Friday, March 21, 2008

Imbalances

Lionel Jospin, hoping perhaps to plant subliminally the notion that France is ruled by an "unbalanced" president, makes "imbalance" the leitmotif of his op-ed in today's Le Monde. It's an insipid exercise: on "economic imbalances," for example, we learn that "the best solution would be for the government to change its economic orientations," while "the opposition must develop ... the broad outline of an alternative economic policy." Is it worth putting pen to paper to deliver oneself of such banalities?

When we come, three-quarters of the way through this morass, to the "imbalances on the left," however, there is a flicker of interest. The Socialist Party "is dominant [on the left] and no longer has powerful allies." It would have been quicker to say that the PCF is dead as a doornail, but bluntness is not Jospin's forte. Yet he does manage in the next sentence to stick a finger in the eye of his former Trotskyite comrades: the PS "remains confronted with an extreme left without a 'culture of government' (sans culture du pouvoir) that sterilizes its electorate." Sterilizes: an interesting choice of word. How are we meant to take it? Does the extreme left kill the germs of gauchisme and render them inocuous? Or does it geld the working class and prevent it from reproducing itself? But Jospin does not develop the point. He proceeds to pronounce a pox on this sterilized electorate, whose votes he could have used in 2002. His next subject is the imbalance between the success of the PS locally and its repeated failure nationally. "Some say that certain party leaders are pleased with this disparity, because their oppositional status with respect to the central government seems to help them when it comes to winning locally." Interesting. One wonders whom he has in mind. He doesn't say of course. That wouldn't be his style. He prefers to drop another thumping banality: the party "must regain a national destiny."

So it must. To make a start on the project, perhaps its leaders could begin to say something, anything, rather than this nothing.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a great review of that essay. I love this site! It's like free ice cream!

a us prof on sabbatical in Praris

Arthur Goldhammer said...

If you feel moved to pay for the ice cream, visit our esteemed sponsors, whose ads are displayed to the right. It costs you nothing, but your minimal effort rewards the Good Humor man.

MY said...

I don't see anything displayed to the right.
As far as saying things, this week I've heard Fabius say the socialist project should be able to differentiate itself from the one Royal is likely to propose; Cambadelis offered a deal to Delanoe, roughly, we leave you alone for the party presidency if you promise not to be a presidential candidate later on; Montebourg said something and I forgot what; Peillon got angry because Hollande asked his faithful (mid-ranking officials) to write something to boost support for his 'calendar' whereas he had agreed to do something else (I guess Peillon, who's originally a philosophy professor, wants politicians to keep their word?); Royal criticized the French position or lack thereof about Tibet, stating it was both 'weak' and "cowardly", plus something about how it's hard to imagine having fun for the Olympics while Tibetans are being shot.
As for Jospin... Didn't he say, at some point, that he was retiring from politics?
About imbalances of another nature, from the Right:
http://www.lesechos.fr/info/france/4703875.htm

Anonymous said...

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Arthur Goldhammer said...

MY,
Yes, I commented on all those things except Ségo on Tibet, which is the only one of any substance.

avistew said...

I thought the word was "leitmotiv". Is it "leitmotif" in English? That's interesting, considering that it doesn't sound either French or English, you'd think it would be spelt the same in both languages.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

avistew: From the OED:

In the musical drama of Wagner and his imitators, a theme associated throughout the work with a particular person, situation, or sentiment. Also in extended use.
1876 STAINER & BARRETT Dict. Mus. Terms, Leitmotif. 1880 PARRY in Grove Dict. Mus. II. 115/2 When these situations recur, or the personages come forward in the course of the action, or even when the personage or idea is implied or referred to, the figure which constitutes the leit-motif is heard. 1881 F. HUEFFER Wagner (1883) 120 Another feature of the score of Parsifal is the variety and number of its representative themes, or ‘leit-motives’. 1896 H. ELLIS in Savoy I. 70 Zola..introduced this sort of leit-motiv into literature. 1898 G. MEREDITH Let. 6 July (1970) III. 1303, I long to hear from him of [the] Leit~motif{em}though indeed he has taken the world more or less into his confidence. 1899 KIPLING Stalky 84 A tune whose leit-motif was the word ‘stinker’. 1912 WODEHOUSE Prince & Betty iv. 61 The name Scobell had been recurring like a leit motif in Mr Crump's conversation. 1937 KOESTLER Spanish Testament iv. 94 It provides the leitmotif of German foreign policy in Spain. 1955 Times 28 May 8/4 But the method remains, the orchestral tapestry of leitmotifs is more resplendent than ever, the drama is even more closely knit into the texture of sound. 1970 G. GREER Female Eunuch 151 Self-sacrifice is the leit-motif of most of the marital games played by women. 1972 Composer & Conductor Aug. 1/1 Ninety-nine music graduates out of a hundred..will say that the Leitmotiv (or Leitmotif, or leading motive)..was invented by Wagner. Wrong... The correct answer is: Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns, and even he applied it not to Wagner but to Weber. 1974 Times Lit. Suppl. 15 Feb. 162/4 There are plenty of leitmotivs which recur time and time again.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

avistew,
Another comment on "leitmotif": The word is in fact German, and in that language the correct spelling is "Leitmotiv," but the correct pronunciation has the "f" sound, which I suppose is how the alternative English spelling originated. And "leit" doesn't mean "light," it means "leading": the dominant theme.

Anonymous said...

A French socialist youth who seems to agree with you on Jospin's substance and punches without gloves on....
http://www.intox2007.info/index.php?post/2008/03/22/Lionel-Jospin-eternel-donneur-de-lecons

Anonymous said...

Golly, thanks to Jospin, I've uncovered who "la pire racaille" is! It's Art Goldhammer!
:-P
Nah; seriously - another person who doesn't think highly of Jospin.
http://pire-racaille.blogspot.com/2008/03/ps-stratgie-ou-rflexion.html