Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sciences Po: La Lutte Continue

Le Monde has an interesting interview with Pierre Mathiot, who will NOT be a candidate this time around to become the new head of Sciences Po. Reading this, one has the impression that the intended audience is not the general public, despite the appearance of the interview in a public format. Mathiot speaks in veiled words of a "power elite" to which he does not belong. He says that he has divined the unfavorable situation that he would face if he were a candidate and has therefore decided to bow out. He attacks Sciences Po Paris as a small and unrepresentative institution that plays a disproportionate role in the formation of the French elite and suggests that this is an abnormal and unhealthy situation that exists nowhere else in the world. And while he grants that Richard Descoings was trying to do something about this, he hints that Descoings's solution was not the one he would choose, though without explaining why.

In short, this interview is not of much use to an outsider in understanding what Mathiot's diagnosis of Sciences Po is. It reads more like a declaration of secession: to the "power elite" that he believes has rejected him, he is saying that he wants no part of their show. They can choose a new leader, but they cannot bring him and--by implication--a whole faction of other faculty to support their system, no matter how they reform it. The emphasis on equality between Parisian and provincial IEPs hints an anti-elitist movement of some sort, but we have to imagine the sins of the elite and the way in which decentralization would remedy them.