They also give an explanation for the rise of the National Front that goes beyond the usual imputation of stupidity or bigotry to its voters.
When France’s was a national economy, its median workers were well compensated and well protected from illness, age, and other vicissitudes. In a knowledge economy, these workers have largely been exiled from the places where the economy still functions. They have been replaced by immigrants.
Paris’s future seems visible in contemporary London. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of white Londoners fell by 600,000, even as the city grew by 1 million people: from 58 percent white British at the turn of the century, London is currently 45 percent white.
In Paris and other cities of Guilluy’s fortunate France, one often encounters an appearance of civility, even consensus, where once there was class conflict. But this is an illusion: one side has been driven from the field.
Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them. The immigrants with whom the creatives share the city are dazzlingly different, exotic, even frightening, but on the central question of our time—whether the global economic system is working or failing—they see eye to eye.
Three years after finishing their studies, three-quarters of French university graduates are living on their own; by contrast, three-quarters of their contemporaries without university degrees still live with their parents. And they’re dying early. In January 2016, the national statistical institute Insée announced that life expectancy had fallen for both sexes in France for the first time since World War II, and it’s the native French working class that is likely driving the decline. In fact, the French outsiders are looking a lot like the poor Americans Charles Murray described in Coming Apart, failing not just in income and longevity but also in family formation, mental health, and education. Their political alienation is striking. Fewer than 2 percent of legislators in France’s National Assembly today come from the working class, as opposed to 20 percent just after World War II.
The real divide is no longer between the “Right” and the “Left” but between the metropoles and the peripheries. The traditional parties thrive in the former. The National Front (FN) is the party of the outside.
Hollande government’s legalization of gay marriage, which in 2013 and 2014 brought millions of protesters opposing the measure onto the streets of Paris—the largest demonstrations in the country since World War II.
France’s antiracist Pleven law, which can punish speech, passed in 1972. In 1990, the Gayssot law criminalized denial or “minimization” of the Holocaust and repealed parts of France’s Law of July 29, 1881, on Freedom of the Press. Both laws are landmarks in Europe’s retreat from defending free speech. Suits against novelists, philosophers, and historians have proliferated.
Nobody wants to be thought a bigot if the membership board of the country club takes pride in its multiculturalism. But as the prospect of rising in the world is hampered or extinguished, the inducements to ideological conformism weaken. Dissent appears. Political correctness grows more draconian. Finally the ruling class reaches a dangerous stage, in which it begins to lose not only its legitimacy but also a sense of what its legitimacy rested on in the first place.
These are the extracts from the brilliant review-essay by Christopher Caldwell of the books by Christophe Guilluy written in French with the latest being Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut (roughly: “The Twilight of the French Elite”) – ht Niranjan Rajadhyaksha. The full essay – a MUST READ, in my view – is here.
Read Andrew Sullivan’s piece on what Macron means. He too refers to the Caldwell essay.