Saturday, May 26, 2007

Experts and Pols

The previous post, about Claude Allègre's comments on the failure of the PS to make use of the experts in its ranks, raises the question of the relation between expertise and politics. Ségolène Royal's leading rival for the presidential nomination was probably Dominique Strauss-Kahn. DSK, who would have been my choice if I'd had a vote, is no doubt more of an expert on economic matters than SR, but he isn't half the politician she is. Is there an art of politics, a specific form of expertise that might be termed political? Plato thought so, and so, in a different way, did Tocqueville, who was characteristically ambivalent about its uses.

If Allègre and DSK qualify as experts, then one might take their impetuous and embittered comments in the wake of the Socialist defeat as typical of the impolitic temperament of expertise. Experts expect deference to their expertise, and when they don't get it, they're rather too likely to péter les plombs*, as they say in French.

One might also say that the Socialists' turn to SR rather than DSK reflected the instinctive sense of the rank-and-file that no current was going to pass between the economic expert and the public at large. France abounds with expert experts, but political experts are a rarer breed. In that respect, ordinary party militants may have a clearer sense of what they face in Sarkozy than Allègre has. Allègre thinks an end to "frontal opposition" between the parties is in order, because the right is not without reasonable ideas. It's becoming of a scientist to acknowledge truth where he finds it, but an expert in the art of politics would probably urge a more subtle execution of the tactical retreat.

* blow a fuse

No comments: