Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Ways to Discuss Identity Politics

The Dutch way (Ian Buruma reports in The New Yorker, not free).
The French way (dissected by Libé political correspondents).

Parité in the Boardroom

The parité law has worked so fantastically well in the political sphere that the pols now want to impose it on the corporate sphere. Half of all board seats in French corporations will have to be filled by women by 2015 if the UMP has its way. One suspects yet another of the brilliant divide-and-conquer maneuvers that Sarkozy has used so effectively against the left. Who could be against apple pie and motherhood? Why, the republican egalitarians of the Unreconstructed Left of course! Everything to women as individuals, nothing to women as a gender, some latter day Clermont-Tonnerre* might intone. Jean-François Copé, who sees the fairest présidentiable of them all in the mirror every morning when he shaves, seems prepared to volunteer for the role of Defender of Womanhood, however, so the fair sex need not despair at the prospect of being held hostage by Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

* It was Clermont-Tonnerre who said in 1791 "il faut tout refuser aux Juifs comme Nation et tout leur accorder comme individus."

The Flu Fiasco

Charles Bremner reports on Sarko's wrath at the way flu vaccinations have been handled. I wrote earlier about the strange French reluctance to be vaccinated. But now the predictable has happened: reports of numerous deaths from swine flu have sent millions of people flocking to previously empty government inoculation centers. The army and medical students have been pressed into service to help meet the demand, but health minister Roselyne Bachelot refuses to authorize private practitioners to handle the overflow. Why? Because the state would have to reimburse them at the tune of 20 to 30 euros per injection. You can do the math.

What a mess.

Titillating Denial

There's nothing like a denial to accredit a rumor ...

Move over, Tiger Woods! But here's a question for M. Gattegno: Were you in the bathroom with Sarko and DSK? Did you hear the exchange? If not, where did you get your information? If it came from the Elysée, well, then, doesn't it lend credence to Strauss-Kahn's charges? Surely it didn't come from DSK. What are you practicing, anyway: le journalisme du caniveau ou le journalisme des chiottes?

University Reform

Bruno Cousin and Michèle Lamont offer a thoughtful reflection on French university reform. Their bottom line:

In our view, fixing the current flaws in the French system does not merely demand organisational reforms, including giving academics more time to evaluate the research of colleagues and candidates properly. It may also require French academics to think long and hard about their own cynicism and fatalism concerning their ability to make judgments about quality that would not be driven by cronyism or particularism, and that would honour their own expertise and connoisseurship.


Not that proper governmental reform is not needed, but sometimes blaming the Government may be an easy way out. Above all, it is increasingly a very ineffectual way of tackling a substantial part of the problem. A little more collaborative thinking and a little less cynicism among both academics and administrators - if at all possible - may very well help French universities find a way out of the crisis. And it will help the French academic and research community to become, once again, much more than the sum of its parts.

The French Are Coming!

... and all Britain is up in arms. "A gutter populism unworthy of a great country" is the way some in the City see President Sarkozy's disobliging remarks about the UK being the "big loser" in the dickering over EU commission nominations. To hear the French tell it, placing Barnier in his new job as regulator of the markets will transform capitalism forever. A new day has dawned, and the British are reeling.

But let's keep things in perspective. The City is still the City, and the EU is still only the EU. How many battalions has Mr. Van Rompuy?