Thursday, December 17, 2009


Amazon has made it easy to include ads in blog posts, so I'm afraid you're going to see more of them. The blog is a labor of love, but that doesn't mean I have to be a love slave. A little remuneration for my time would be nice. You'd be doing me a favor if you visited our sponsors from time to time, and you might even find something you like. Avoid the Christmas rush and shop where you get your French news.

And in This Corner ...

I confess I didn't have the patience to read all of this, but if a slugfest between heavyweight professional provocateurs is your thing, here is Badiou vs. Finkielkraut on the national identity question.

Friends in High Places

Via Causeur I learn that Carla Bruni has a homeless friend, Denis, with whom she chats about "books and music." As it happens, I've just finished translating the chapter on "the politics of presence" in Pierre Rosanvallon's latest book, La légitimité démocratique. There couldn't be a better illustration of Rosanvallon's point than this little anecdote about the First Lady. Here is Rosanvallon:

Politics can end up being subsumed by representation. In a democracy of presence, the procedural and therefore programmatic aspect of democracy recedes into the background, and there is a tendency for “democratic representation” to be whittled down to little more than a way in which people can express their concerns to their leaders. ... It is not simply “identity politics” in the usual sense: giving minorities a chance to make their voices heard or to promote their own projects and demands. At a deeper level, what is involved is the construction of a vast mirror of civil society. It is as if the only purpose of government were to eliminate everything that is harsh or oppressive in daily life. In this sense, the politics of presence serves as a kind of social exorcism. It has a cathartic dimension. By inducing leaders to take notice of misfortune, it seeks implicitly to make misfortune more tolerable.

As François-Xavier Ajavon says, "On reste pantois devant cette orgie miniature de communication élyséenne, bien plus glaçante, en vérité, que l’actuelle vague de froid."

Laurent on Growth and the Environment

Here. Eloi Laurent, a leading French expert on the economics of the environment, looks at la croissance et la décroissance. (Ignore the typos in the piece: Le Monde's proofreaders seem to be asleep at the switch, but perhaps they'll wake up as the day wears on.)