Revue de Presse: July 6
Welcome to Tocqueville 21’s weekly revue de presse, where we re-cap 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.
Libération‘s EU correspondent Jean Quatremer examines the ongoing frustrations of the efforts to choose a new president of the European Commission. In his take, Merkel’s choice to throw her weight behind the Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans was a strategic sacrifice of the interests of the right-wing PPE bloc in order to save the Spitzenkandidat system. This is a compromise Quatremer believes Macron is more than willing to accept, especially now with a Frenchwoman at the head of the European Central Bank.
In an LRB essay entitled “Diary,” taken from his upcoming collection Serious Noticing: Selected Essays 1999-2019, James Wood contemplates the Etonian philosophy of “effortless superiority” and its effects on Brexit-era Parliament. As an attempt to explain the mentality surrounding Brexit, Wood weaves a vision of the large cadre of ex-Etonians in modern British government—including, among others, James Cameron, Boris Johnson, and Jacob Rees-Mogg—steeped in a culture of privileged heritage and rosy-lensed historical thinking.
François Ruffin makes an appearance alongside the political scientist Dominique Reynié and the historian Danielle Tartakowsky for a discussion on France Culture entitled La rue comme lieu de substitution au politique. Ruffin makes the case for taking the focus off of Paris when speaking about popular movements like the gilets jaunes, and explains his role as a “spiritual” leader (don’t forget that Ruffin attended the same prestigious Jesuit lycée in Amiens as Emmanuel Macron!).
As a quintessential medium for American mythmaking, the movies shape our political awareness of ourselves and others more than we often recognize. This article for the New York Review of Books examines the way in which Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood legacy informed not only his outlook as a world leader but also his reputation in the collective consciousness of an image-obsessed culture.
National darlings may come and go, but the newest symbol of French cultural pride comes as a surprise: a rooster named Maurice from Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron. In this New York Times article, a legal battle between vacationers and local farmers has brought France’s ongoing tug-of-war between its tourism industry and its national heritage to the fore.
In a response to Raymond Geuss’s recent retrospective on the career and thought of Jürgen Habermas, Martin Jay defends the Habermasian concept of communication in democracy. By reconsidering the idea of totally free communication as an ideal to aspire to, rather than a description of the current state of affairs, Jay presents an understanding of Habermas’s political philosophy which overcomes the difficulties Geuss identifies.
Lida Maxwell’s LARB review of Astra Taylor’s book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, highlights the author’s proposed mode for integrating democratic philosophical into everyday life (what the reviewer terms “reading while walking”). Taylor argues that decentralizing education away from “elite” spheres is the first and most important step in making sure that a democracy functions as a democracy. You can read Laetitia Citroën’s review of Astra Taylor’s documentary What is Democracy? here.
In an interview with Mediapart‘s Fabien Escalona, Christophe Jaffelot explains the turn towards la démocratie ethnique in Modi’s India. As it turns out, Modi’s transformation of Indian democracy owes as much to “American-style” campaign finance as it does to anti-Muslim Hindu nationalism.