Revue de Presse: May 30

30 May 2021

For the first time in its history, the European Union will arm foreign governments in the name of fighting terrorism, protecting civilians, and stabilizing fragile states, using a €5 billion “European Peace Facility.” Michael Peel discusses this newest development in the EU’s effort to extend its “hard power” in the Financial Times. Critics fear the money will entrench dictatorships and stoke conflict, undermining the EU’s commitment to democracy and human rights.


Macron’s government is partly to blame for the rising success of the far right in France, writes Harrison Stetler for The New Republic. Macron wants to differentiate himself from Le Pen and the recent fascist and undemocratic “Tribune” published by high-ranking generals in Valeurs Actuelles. But at the same time, probably in an attempt to distract attention from real problems like precarity and the pandemic, the Macron government has adopted right-wing discourse to stake out a favorable position in a new culture war. Stetler argues Macron’s appeal to a republican front united against the far right is rapidly crumbling.


What is laïcité? Each time there is a terrorist attack in France, or French politicians stake out claims over the country’s secular identity, this question must be asked again—not only in the Anglophone press, but also within France itself, where even the political class often misunderstands its own traditions. This is the reason that historian and legal scholar Patrick Weil has written De la laïcité en France, which he discussed in a recent interview with Alternatives économiques (and on which Art Goldhammer also commented in his latest post for this blog). Weil’s book aims to educate the French public on what the law—specifically the 1905 law on the separation of church and state—actually says and means, not what politicians and media personalities want it to mean. For Weil, the 1905 law as written remains sufficient both to protect the public against religious extremism, and to protect the individual’s right to practice or refuse religion.


In the Boston Review, Claire Vergerio takes the concept and historical formation of the nation-state itself to task, arguing that tracing the emergence of the nation-state and its ostensible decline within post-Cold War neoliberalism flattens the messy story of how the twentieth century international order came to be. Indeed, the Westphalian order typically associated with the European political system that dominated after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia was one ripe with distinct and often competing governmental and non-state actors, with private mercantilist companies providing a compelling parallel to the contemporary influence of multinationals like Amazon and Google. Taking this alternative view is crucial to rethinking how we think about non-state actors in the present, Vergerio argues.


This month marked the two hundredth anniversary of Napoléon Bonaparte’s death, prompting new reflections in France over the emperor’s historical legacy. For the Haitian writer and poet Jean d’Amérique, however, Napoléon’s legacy is clear. “Hatians have already resolved the questions that are causing controversy in France right now,” d’Amérique explains in an interview with AOC, “because they overthrew the system” of slavery reestablished by Napoléon in 1802. France might benefit more from reconsidering the history of slavery and the Haitian Revolution, a history which for d’Amérique remain crucial for understanding the present in both countries, and which he places at the center of his writing.


Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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