Thursday, January 24, 2013

Decline, Contradiction, Authoritarianism

Le Monde today published the results of a new poll on the French state of mind. The picture is not pretty. Large majorities believe that France's economic power and cultural influence have declined over the past decade. Although only a quarter of the French want to withdraw from the EU, two-thirds believe that France needs to limit the EU's power and take a stronger stand in favor of its own interests. (See yesterday's discussion about similar self-contradictory beliefs in Britain and Germany in the post on David Cameron's referendum announcement.) Three-quarters believe that French democracy is not working well. Sixty-two percent believe that all politicians are corrupt, etc.

Authoritarianism draws astonishing support. To the question "Does France need a real leader to restore order," more than 70% of members of all parties reply in the affirmative. Is it surprising that the parties of the right favor the authoritarian solution even more strongly than those of the left? (70% yes for the PS compared with 84% for MoDem, 97% for the FN, and 98% for the UMP!) To be sure, the question is rather vague. Do voters simply want a clearly defined policy to be pursued vigorously by whichever party they favor, or are they calling for a man on a white horse to save France from its demons? Le Monde seems to favor the darker interpretation. Michel Winock introduces a note of interpretive caution, however:

Comparaison n'est pas raison, on le sait. Les deux précédents évoqués se situent dans des contextes historiques très différents du nôtre. Ce qui me frappe simplement, c'est la résurgence de stéréotypes connus, fondés à la fois sur des aspects de la réalité et sur des fantasmes : l'idée de la décadence (déclin de la France "inéluctable"), le rejet des élites politiques (corrompues), le voeu d'un retour à l'autorité, la demande de protectionnisme, la xénophobie (trop d'étrangers en France), et la substitution de l'islamophobie à l'antisémitisme.
Les ingrédients du populisme sont là et dépassent les rangs des électeurs de Marine Le Pen. C'est une rude réalité avec laquelle doivent se colleter les partis républicains, de droite comme de gauche. En même temps, la "droitisation" de l'UMP peut y trouver sa justification, au risque d'aggraver l'affrontement entre "deux France". Mais l'histoire est imprévisible : on ne peut inférer du passé les lendemains qui nous attendent.

4 comments:

René said...

Pourquoi ce genre de réactions ? Parce que depuis 30 ans, on assiste aux mêmes débats sur les mêmes problèmes que l'on n'arrive toujours pas, non seulement à régler, mais à faire avancer un peu :
- Les 150000 jeunes qui sortent de l'école sans aucune qualification
- Le chômage structurel
- Le "mille feuilles" administratif
- Le financement des retraites
- etc..
Je pourrais repasser aujourd'hui les discussions sur ces sujets ayant eu lieu en 1995, personne ne s'apercevrait que nous sommes en 2013, tant le constat, les arguments et l'absence de solutions seraient les mêmes.
Les Français connaissent leur histoire. Ils savent que des pas décisifs ont été accomplis lors de circonstances ou d'hommes exceptionnels. Avec Richelieu qui fonda l'Etat, avec Bonaparte qui refonda la structure administrative et juridique de la France, avec les fondateurs de la IIIème République qui diffusèrent l'éducation et l'aspiration au progrès technique, avec De Gaulle qui fit entrer notre pays (enfin !!) dans le XXème siècle.
Depuis ce dernier élan, on bricole. Depuis quand datent nos grandes avancées ? C'est le réseau téléphonique pour tous, l'industrie nucléaire, Airbus et le TGV. Des projets qui datent des années Pompidou !!

Dans ces conditions, on ne s'étonnera pas que l'on n'attende plus rien des "élites" actuelles qui démontrent leur inefficacité depuis si longtemps.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to all those medium-to-small countries who think they can increase their economic power and cultural influence in the world by retreating from the European Union project. I'm sure the US and China and masses of people across Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc., will care about you more and be more influenced by you then.

Mitch Guthman said...

@Anonymous,

Possibly. Possibly not. Much depends on two points:

First, what does the term "European Union project" mean to you? Does it mean a fully integrated "United States of Europe"? If so, you are presupposing the roaring success of a country which does not yet exist and which (absent outright military conquest of the constituent states) may be impossible to create.

Second, at the present time, the EU project seems to be floundering and moving the continent towards exactly the same political instability and economic chaos that lead to at least one, maybe two, world wars.

The irony is that the whole point of the EU was that it would make it impossible for Europe (especially France and Germany) to drift into war. Yet, again, I point out that the EU's leadership seems to be doing it best to recreate the very deflationary conditions that lead to Hitler's rise and a Europe in flames.

If France and England can avoid the fire, they might do better outside the EU.

DavidinParis said...

@ Mitch...you are 'spot on'. Two world wars in recent history, and many many wars in Europe with Germany, France and Eastern Europe at the center of it all, I am not surprised at all by the gravitation towards authoritarianism. Even when France is governed by the socialists, the bureaucratic reach is like an iron grip forcing us to follow blanket and often arbitrary 'norms' imposed without much thought. The conditions are a perfect storm that come together in seemingly regular cycles...economic woes, realization that society is not galvanized nor optimistic, weak leaders, and a lack of a strong creative force to move things forward. Not sure the EU is to blame as an inadvertent trigger of all of this, but to hear the local fromageriste say it when the 'authorities' closed her store down to finally conform with the European norms, she stated bitterly that it just goes to show that France is in the pocket of Germany, and now she will have to buy German-made display cases to sell cheeses. She ended her diatribe by stating that she hates the EU and the Euro.