Sunday, May 06, 2007

French Elections: A Preamble

Be it Sarkozy or Segolene, France will have to steer away from the past, the present past and the more remote past.

The present past saw a clear decline in social and economic terms. Social conflicts in France is under the eyes of everyone, although people started acknowledging it only recently. I still remember 1998, when France won the World Cup. Many French friends of mine used that as an example of perfect integration of immigrants a la francaise. I thought back then, and I still think, that the french republican model of integration dramatically failed, despite its good will. A republican model means for French mainstream ideology a value monist system of values based on French Constitutional history since 1789. Multiculturalism, and value pluralism, have always been rejected as impracticable and 'anti-french.' In other words, living in France required people to become French; no alternative was/is possible. This situation needs to be radically reformed.

The more remote past concerns the institutions that moulded the French Nation in the past two centuries. Elite institutions as the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Normale and all the bodies of the state that go with them are in need of a deep reform as well. Those institutions had an extraordinary success during the age of nations, more or less up to WW2 and few decades after that. Globalisation, however, showed the intrinsic limits of institutions that work within a rigid (french) republican mould. The inability to compete with other institutions in the world is becoming staggering and the only option left is the overhaul of the whole system.

It is unclear whether Segolene or Sarkozy will manage to push forward these massive changes. There is no easy recepee to bring France out of the present stagnation. Perhaps something can be learned from Tony Blair's bitter sweet (more bitter than sweet) rule. He acknowledges nowadays that the greatest battle was the one for the change of attitudes of people ( a cultural change in relation to the way of doing politics in a completely different international landscape). French people are at the moment skeptical, afraid of globalisation, incapable of competing on a wider scale than the national one, and tired of the old Chiral like type of politics. May the next President achieve the difficult mission of change!

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