Conférence 29022024

Attestation, an experiment of mass obedience


Nicolas Mariot, chercheur au CNRS, est spécialiste de sociologie historique. Il a travaillé, avec Claire Zalc, sur l’histoire de la communauté juive de Lens des années 1930 aux années 1950. Il s’agissait de retracer les itinéraires et choix d’un ensemble de 991 individus, 350 familles, face aux persécutions dont elles ont été l’objet. Il est l’un des co-organisateurs du séminaire « Histoire et historiographie de la Shoah » à l’EHESS. Il s’est intéressé depuis aux rapports sociaux dans les tranchées de la Grande Guerre. Nicolas Mariot travaille actuellement sur une étude comparée des violences de masse au XXe siècle.


Doctorant en sociologie (École normale supérieure, Centre Maurice Halbwachs). Ses recherches, qui combinent méthodes ethnographiques et statistiques, portent sur l’élevage, la santé au travail et la surveillance de masse.


On Thursday 29 February at 6.00pm, we welcomed sociologists Théo Boulakia and Nicolas Mariot, the authors of "L’Attestation. Une expérience d’obéissance de masse, printemps 2020".

"No population in the world stands to attention like that in 2-3 days", wrote Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol in an interview published in Médiapart three days after the start of the first lockdown in France during the Covid-19 pandemic. The people we work with often show us that, even in a health catastrophe, they are not prepared to change their habits at the simple request of the authorities. Moreover, aren't such requests a sign that health professionals have nothing else to offer (treatments, vaccinations, for example)?

During the 55 days of the first lockdown (17 March - 11 May 2020), 21 million checks were carried out in France in the name of the state of health emergency, and 1.1 million fines were imposed. Théo Boulakia and Nicolas Mariot explain that the massive surveillance inherent in French-style lockdown, presented as the only possible option, contrasts with other countries that have made less restrictive choices, sometimes with better results. For the authors, the decision by States to confine is ultimately "less the product of good intentions than of old habits" of authoritarianism specific to the history of each country.

As a citizen faced with an unprecedented event, why obey? How far should you accept having your freedom curtailed? Drawing on a variety of sources, including the survey "Life in confinement" (Vico), a survey distributed online at the very moment of the first lockdown, to which 16,000 people responded, Théo Boulakia and Nicolas Mariot deal with these questions in a practical way. They define six categories of individuals: the claustrated, the legalists, the exemplary, the unconcerned, the refractory and the protestors in the face of this "largely unprecedented experience of mass obedience". The reader learns about the frequency of denunciations and the specific nature of lockdown for women.

More information : here 

Couverture livre

To cite this content :
Nicolas Mariot, Théo Boulakia, “Attestation, an experiment of mass obedience”, 29 février 2024, URL :

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