Monday, January 16, 2017

Piketty Defends Populism

No surprise, but Thomas Piketty favors Jean-Luc Mélenchon for president. His argument is devoted to separating the good populism (Mélenchon's) from the bad (Le Pen's). He passes rather quickly over Mélenchon's weak points, particularly in foreign policy:
en dépit d’une rhétorique clivante et d’un imaginaire géopolitique parfois inquiétant, Mélenchon conserve malgré tout une certaine inspiration internationaliste et progressiste.
This rather soft-pedals Mélenchon's conviction that Putin's annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine are legitimate responses to "American imperialism," or his affection for the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes. Piketty retains the romanticism of a radical left international consisting of "Podemos, Syriza, Sanders ou Mélenchon." Above all he rejects the two candidates who, to his mind, appeal primarily to "the winners of globalization" with what he calls "interesting nuances": "Cathos vs. Bobos."

Ils prétendent incarner le cercle de la raison : quand la France aura regagné la confiance de l’Allemagne, de Bruxelles et des marchés, en libéralisant le marché du travail, en réduisant les dépenses et les déficits, en supprimant l’impôt sur la fortune et en augmentant la TVA, alors il sera bien temps de demander à nos partenaires de faire un geste sur l’austérité et la dette.
But then, having made his case, seemingly, for the radical left, he puts water in his wine:

Il est essentiel que cette primaire désigne un candidat qui s’engage dans une remise en cause profonde des règles européennes. ­Hamon et Montebourg semblent plus prêts de cette ligne-là que Valls ou Peillon, à condition toutefois qu’ils dépassent leurs postures sur le revenu universel et le « made in France », et qu’ils formulent enfin des propositions précises pour remplacer le traité budgétaire de 2012 (à peine évoqué lors du premier débat télévisé, peut-être parce qu’ils l’ont tous voté il y a cinq ans, mais c’est bien ce qui rend d’autant plus urgent de clarifier les choses en présentant une alternative détaillée). Tout n’est pas perdu, mais il y a urgence si on veut éviter de placer le FN en position de force.

In the end, like everyone else, Piketty recognizes that Mélenchon has no chance of winning, is disappointed with the Socialist field, and sees the realistic options as either the Catho, the Bobo, or the Facho.


mpz13 said...

Also sprach Piketty. And in the end, once all things duly considered, were are back to the original evidence. The PS primary is purely an internal affair : who shall be the new captain of the old tub taking on water.
Left of Fillon the only "useful vote" as the PS used to say in its brighter days, will be to choose either good old Melenchon or twinkly Macron.

brent said...

I would like to hear a spirited, sincere argument for how either the Bobo or the Catho (really the Thatcho) would build a more prosperous and resilient France over the next 5 years. It seems to me that they represent two different flavors of the neo-liberal status quo; both are at risk to usher in the Facho, either this year or 5 years from now, when la France profonde has reached the same level of despair as l'Amérique profonde--or the UK profond of Brexit.

That said, perhaps Piketty is not so much romantic as prescient to look for an actual alternative on the left, a post-capitalist restructuring of social relations. If the question is who wins the 2017 horse race, then Mélenchon is just an also-ran. If it's how France will ever find a path to solidarity and renewal, then maybe people should pay more attention to JLM's program, as Piketty does. Failure to imagine an alternative on the left WILL lead to a National Front government--it's only a question of how soon.

Tim said...

I definitely think there are parallels between Justin Trudeau in Canada and Macron. Now I am not saying Macron is destined to win but he should not be underestimated just as Trudeau was a little over a year ago. Remember Trudeau despite leading the historically powerful Liberal Party of Canada essentially was going from third to first place based on the Liberals very poor showing in 2011.

bernard said...

Supporting Melenchon who knows himself that his probablity of ever being elected president is 0.0% is heavy on principles and especially light on realism. It is also strictly equivalent in the present political configuration to supporting Fillon.

I am not disapointed by the paleo-Trostkyst, having never expected more from him, but I am disappointed by Piketty.

Anonymous said...

I think that if Valls is elected, it'll be without an enormous majority and Macron will get a lot of "left/ps" votes.
If Peillon makes a better showing than expected, I don't know where his votes will go.
Hamon has for himself the fact he's offering a "true left" project, which has no chance of becoming true, but which actually speaks of the future and shows understanding of what's going on elsewhere. If voters think of his platform the way they did Fillon's - ie;, they always only do half of what they promise, and that's always watered down, it could help. I was also struck by the fact he seemed the only one who's thinking of what AI/automation will do. The same week the US was discussing 47% jobs being taken by automation/AI, some French papers were timidly reporting on the issue and that 10% jobs were at stake (and while the subject's been heavily discussed in the US, I mean the general public is aware of the issue, it's being "discovered" this week here.)
An interesting change is that now all kids will learn what code is (scratch junior in primary school, minecraft and scratch in middle school, python in lycée) but "will" be taught by teachers who don't know a thing about this subject, except for math or "technology" teachers, some of whom USED to teach CS in lycées technologiques and whose jobs were summarily cut in the previous administration and sent to teach in middle schools.
Macron is another one who thinks a bit wider but his solutions are drastically different from Hamon's.
So, Hamon, Macron, Fillon would be a decent choice in terms of options.
(And the kicker: I'm not even a Hamon supporter and I will not vote for him on Sunday...)

Tim said...

On the subject of automation no one seems to realize that France has already gone down that road even further than the US has. Take the "automated" Paris metro lines i.e. 1 and 14. This is actually easy to pull off than driverless cars and is anyone who rides the Paris Metro can attest is already in place. If you go to any of the prominent mass transit blogs like Second Avenue Sagas or Cap'n Transit there are fairly detailed discussion about the lack of productive in US Mass Transit compared to French Mass Transit.

I will add though that the RATP has been quite non chalant about the implications of automation being no big deal.

D. Battabong said...

Not to put lipstick on Putin's pig, but the 'meddling in Ukraine' was all America's, right there on Russia's doorstep. It is beyond me how anyone, even an American, could not forsee Russia's reaction and the consequences. said...

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Anonymous said...

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor says a recent poll has Le Pen pulling ahead of Fillon:

--In which case, all the snuffling in Socialist ranks will be a side-show, whatever Piketty thinks.

This is not to denigrate the platform of more reasonable candidates, Catho or Bobo, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Good post.

bert said...

That's an interesting poll, Anonymous (you can sign your posts using the Name/URL field without feeding the Big Data beast, btw :) )

le Monde's piece with the numbers and their analysis:

It reinforces my view that Macron is the key unknown. The first test of his ability to turn out voters will be in the first round of the Big Show. If he finishes in the top two, he'll be a strong and newly proven anti-FN unity candidate in the runoff. Any less than that and it's all over for him for 2017. He'll be an interesting guy to watch following the sideshow of this weekend's vote. Expect a gesture or two to the left.

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