Don't mess with the mob: Lesson for French kings, presidents

French workers riot in the streets over tax hikes, economic inequality and perceptions that the country's rulers are out of touch.

That was, of course, 1789 — when King Louis XVI helped the rich get tax exemptions and paid for it with his head.

Today, some might see parallels for unpopular President Emmanuel Macron. Democracy has replaced monarchy in France, but the culture of a mob taking its anger against perceived inequality onto the streets of Paris has not changed.

On Wednesday, Macron abandoned the fuel tax hike with his image as an unshakeable leader severely dented.

"If people compare Macron to Louis XVI it's a warning that he has hasn't learned the lesson of history. They don't literally want his head, but it's a strong message that they don't feel listened to," says sociologist Michel Wieviorka.