Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Apple Falls Far from the Tree

Who would have thunk? Robert Badinter's son Simon is a talk-radio host in Chicago, IL. There must be a story there, but unfortunately I don't know it. (h/t DB)

Le Débat

Serge Audier reviews the history of the influential journal Le Débat. In large part he is rehashing one of the theses in his book on "la pensée anti-68," which Sam Moyn reviewed here. Much of the intellectual history of the past 40 years is bound up in this saga. For my own take on one aspect of this story, now somewhat out of date (it was written as a response to a polemical piece by Perry Anderson), see here.

And incidentally, Marcel Gauchet, the editor of Le Débat and focal point of Audier's critique, played a large part in the "Benjamin Constant revival," which Jacob Levy discusses here, in a blog post that includes a nice compliment to French Politics. (We intellectuals may live in a small world, but never let it be said that we're not incestuous. I not only wrote the review of Helena Rosenblatt's book, to which Levy refers, I also translated essays for the Cambridge Companion to Constant, which she edited, including part of Gauchet's book on Constant.) As Levy notes, the Constant revival extends well beyond the narrow confines of the Latin Quarter. This is one of many reasons why it can be misleading to write French intellectual history as an exercise in the sociology of small groups or the ethnography of some exotic tribe, although the temptation is permanent, particularly among outsiders gone (almost) native, like myself. The Parisian microcosm may be a basket of crabs, as Audier implies, but political thought continues to matter there in a way that it doesn't in the United States, as Moyn's closing lament makes clear.


Christine Lagarde has thus far survived her association with Nicolas Sarkozy with her reputation intact, but Le Canard enchaîné reports that her compagnon, Xavier Giocanti, was formerly associated with a Marseilles venture that has been charged with "irregularities" in connection with a million-euro subvention from the EU.

More Signs of Fraying

Among the ways in which Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to transform France at the beginning of his quinquennat was an income tax deduction on mortgage loans, which was supposed to encourage home ownership. French home ownership rates are low compared with other European countries, so this was an idea with some promise. But it hasn't had the desired effect, though it has proved costly, and the measure is now being rescinded. Ideology meets reality.

Loss of Nationality

The Right is now claiming, contrary to what I asserted yesterday, stripping a person of his or her nationality is constitutional in France and, what's more, that the Left initiated it. This is untrue, as Patrick Weil explains here, but the situation is more complicated than I thought, and the law does permit a person convicted of treason or terrorism to be stripped of French nationality, provided that the loss does not render him stateless. The latter provision was added by Elisabeth Guigou in order to conform with European law on the matter.

Be that as it may, the technicalities are irrelevant. Sarkozy proposes to strip nationalized French citizens of their nationality if they murder a policeman. What is the purpose of such a measure? Is this supposed to add anything to existing laws against murder, attacks on public officials, etc.? Does anyone seriously believe that loss of citizenship is a greater deterrent to murder than the penalties that can already be inflicted? The purpose of this law is not to prevent a heinous crime but to stigmatize a whole category of people as more likely to commit that crime.

Indeed, on the inefficacy of everything Sarkozy has proposed of late, see Bernard Girard.

An extensive comment on stripping of nationality from the think tank Terra Nova can be found here.