Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheaper Eats

Unless it's at Taillevent or the Bristol (Sarko's favorite lunchcounter, where lunch for 2 comes to 560 euros).

Crisis Epistemology

The PowerPoint of one of my Montreal talks on "L'Epistémologie de la crise" (in French) is available here, along with several other presentations. If you read the notes as well as the slides, you may be able to reconstruct most of the talk. Don't be misled by the title of the session: my subject was macroeconomic theory, not the euro (which Jacques Le Cacheux and Lionel Jospin ably handled).

Jospin's speech and various press reviews can be found here.

L'Etat Spectacle

Guy Debord denounced La Société du spectacle. Michel Rocard and Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg attack L'État spectacle. The argument is familiar: "The image," says Rocard, "is hostile to complexity; it demands conflict, emotion, and drama but certainly not complexity, sociological depth, or explanatory power."

There is of course truth to this, but it's a complaint against democracy that goes back much farther than the invention of television, where Rocard seems to situate it. Good-government reformers have always deplored the emotionalism of voters, their lack of knowledge of the issues, and the superficial basis of their judgment. Splenetic attacks don't get us very far. It's time for Rocard to take down his volume of Aristotle's Politics and Plato's Republic. These will help him while away his time in retirement.


Two expressions of doubt about the alleged "radicalization" of social conflict in France in recent months: sociologist Sophie Béroud and management consultant Bernard Girard.

"La France qui se lève tôt ..."

... ferait mieux de faire la grasse matinée, dit-on ici.

"While Doing Her Makeup in the Morning"

Le Figaro is in a wry mood this morning: the paper wonders whether Valérie Pécresse thinks about becoming president in 2017 "while doing her makeup in the morning." After suggesting that she is a potential rival to the dynamic duo of ambitieux, Xavier Bertrand and Jean-François Copé, it goes on to compare her "feminine" style of politics to that of Ségolène Royal. Well, I suppose that such speculation does distract from the rather unfortunate imbroglio of university reform, which is Pécresse's job when she's not contemplating herself in the mirror. On that subject, it seems that the only problem is the "deafening silence" of the Socialists on the matter of the strikes. If only the hapless opposition party would sign on to the reform effort, it is implied, the protesters would pack up and go back to class.

On a related (?) note, we have the petite phrase of Dominique de Villepin last week: asked whether it was true that he had a crush on Ségolène back when both were students at the ENA, the dashing pol said, "Oui, et pourquoi pas, elle le mérite, elle était belle et elle le reste." Most galant. Perhaps Ségo's next apology will be to M. de Villepin for having had the "merit" of attracting his roving eye.

Europe's In Trouble

European complacency--I don't think the word is too strong--in the face of the crisis is one of its more perplexing aspects. As this VoxEU column points out, there is good reason for concern about the level of debt that "emerging Europe" owes to Western European banks. Perhaps the reason for the complacency is that the most troubled banks are not in France and Germany but in Austria. But the French and German governments should show a greater sense of urgency, as should the ECB.

Ridgway, Come Back!

At least some in France are nostalgic for the days of GI Joe in Châteauroux.