conflict,” explains Anne Muxel.

The researcher, however, invites us to receive these results with a certain distance. “The study allows us to grasp potential. But there is a difference between representations and real dispositions and practices,” she explains. In summary, it is not because young people say they are ready to get involved that they do so, or will do so. In addition, some seem to have a sublimated vision of war, shaped by fiction and digital technology. At the head of the queue, films like Top Gun and video games like Call Of Duty, where players have an infinite number of lives, participate in the “military socialization” of young people, and especially in their idealization of this institution.

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