Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

It looks as though I was too optimistic when I predicted that the strikes would be over by Monday. Although participation is dwindling, rail and subway service is still seriously perturbed, and the remaining strikers, about 22 percent of the work force at SNCF, are nearly unanimous in approving continuation of the strike. One sees votes being taken in open-air assemblées générales, where there seem to be no rules about quorums or other procedures to ensure that the full membership is being heard. One would have to have far more knowledge of the internal politics of the unions than I do to say with confidence what is going on, but it does seem clear that leadership did not count on as much resistance from the rank-and-file as they appear to be encountering. The situation at the universities is even less clear, and it is difficult even to know how many universities have been affected. Estimates range from 20 to 45 of the 85, with varying degrees of disruption.

The government seems content to wait out the strikers, but there is a potential that the walkout of civil servants scheduled for next week will reignite the movement.

Special Regimes in the World of Culture

This post is especially for Gregory Brown, who mentioned that he had a professional interest in special retirement regimes in the theatrical world. The République des Lettres has some interesting information on offer today. The special regime at the Paris Opera dates back to 1698. Dancers get to retire at 40, singers at 50, stagehands at 55, and musicians at 60. Perhaps John Rawls has a theory of justice to explain this interesting gradation.