La rentrée (la mienne aussi)
My apologies for the long hiatus in this blog. I’ve been translating Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capitalism and Ideology, which will be out in France on Sept. 12 and in English next spring. The manuscript was nearly a thousand pages, so I’ve been busy. But it’s done. Time to get back to French politics.
It was less than nine months ago that pundits were speculating about Macron’s mental health. The Gilets Jaunes had supposedly done in the previously invincible Wunderkind, who was said to be “exhausted” and “depressed.” But a new Macron was already in gestation, and he has adroitly stage-managed his rentrée. First, there was the triumphant G7, in which the young lion-tamer once again bravely confronted the yellow-maned self-anointed King of the Jungle. The beast was slathered with shameless flagornerie and apparently found it tasty. The opening to Iran was a coup de maître, even if it comes to nothing.
And lest anyone think that the president was merely using foreign policy summitry, as presidents so often do, as a mere fuite en avant, a way of avoiding the usual domestic chaos while still occupying (literally) center stage at Biarritz, perched on a platform picturesquely set against the blue Atlantic backdrop, Macron announced that he was contemplating a new formula for retirement reform, which would take into account quarters worked rather than set a fixed retirement age for everyone. No matter that he hadn’t (apparently) discussed this with the people supposedly in charge of drafting the details. It’s back to the drawing board for the peons. Jupiter (possibly in consultation with the all-important CFDT, without whose support any reform is doomed) has loosed a lightning bolt, and it’s a whole new ballgame.
The atmosphere is a bit reminiscent of the heady early days of Macron’s reign, when it seemed he could do no wrong. And just to put the icing on the cake, he expressly brought back those early days by announcing that Sylvie Goulard would be France’s choice for an EU commissioner slot, replacing Pierre Moscovici. Médiapart is already huffing that the suspicions of using fake parliamentary assistants that caused Goulard to resign as defense minister after only a month on the job should have ruled out this nomination. But that was then, when the new government’s ritual promises of being “exemplary” and never falling into the scandalous behavior that stained old governments were still being taken at face value; this is now, post-Benalla, post-Ferrand, post-Alexis Kohler, etc. etc. Exemplarity ain’t what it used to be, and the simple fact is that Goulard is eminently qualified for an EC post.
So we shall see. Retirement reform is still a highly fraught dossier, and the CGT isn’t having any of Macron’s new proposal, any more than it was having any of the old (“Does he take us for imbeciles?” Philippe Martinez asked, presumably rhetorically, yesterday). But how many divisions has Martinez? Mélenchon is out of the picture, the PS and LR are shadows of their former selves, and between Le Pen and Macron it’s back to à nous deux. From where Macron was last December to where he is today has been quite a journey. So even the news that super-mathematician Cédric Villani will buck the system to take on LREM’s designated but widely-disliked official candidate Benjamin Griveaux in the Paris mayoral election is but a small cloud hovering about the Olympian heights. Jupiter is back. The French may hate his arrogance, but as connoisseurs of monarchical style, they doff their hats before the energumen who even in shirtsleeves threw plenty of shade on the other six at the G7.
Photo Credit: The White House, President Donald J. Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France, via Flickr, Public Domain.
Joli morceau d’écriture! Merci!
A fine piece indeed. As a matter of fact, I usually suspect political analyses focused on individuals to fall into romanticism, into possibly over-estimating the individual factor in the course of events. BUT, yesterday night, when I came back from the mountains and listened to French news (in French media), I found that an absolute majority of the content was made of hypothetic speculations about one man who killed another man in Villeurbanne. All of these hypotheses coming with unsaid but obvious consequences re the course of national if not world events. Well, if we have to focus on an individual, it is clearly sounder to focus on an individual with more power than the Villeurbanne murderer. Even romanticism, either made of mountain views or ocean ones, makes more sense then. And anyway we should not fall into over-estimating economic factors or ideological ones. Take some rest after the 1000 pages!
Great column though you are too hard on S Goulard who has been exonarated by the European Parliament.
Goulard avait dû démissionner de son poste de ministre des Armées, le 21 juin 2017, à peine un mois après y avoir été nommée, en raison de son implication dans le scandale des assistants parlementaires européens présumés fictifs du Modem. Or cette affaire n’est toujours pas jugée, ce qui donne la désagréable impression que ce qui empêche d’être ministre à Paris ne serait pas un obstacle pour occuper une fonction européenne. http://bruxelles.blogs.liberation.fr/2019/09/02/sylvie-goulard-un-choix-risque-et-contestable/?fbclid=IwAR33jW3yVDK66Se02SyZJueV6MbG-EhCfjISX8QsEHdO5x8U-gq8e9HWcGM
Interested in what the book will be. Any spoilers?
An excerpt has appeared in Le Monde today. No spoilers from me. I will keep my criticisms to myself. Everyone should read the book and decide.
Welcome back–we’ve missed you! And congratulations on finishing the translation of Piketty’s new tome.