Revue de Presse: Sept. 1

Tocqueville 21
1 September 2019

Boris Johnson’s decision to “prorogue” parliament has set off a fresh wave of Brexit controversy. In the TLS, Philip Salmon explains some notable historical examples of past prorogations. Salmon notes that even in the “pre-democratic” era, prorogation controversies often invited thorny debates over the people’s will: Is putting a “pause” on parliamentary activity legitimate if it’s sanctioned by a majority, or can minority governments also lay claim to the royal prerogative?

 

Those who find the unwritten British constitution confusing are not alone. The legal scholar Alison Young appears on Talking Politics as part of the podcast’s summer guides series to discuss the constitution’s role in questions of devolution, parliamentary sovereignty, and Brexit.

 

Le Monde published this week a devastating look back on François Hollande’s legacy by two journalists who had already done much to tarnish it in the first place. Gérard Davet et Fabrice Lhomme were the former president’s interlocutors in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça, a tell-all book that was supposed to humanize Hollande in preparation for his re-election run, but only ended up making him look foolish enough that he decided not to run at all. Now, Davet and Lhomme are back, soliciting damning remarks by former allies and advisers—including Manuel Valls, Benoît Hamon, and François Rebsamen—on Hollande’s failures to construct a coherent politics.

 

What ever happened to the crusading political novel? Do books with an explicit political agenda undermine good fiction? Writing in the Guardian, Dorian Lynskey takes stock of the recent literary scene: Could George Orwell’s 1984 succeed today? Lynskey wonders if French readers are more drawn to political fiction than the Brits and whether novels can make a difference when fewer pundits are reading contemporary fiction.

 

Those inspired by John Locke’s liberalism have always had to grapple with the thorny fact that Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration” explicitly excludes Catholics and atheists. But the historians J.C. Walmsley and Felix Waldmann recently unearthed a new Locke manuscript—titled “Reasons for Tolerateing Papists Equally with Others”—at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. Walmsley and Waldmann have just published their findings in the Historical Journal, and Jason Willick of the Wall Street Journal summarizes their discovery.

 

Do populists and socialists share any common political ground? They could, and should, argues Tocqueville 21 contributor Anton Jäger in Jacobin. Revisiting early twentieth century figures like Eugene Debs and Robert La Follette, Jäger stresses historical alliances between populism and socialism, even as he acknowledges major disagreements over property rights and the role of monopoly capitalism.

 

While the U.S. faces its own border and citizenship crises—at least according to some—Modi’s India seems to be barreling toward an even more dire state of affairs. Richard Assheton and Hugh Tomlinson delve deeper into the denaturalization campaign targeting Muslims in Assam in an extensive investigation for The Times.

 

Where do we draw the line between critique of a religion and critique of a people? In this brief opinion piece for Libération, Saïd Benmouffok discusses the contested definition of “islamophobia.” For Benmouffok, the opposition to an ideology is not inseparable from irrational fear. This perennial debate on the French left—often drawing a division between proponents of laïcité and diversité or identité—was prompted most recently by remarks by the philosopher Henri Peña-Ruiz that “we have the right to be Islamophobic” at La France insoumise’s summer conference.

 

Photo credit: Democracy International via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

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