Revue de Presse: July 20

20 July 2019

Welcome to Tocqueville 21’s weekly revue de presse, where we recap some of the most thought-provoking articles we’ve seen on democracy and politics in France, the US, and beyond. As always, the articles we relay here do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and interns that put this list together, just what we think is worth reading.


Three months after the astonishing Notre Dame fire, the New York Times published a comprehensive and interactive report on what went wrong at the cathedral. Maps and videos give an up-to-the-minute account of the the blaze and the response by firefighters, church officials, and everyday Parisians.


In a historically-focused and policy-oriented article for the London Review of Books, Adam Tooze details how Germany’s political parties have come to occupy their current status. Connecting Germany to the larger European story, Tooze chronicles the rise of the AfD, the slow demise of the SPD, and the CDU’s battle to retain power.


François de Rugy, who Emmanuel Macron named as his environment minister after the long-awaited departure of Nicolas Hulot last fall, announced his resignation last Tuesday, following a series of investigative reports by Médiapart that exposed his lavish abuses of taxpayer money as president of the Assemblée nationale. Though de Rugy stepped down voluntarily, he blames Médiapart for initiating a smear campaign against him and has filed a defamation suit against the investigative news site.


In The New York Review of Books, the acclaimed novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson defends a version of American liberalism that derives from the Puritans. Robinson’s discussion of Reverend John Winthrop and early New England culture is part historical reflection and part jeremiad. She insists that early US history was more radical and egalitarian than those who caricature the Puritans might assume.


Interviewed at this family farm in Port Royal Kentucky, the American novelist and poet Wendell Berry reflects on rural America and genuine sustainability in the New Yorker. Over the course of the conversation, Berry distinguishes between being “parochial” and “provincial,” questions both liberal and conservative conceptions of “freedom,” and meditates on the art of setting limits.


Pro Publica, in a joint effort with the New Yorker, brings us another story about relationship to the land in the rural South. The piece highlights the struggles of African American property ownership and inheritance, as seen through the struggle of the Davis-Reels family in Carteret County, North Carolina.


In openDemocracy, Lars Cornelissen argues that the global surge in far-right populist movements is not so much a reaction against neoliberalism as it is an offshoot of neoliberal policies. In particular, he traces populist campaigns’ relationships with free-market think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs.


In light of Tocqueville’s description of lawyers as America’s quasi-aristocrats, it is interesting to see Anthony T. Kronman, former dean of Yale Law School, calling for an “aristocratic ethos” in higher education. In his interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Kronman argues that have lost sight of the ideals and responsibilities of an elite education—and that educators talk about free speech, merit, and diversity in a misleading way.


Months after Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to abolish the Ecole nationale d’administration (ENA), Camille Stromboni asks in Le Monde whether the stipends given to students at the elite grandes écoles ought to be abolished as well. Given that a large percentage of students at ENA (training state administrators), the Ecole normale supérieure (training state researchers), and Polytechnique (training state engineers) come from relatively privileged backgrounds, and that many choose not to devote their careers to public service—their opting for lucrative private careers is known as pantouflage, which translates roughly to “putting on comfortable slippers”—Stromboni wonders whether a scholarship-based system might not make more sense.


Photo Credit: Peter Lawrence, via Unsplash.
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