France is a parliamentary democracy, governed for a seven-year term by a president whose party has constructed a majority coalition. The primary political parties represent rightist, centrist, socialist, and communist interests, all of which enjoy considerable support in Burgundy. In general, industrial and highland agricultural areas support candidates to the left of center, while small towns and business communities vote more conservatively. Burgundy is considered an administrative unit only on certain issues (e.g., environment, tourism); more important are the hierarchical departmental, prefectural, cantonal, and communal divisions that both mirror and crosscut geographic, economic, and cultural differences. Politics are of central interest to French people in general and to heterogeneous Burgundians in particular, and political matters are a perennial subject of conversation in cafés and on the street.
Social Control and Conflict. A national police, the Gendarmerie Nationale, patrols the highways and rural areas, while municipalities have their own peacekeeping forces. As in many industrialized nations, France has had to combat increasing social disruption as old values and structures disappear and are replaced with an alienated, mobile urban population. Although rural areas of Burgundy remain remarkably free of such disruption, inhabitants are much more alert to such dangers than they were only a few years ago. Rural Burgundians prefer to control tense situations socially rather than by overt conflict, and gossip is a potent Community weapon. The court in which the meaning of an act and its ramifications are considered, and moral judgment is passed, is the café.