Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is Flexicurity Importable?

If "flexicurity" is indeed to be the basis of the proposed single employment contract, there is good reason to ask whether a model that has worked well in Sweden and Denmark can be imported to France. Some differences are obvious: size of the economy (France much larger), openness to international trade (smaller for France), mix of job types in the economy, relative importance of various sectors, tradition of solidarity, homogeneity of population (less for France), etc. There is a large literature exploring the effects of these and other factors. For one take, see:
New Economist: Denmark's flexicurity model: ready for export?

Ancelovici on Flexicurity

Marcos Ancelovici has some interesting comments on flexicurity and the attitudes of the various unions on his blog.

Response to a reader: the Vital Center

Gregory takes me to task for neglecting what he regards as

"a more marked development, with the potential for a more enduring impact, is the continuation of a trend that began at least in 1995, of urban, professional middle-class voters who are not civil servants, voting for the left (especially if one inclues first-round Bayrou, second-round Royal voters)."
I agree that this is a key and volatile segment of the electorate, which the PS must figure out how to target. My impression, however, is that, while Sarkozy alienated some of this group, particularly with his "coded" appeals to the extreme-right electorate, he attracted others with the logic of his economic program, which, for all its flaws, nevertheless struck many as a more coherent package than the opposition's. Perhaps as a rough proxy for "urban, professional middle-class voters who are not civil servants," we can take economists, many of whom publicly expressed themselves before the elections. Compare, for example, the endorsement of Sarkozy by Olivier Blanchard with the denunciation of him by Thomas Piketty and others:

http://www.telos-eu.com/2007/03/pourquoi_je_voterai_sarkozy.php
http://www.lesechos.fr/info/analyses/4559836.htm
http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-823448,36-891778,0.html

Perhaps we can agree that the large Bayrou vote on the first round came at least in part from urban professionals disaffected from both Sarkozy and Royal. Much of what Sarkozy has done since his election will likely have reassured this group that he isn't as dangerous as they had feared. If the Socialists are not to lose further ground in this segment of the electorate, their "renovation" must speak to people of this sort.

In Memoriam

This post has to do with French politics only in the most indirect way, but I did want to take a moment to remember four men who died recently and whose work intersected mine in one way or another:

Christian Delacampagne, philosopher, writer, diplomat, traveler, and friend, was an indispensable resource for many students of France. We became friends when he was cultural attaché in Boston and remained in touch over the years.

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was a French physicist and Nobel prizewinner. My first love was physics, my Ph. D. is in mathematics, and I occasionally cheat on my current loves to follow what's happening in these fields, so I have some appreciation of the elegance of Gennes' work on the solid and liquid states and the marchland of liquid crystals that divides them. He was also an impressive teacher, with a gift for the pregnant example.

René Rémond was noted especially as a historian of the French right, but he died a few days too soon to witness the reunification of the Bonapartist, moral order, and Orleanist rights in the person of Nicolas Sarkozy. One would like to have heard his comments on the event. I also recall his exemplary service as chair of a panel investigating the assistance provided by the Church to the fleeing milicien Paul Touvier. Rémond was a model of probity in that controversial affair.

Eugen Weber was an exemplary historian and an inspiration to many of us who study France in the United States. A prolific reviewer, he was always careful to notice the qualities of a translation and generous to a fault, as I can abundantly attest.

Electoral Geography

No student of French politics can fail to have been struck by the electoral geography of the presidential election. Eastern France is a sea of blue (French electoral colorimetery is the reverse of the US: blue is right, red is left), while the Socialists have been pushed back largely into redoubts in the west and southwest (some of them with a traditional Catholic heritage and therefore formerly likely to vote for the right). It would be interesting to overlay the map of votes with the map of density of immigration, but it is clear from simple examination that many areas in which Sarkozy ran particularly well were areas where the proportion of immigrants and descendants of immigrants is quite high. If anyone knows of a good comparative map, please let me know.

In the meantime, there is this intersting article by Pascal Perrineau of CEVIPOF, which discusses, among other things, Sarkozy's breathrough in traditional working class areas.

Light at the end of the Hollande Tunnel

François Hollande has announced that he will not be a candidate to succeed himself as secretary general of the Socialist Party. His was a tenure of bad omens, inaugurated by Jospin's failed candidacy and sudden withdrawal from politics in 2002, leaving a vacuum that Hollande, the least controversial of the heirs apparent, more or less ably filled (Hollande actually assumed his post in 1997, but until Jospin was eliminated, it was Jospin who was really the party leader). The 2005 referendum on the European Constitution saddled him with the unenviable task of leading a deeply divided party into a battle it did not choose and could not win, no matter what the outcome. Then came the presidential election and the rapid eclipse of whatever presidential hopes he may have harbored, as his companion and the mother of his children stepped forward, imposed herself on the party with the enthusiastic support of much of the rank and file and many new recruits, and proceeded to run a campaign in large measure independent of the party nominally headed by Hollande. When Arnaud Montebourg was asked during the campaign what the candidate's greatest liability was, he promptly replied, François Hollande.

And another of the candidate's closest advisors, Julien Dray, has been cited as the source of a particularly nasty rumor about the Royal couple. It isn't my intention to use this blog as a gossip column, but gossip sometimes acquires a political dimension. Two Le Monde journalists, Ariane Chemin and Raphaëlle Bacqué, have published a book, Femme Fatale, in which they attribute to Dray the story that Royal became a candidate only after learning that Hollande was having an affair with another woman. Allegedly she told him that if he tried to mobilize a Jospin candidacy to block her bid for the nomination, he would never see his children again. True or not, the circulation of such stories in Socialist circles during the campaign is a sign that the party's public disarray was but a pale reflection of its internal chaos. Hence Hollande's succession, coming at a time of defeat and ideological turmoil, will be further compounded by the bitter personal animosities lingering from these long years in the desert.

Hollande is undoubtedly a man of intelligence and wit, but he could not subdue the party éléphants, nor was he able to inspire an ideological renewal sufficient to counter Sarkozy's transformation of the image of the right.