Category Archives: France

Plucking the Goose

Birds of a feather flock together at Louis XIV's Menagerie. Courtesy of www.nicolaslefloch.fr

Birds of a feather flock together at Louis XIV’s Menagerie. Courtesy of http://www.nicolaslefloch.fr

French Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron declared himself the standard bearer of a “new French capitalism” in today’s Wall Street Journal. (An earlier French version appeared on April 24 in Le Monde, with choice commentary by Arthur Goldhammer). This isn’t just another installment of Emmanuel’s neoliberal loi Macron. Macron’s declaration seems to argue for an increase in state control—but through the very language of entrepreneurship and the free market that he would like to control. Macron begins:

…this old brand of state capitalism is no longer adapted to today’s world economy. In fact, our economic system is adapting to an economy that is far more decentralized, more international in nature and more subject to disruptions by a small group of geeks working from a basement.

At least the French version contented itself with le startup without having to resort to les geeks! Macron continues:

These changes have favored short-term investors and limited the ability of long-term strategic actors to provide both capital and strategic guidance…there is a real need to invent a new, long-term capitalism in which the state has a role to play to accompany companies in their transformation and their investment plans.

This second paragraph describes a form of state capitalism unflinchingly similar to the “old brand” that Macron had just derided in the first paragraph as obsolete. Continue reading

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Socialists Fighting Corporatism

Hollande’s Socialists went into “emergency mode” this Tuesday in an all-or-nothing push to reform a model of French political organization that dates back centuries. The contentious Loi Macron,  among other reforms, introduces licensing controls and price restrictions for public notaries. These reforms would free up access to public notaries, at the potential price of dissuading equal access to agents of the law and to the notarial profession itself.

The rhetoric surrounding this debate has unburied ancient words–privilège, corporation, even ordre–that reveal a societal tension that dates to the Old Regime. The French model of corporatism grants privileges to a select group, with clear functions and a distinct identity. This common identity ideally empowers these men and women, yet retains them as loyal agents of the State.

Bureaucratic weight always accrues over time, though, and the personal quality of this French species of bureaucracy makes privilège extremely difficult to repeal in a time of crisis. Members of the maliciously dysfunctional Parisian guild system successfully obstructed free-market reforms throughout the eighteenth century, even on the eve of the Revolution itself. Continue reading

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Conspiracy of the Week

France’s far-right Front National is a political dynasty, not too different from most American parties by this point. FN President Marine Le Pen’s dad, though, is full of crazy. And it’s not just a case of bad lip reading. Here’s some of the more recent gems from an article I worked on for The American Interest:

According to Mr. Le Pen, a mysterious Western superstate led by “the secret services” may have choreographed the Hebdo attacks that are themselves linked with September 11 […] The Honorary President of the National Front backed away from his Secret Service allegations in a January 16 conversation with Le Monde, but maintained that both attacks were part of a larger international conspiracy. Jean-Marie Le Pen is infamous for his Holocaust jokes, his defense of France’s fascists in World War II, and a recent quip that “Monseigneur Ebola” could solve Africa’s demographic problems.

Marine Le Pen has ignored her father’s Charlie Hebdo remarks so far. It’s probably a good tactic, too. Shying away from Jean-Marie’s outré ideology has helped the FN in the past, and probably helps to obscure the dynastic continuities that remain between father and daughter. Read the whole article here. There’s another good post here, too, written by Haun Saussy at PrintCulture.

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