Peter Gumbel, a British writer who teaches in Paris, has launched an all-out assault on France's elite:
In the name of “meritocracy” and “equality”, he says, France has built a system for selecting and formatting its political, administrative and business leaders which makes “Eton and Oxbridge” or the “Ivy League” look like a utopian experiment in social levelling. The “Grandes Écoles” – elite colleges, devised by Napoleon two centuries ago and re-invented after the Second World War – have become a machine for perpetuating a brilliant but blinkered, often arrogant and frequently incompetent ruling freemasonry.
“It’s a system that is able to produce a tiny number of brilliant and charming men and women who constitute the ruling class. Whether they are competent as leaders is another matter,” Gumbel writes . “The entire selection process leaves the vast majority of the population frustrated, de-motivated or feeling discarded.” In a sense, Mr Gumbel is saying nothing new. For decades, the French themselves have grumbled (as only the French can) about the pernicious stranglehold on government and big business of the products of the Grandes Écoles and especially the so-called “énarques”.