Modern France is a highly centralized nation, with most Political power and socially dominant groups concentrated in Paris. Although there is some social and political fluidity, class consciousness is strong and the weight of the centralized bureaucracy heavy.
Social Organization. The Aveyronnais have an acute sense of social stratification, generally perceiving the world as organized in a hierarchical mode, manageable by astute appeal to higher-ups. Social distinctions were once land-based: landless laborers, smallholders/artisans, full-time landholding peasants, prosperous peasants ( pages), landed gentry (urban bourgeoisie or petty nobility). Under current conditions, landless agricultural laborers and the landed gentry have all but disappeared, as have material distinctions among the intermediate groups. Nonetheless, fine grades of social difference based on property ownership, education level, income, and style are noted, reproduced, and capitalized upon.
Political Organization. As everywhere in France, each township is administered by a town council popularly elected every six years and headed by a mayor chosen by the council from among its members. A departmental legislature, composed of popularly elected representatives from each of the forty-three cantons and headed by a president chosen by this body, manages departmental affairs. Formal powers at both these levels are severely constrained under the French constitution. The chief executive of the department is the prefect, appointed by the French minister of the interior. In national elections, the Aveyronnais vote is generally heavily weighted toward the center right, and in local elections toward those with the highest perceived social status, understood as implying best-placed contacts.