Friday, June 8, 2007

Catholics and Muslims

Earlier today I cited CEVIPOF figures showing that 94 percent of Muslims had voted for Royal and 77 percent of practicing Catholics for Sarkozy.* An announcement today by minister of housing and cities Christine Boutin lends piquancy to these numbers. She is appointing Father Jean-Marie Petitclerc to her staff, as an advisor on the suburbs and violence.

Father Petitclerc is a Salesian who has been working with suburban youth for 30 years. He founded the Valdocco association, one of whose activities has been to find mentors from the Ecole Polytechnique for troubled young people (see article here). If it is unusual for a republican minister to appoint a priest to her staff, Father Petitclerc is an unusual priest (and it hardly needs saying that Boutin is an atypical republican minister). Himself a former Polytechnicien, he decided against a political career and chose his youth mission instead. He has lectured widely on suburban violence. He favors more socially mixed urban neighborhoods and believes that eliminating school zones can contribute to that end (see this post). To that extent at least, he is in tune with Sarkozyste urban policy to date.

* An e-mail from a reader suggests that the 94 percent figure should be taken with a grain of salt. From firsthand knowledge and anecdotal evidence, he believes the figure is closer to 85 percent. I do not know what method CEVIPOF used to arrive at its figure and would be glad to hear from other readers with a more intimate knowledge of the question.

Le Monde Links

I've received an e-mail from a reader who complains that the links to Le Monde "never work." Unfortunately, reading most Le Monde articles on-line requires a subscription to the on-line edition. If you are subscribed, the links should work. Some articles are available to non-subscribers, but since I am a subscriber, the links I copy into the posts are always "subscriber" links and won't work if you don't have a subscription. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about this. Whenever possible, I'll try to give links to other sources, such as Libé, Le Figaro, L'Express, and Le Nouvel Obs, which can all be read for free.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Of course, with Le Monde in difficult financial straits, it behooves all of you to support the paper by subscribing. The Web site is actually doing quite well, as you can see from the hit audit here. The Groupe Skyrock is doing better, though, and Libé rather worse.

Family, Happiness, Wealth

Not politics, exactly, and not quite French, either, but the journalist James Fallows is in China, and it seems that he was looking for a Carrefour, because the French hypermarché happens to be the biggest retailer in China:

And if you’re looking for Carrefour in Shanghai, it turns out that what you want is 家乐福. The characters mean family, happiness, wealth, so that is nicely auspicious. But they’re pronounced jia le fu – which I couldn’t guess as “Carrefour” until I saw them, and which the guard didn’t guess from what I said. (To be fair, this was mainly his fault. I can’t have been the first foreigner to be looking for the store that was five feet away from his duty station. This is one of many indications that Chinese education is not necessarily the all-conquering genius-creating marvel often described in the West.)
Family, wealth, happiness: interesting that carrefour, crossroads, or the marketplace as a symbol of coming together and mutual interdependence, is transmuted by global capitalism into "family, wealth, happiness," a concentration of well-being into the familial monad and the private sphere. Tocqueville would diagnose a severe case of individualisme. Well, at least it isn't travail, famille, patrie.

You can read Fallows' whole story here. His dispatches from China offer interesting insight into daily life there.

The Vote, Analyzed

Scholars from CEVIPOF analyze the presidential election in a series of three articles in Le Monde (here, here, and here).

Some highlights:

Sarkozy revives a "cross-class vote that the right has not seen for forty years," taking 54 percent of managers and intellectual professions (but contrast figures for "educated" vote below--this category needs to be examined closely and disaggregated carefully), 55 percent of lower-level white-collar workers, and 52 percent of blue-collar workers.

A bright spot for the Socialists: Royal took 63 percent of the under-25 vote, 16 percent better than Jospin did with this group in 1995. She also took 56 percent of the vote of those with at least a bac. And 94 percent of the Muslim vote (Sarkozy, on the other hand, got 77 percent of the practicing Catholics). The 94 percent figure will remind Americans of the black vote for Democrats. Americans will also find familiar the Socialist success among both "insiders" (the well-educated, the urban elite, civil service employees) and the "excluded" (minorities and youth, even if the exclusion of the latter is in many cases relative and temporary) but failure to capture a vast in-between group comprising "people of modest means, elderly, non-urban, and working class." More surprisingly, perhaps, she also lost the female vote, of which she took only 46 percent.

Finally, in the first round, Sarkozy took 38 percent of those who had voted Le Pen in 2002. As for the possibility of rebuilding the left by drawing votes from the center, the transfer of votes in the second round does not bode well for this strategy: "Sarkozy made strong inroads in the emerging moderately independent centrist vote."

The picture is thus reminiscent of George Bush's 2000 and 2004 victories and of the red-blue divide in the United States. The educated upper middle class in positions relatively isolated from the vagaries of the economy joins with the excluded underclass but is defeated by a coalition drawn from the ranks of management in businesses exposed to global competitive pressures and the struggling rural, lower-middle, and working classes fearful of competition from below and abroad and resentful of the "privileges" accorded to the educated elite and of its assumption of cultural superiority.

Such a coalition may be fragile, as American experience has shown, but France has no war on its hands and no potent religious right, and the Fillon government is both more open to the opposition and potentially less incompetent than the Bush government.