Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Negative Verdict on Macron

Chris Bickerton, as smart an observer of the French scene as one can find anywhere, judges the Macron presidency harshly in this NY Times piece. He argues his case well but in my view relies too heavily on the ephemeral "approval rating" and ignores what is unusual about the Macron presidency. Macron is a puzzling combination of symbolic toughness and strength with pragmatic timidity and caution. Chris reads him as a slash-and-burn neoliberal; I read him as a technocrat who has long chafed at the deficiencies of pure technocratic management, which he saw up close as an advisor and minister to Hollande, and who seeks to fill the void with a simulacrum of grandeur, be it regal, Gaullian, or philosophical.

Macron is an actor who has not yet found his marks. He has tried on, and is still trying out, for the role that best suits him. His uncertainty leaves the public puzzled. They don't quite know what to make of him--nor do I. Some of what they see they like. Some they don't. So they hesitate. This is the entire meaning of his plunging approval. It may come back. Or it may not, in which case Chris will seem prescient when in fact he is merely reading the past two presidencies, which were histories of steady decline, into the present one, which is (I think) quite different.

Of course it may turn out that I am the one misreading things. Mais on s'engage, puis on voit.


Geoffy4T said...

I have for a while suggested that a flaw, perhaps a fatal one, in Macronism is that it is a movement, not a traditional political party. Meaning that when the chips are down, there will be no one who knows how to stage a photo-op with faithful supporters or how to change the focus to a more friendly issue. Political parties are full of hacks, who are more than willing to embrace hypocrisy or mendacity for a quid pro quo. I doubt the En Marche neophytes want, or even know how, to assume such roles.

bert said...

During the campaign there were plenty of people repeating the line that Macron was somehow anti-système. My line in comments here, for what it's worth, was that his programme reflected a very familiar elite-level consensus. I think the degree to which it's neoliberal is often overstated. There are large elements of national self-interest statism, the general-purpose gaullism around which successive consensuses have been congealing since 1958.

But that's not the main problem with this article, the content of which is largely unobjectionable. The main problem is that Bickerton is a pro-Brexit leftwinger, which means he's going up against my wish to feed him slowly into farm machinery, and losing.