Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sciences po: La Guerre Continue

Two articles in  Le Monde today on the ongoing Sciences po controversy: one by Bruno Latour, the other by Nicolas Jounin. The issues in this imbroglio are complex, confused, entangled, and heavily laden with old grudges and conflicts of personality as well as with important issues of pedagogy, selection, and social change. I'm not about to sort them out in a blog post, but I do think that it's important to note that reforming an institution like Sciences po takes a strong hand, a willingness to make powerful enemies, and perhaps a certain contempt for entrenched traditions as well as rules both reasonable and unreasonable. To judge a reformer like Descoings, one would have to know a lot more about the inner workings of the institution than I do. I can therefore understand Latour's defense of both the man and his project, even if I cannot be sure that he is right to call the many critiques that both have engendered an "assassination." No doubt there is excess, as there always is in cases like this, and just as certainly some of the grievances are surely justified. But what matters here is the future of an institution that plays a crucial role in the selection of French elites and the kind of governance they provide. The choice of a new leadership and a new direction should focus on the desired goals and take account of past errors only insofar as necessary to correct future aims. Richard Descoings should be allowed to rest in peace. His successor need not be cast in his image but should partake of his toughness. (h/t George Ross)

Catalonia Elections

Following up Brent Whelan's guest post on Italian elections, here is a report from The Monkey Cage on the recent elections in Catalonia--a victory for separatists.

Copé and les Pieds-Nickelés

For those with a Mediapart subscription, this may be amusing. But of course the "deal" brokered by Sarkozy to hold a referendum on whether there should be a new leadership election (really? is nothing too absurd to propose any more?) has already been scotched by Copé, who agreed to it, on the grounds that Fillon's formation of a separate parliamentary group and filing of a lawsuit are incompatible with the comity necessary to hold a pre-vote referendum. Yes, indeed, if Copé is good at anything, it is turning low politics, ballot-box stuffing, manipulation of party rules, and strong-arm tactics into high rhetorical principle.

Look, the bottom line here is that both sides cheated. Both sides always cheat in party elections. There would have been no problem if the cheating hadn't resulted in a dead heat. Now Copé is worried, probably because he cheated more than Fillon (see Bernard Girard, who really should correct his inaccurate spelling of Copé's name--perhaps he is confusing JFC with Benjamin Constant and the Coppet group, although that would be a stretch). But if Copé could not win even when he was in control and thought nobody was looking too closely at his tactics, he is undoubtedly afraid that he will lose outright in a fair (well, fairer) election. So he will do what he can to prevent it, especially since he has suffered more in polling than Fillon (who has also lost ground and tarnished his reputation, however). The longer this drags on, the more likely becomes a coup de théâtre such as a Sarko comeback, at least as interim leader.

The spectacle is riveting, though far from edifying.

DSK, The Play: A Must Miss

Read about it here.