Review of Swedish Dagens Nyheter special report section on France (15 April 2007) April 15, 2007Posted by The Writers in Media.
The Swedish Newspaper ‘Dagens Nyheter’ is overviewing some of current French trouble in view of accounting for the coming Election 2007.
The section is part of the sunday paper opening with a large picture of Ségolène Royale holding ‘un sourire radiant’.
I must say I particularly appreciate the Swedish way of covering the news since it always adopts the point of view of the man-of-the-street. Of course, it has the same flows visible in other journalistic accounts. In international matter, it basically repeats what one can read in a French newspaper. Obviously, part of their work is to translate French news for Swedish readership. And in this exercise, correspondents show very little creativity.
From a French point of view, the most interesting part is the clear perception Swedish journalist shows about French weaknesses. It demonstrates how much some of the shortcomings are visible to an outsider observer. Since, as Frenchmen, one can be brainwashed by the different ideological constituencies making up the political landscape, the Swedish point of view is refreshing since it starts from what one can commonly observe.
The Swedish poet and author Bodil Malmsten, who decided to live somewhere else than Sweden, established herself in ‘Bretagne’. She gives a personal reflection about the difference between the French and Swedish politicians. She notices that all three of the French contenders for the presidency (Bayrou, Sakho, and Ségo) have an urban character but also conspicuously lack humour. To the credit of French politicians, she notice they are much better trained in discourse, since the French culture offers training in rethorics.
Another article is dealing with Fredrika Stahl who, one learns, is a Jazz singer starting a band in Paris which is mainly composed of producer Jean-Fabien Ekodo (Cameroun), the pianist Hiro Morozumi (Japan), the drummer Simone Prattico (Italia) and the guitarist Öyvind Nypan (Norway). They seems to make the best of their set up and we wish them good work and success.
On the more bitter note, there is a report on the homeless in Paris and Augustin Legrand, who managed to take up the problem at a national level through the media, turned it into a campaign for social justice. Apart from the obvious moral matter concerning social problem, which anybody will agree should be resolved, one find the analysis of sociologist Raymond Boudon which offers another interpretation of the phenomenon. I found his final remarks interesting. He makes the point that, the raise of public figure such as Augustin Legrand is not the mark of a good functioning democracy as the media likes to portray it. On the contrary, it is the mark of a disfunctional one. Since the mass-media builds-up a pressure creating a crisis which, in turn, sways public opinion. Boudon says that French risk to get a political system governed by crises created by associations and media create an urgency in the selected social problems which is artificial. In his words, it is completely without democratic legitimacy which, I guess, it means that those problems have not been identified as as legitimate issues the relevant administration should take up. The reporter suggests to Boudon that decisions are always made politically anyhow. Boudon specifies what he means about the lack of democratic legitimacy: ‘yes [decisions are political]. but under the worst possible conditions, in the midst of crisis and under strong pressure from the media and public opinion. That means that you have not had time to reflect sufficiently about alternatives.’
Augustin Legrand has achieved a media momentum. France is full of those actors in public life who have a taste of the public opinions by working out issues in full support of the media (see the emergence of José Bové as the leader of the movement anti-globalisation). The inflaction of rethorics discredite most of people who wants to be considered seriously. Not in France, since it may bring you very far. And it is very far those rethoricians have set up to go. Augustin Legrand is setting up to carry on action in Darfour, extending the topic of social crisis and surfing the waves he has co-created with the media since they are part of the making of social problems on the public scene.
Another paper is about Ségo and her presidency. The journalist Ingrid Hedström’s point of view is rather superficial since spreading further the zeitgeist of our time, i.e. the feminist line of interpretation which seems to say that Ségo is in the line of great woman who have achieved change through out French history. Of course, she is against competitors who have different characters. But at the end of the day, we are in the realm of interpretation I dislike personally the most, i.e. ‘people’s personal features as proper analysis of French politics’. The basically wrong assumption is that one should know the supposed character of the politicians in order to be able to identificate which person one may be voting for. First, any politician is representative of the party they are working for. The only thing that may be personal is the ability of the person itself to be driven by issues it has experienced itself across its own experience.
I take the opportunity of this paper to get some of my own analysis of Ségo phenomenon out in public. And it reads like this:
The Ségo phenomenon is interesting since it is for me, the last trick (or should I say myth) French socialists have been able to deliver to the French population. Let us remember French socialists have failed to embrace the market and its implication for their own analysis of France and the transformation it is facing. In avoiding what Spain, Italy, Germany, UK and many other socialists parties have achieved, they have consequently been unable to design socialists policies that would propose interesting solution and eventual counter-balanced mechanisms to limit some of the effect of the market economy (as one should expect in a responsible democracy). As usual, they believe that capitalism is an ideology and as such, they propose an alternative ideology. The 35 hours week is one of those small-scale ideological techniques which is one of the most pityfull policy of a modern democracy. I suggest French socialists to think over that one: and if capitalism was not an ideology? But one of the basic form of social exchange between people, i.e. economic exchanges?
Where is Ségo in this framework? What is the relevance of the question I just put up that seems so basic to any modern economy and the presidency of Ségo? It seems I am laboring a field that is rather at the stage of harvesting. In fact, my analysis is that Ségo is putting another socialist mask, the feminist one, over the very issues that makes life hard for so many French citizen: a complete misunderstanding of economics and a dirigist view of how people get their revenues. As a result of this French culture of dirigism, people have a little understanding of economics and the part they (can) play in it. It all comes down to a re-inforcement of the view of administrative regulation, an State based over-head rendering the simple mechanisms of budget balance, a matter of social wealthfare reform. Good common sense understanding is always suspicious since in the administrative view of the economy, one is dealing with redistribution which, in the political area, translates into ‘the identification of the political clientele that will benefit from their good will’.
If you want to be serious about France problems, then it starts by mastering the public finances, since 1990s have seen the acceleration of the rationalisation of business and state administration in order to cope with the demand of globalisation. If you are French speaking, you may be interested in reading Francois Ecalle (2005) Maîtriser les finances publiques! Comment, Pourquoi?, Economica which is a level above than knowing if a woman is fit for French presidency. Since French statemen will strongly engage in this endeavour, one may be able to act on public policies and have economic margin to provide its own people will well targeted objectives supporting finally anybody to engage in the competitive race of science and technology, business, services and the management of its resources in the best possible way.
With Ségo, we are not there yet. Instead, we are wandering about her own personal path to the position in her private life and in the party, as through the French political landscape. One thing that I have to make clear to the foreign reader that read us, is the following. If you read me, you may superficially think that I am conservative since globalisation, the standardisation of our way of life (food) and the situation of woman in politics is rather one of the burning issue of the day. I do not deny this. What the reader may be aware about France, is the urgency to which those topic apply to this country. All other modern democracies have experienced different degrees of the issues I have mentioned before. They are in the position of searching for solutions to adapt their country to those matters, domain by domains. They are affected by those issues because they are open societies. They are not protected against change, since they are part of it. In France, the system is working to protect or reject any of those changes before they get applied in the first place. Contrary to the other nation, French population has been deprived of its benefit (as well as its problem). For example, when other democracy are working to act upon some pernicious effect of globalisation, French population has not started to feel neither the benefit or the default of it. For example, the economic rationalisation of the state has been achieved in the 1990 in Sweden. The LOLF (Villepin policy that goes in this direction) is starting to bring its effect (only 17 years later!) on the rationalisation of the economy of French administrative systems. Another case, the economic deregulation in transportation has a huge effect on the democratisation of transportation to popular masses. France main actors in this field, have searched to protect themselves with the usual tricks and alliances. In other countries dynamically related to the realities of our epoche, this is a closed topic.
Again, French socialists are backward in that they are the first victim of their own rethorics. They think they are forward looking and blind themselves with artifices, which portray them as progressist and foward looking. They simply (try to) built upon ruins of the XIX century social thinking. Socialists are still in the reactive mode of thinking, whereby XIX economy and industrialism has created great wealth as well as great human misery. By tradition (and now on paper only) they are on the side of great misery but all the modern version of it have escaped them (immigration, the pauperisation of the French population, the lack of small and medium business to take up the globalisation of markets and exchange [where by the way the experience of immigration is useful]).
France has, in its political structures, from the left to the right political spectrum, a built-in social consciousness. It is perhaps one of the honorable goal the French state has assigned to itself. And it deserved to be protected and finely tuned to the realities of today’s inequalities. Nevertheless, the socialists, with the political apparel view of political realities, are soaked into the top-down view of ‘policies applications’.
In other words, the reform in France has to do with the success that the prostestant ethic of work has achieved from the first religious reformation in Europe to the raise of modern capitalism and today competitive and technological society. The basic idea is that multiple communities are less controlable but also may be open to all sorts of influences and may offer a diversity of solutions and possibilities that no selected community from any top-down policy can achieve successfully (since always in a narrow spread of solutions). In France, politicians have to understand that they have to struggle with their own catholic based culture of monolitism, in the institutions, their outlook, their education and their application of subsequent policies and rules. The socialists, since they pride themselves assuming the break from religious matters, have long been blinded by their real power to extract themselves from the catholic outlook. I suggest they haven’t, as it shows in the constitution of ministries such as the French National Education which is a very peculiar kind of administration, with a very peculiar kind of outlook on education itself, which borrow more on Napolean view of training in a kind of republican ideology rather than real (liberal) education.
This is too tuff for the French socialist to digest. It is better to wander about if Ségo is a woman French trust. And if, by the very fact, she is a woman, she could bring with her a vision, (a female vision) that would finally break down some of the limitation that France is crippled with. French socialists have, by their training in ideology, always applied the rules of public treachery, by virtue of which, French radicals are running after the last fashion in politics in order to claim they are running it in the first place. Feminism is the radicalism of the day and Ségo is the incarnation of this superficial view of radicalism. In the above comment, I have indicated the kind of radicalism French people are looking forward to, basically real change, not change of image (In 2002 last election, when 17% of the French population vote for Jean-Marie LePen, it may show you that they are not joking about the radicality of change some electors may be expecting).
Dagens Nyheter is putting another paper about Fashion in Paris and the fashion business. They present Lars Nilsson who is a creator working for the Fashion industry indicating that, even has a raising star of the industry, he would never consider starting his business in Paris. At the reading of the paper, we understand that, since the Fashion industry is an industry, the rules are global (hé oui!). In this view, Paris or not, the rules of the business ends up beloging to the dynamism for creating enterprises and the possibilities to do so in the best possible ways. Again, France is showing the strength of its medieval like business structure whereby one can make clothes for cheap and of quality thanks to a network of shops (called ‘le sentier’ in Paris) but that is not enough since, distribution, capital flow, delocalising of the workforce as well as the market of clothing is both getting spread among more gentil customers (moving toward pret-a-porter rather than Haute couture) which are not European based anymore (asia and india are the growing economies).
For the party-goers, this paper is reminding that the Fashion shows and its related parties are in London and New York showing that Paris glory on that matter is gone (at least for now).
The paper is also reviewing a series of restaurant in Paris worth the visit. But I will be French and will keep it hermetically secret from you, dear readers, allowing me, myself and I only, to enjoy its culinaries beauties. Since, we are in the DN sunday section, the newpaper reviews mayonaise sauce, rustic french food, chocolate and wine.
Just a remark, since I have been making remarks on the structure of French economy, notice that those businesses are stable business based on the very conservative economic model of rarity of resources in order to limit concurrence. This model explains the systematic way in which a well-known part of French capitalism placed itself in the high luxury products business. The evolution of the product is never really based on the pace of technological integration and rythm that industrial products are based upon. In the same way, this capitalism is based on a conservative view of business economy through the very materials they are working with.
The final paper is about French woman obsession with being slim. I consider the anorexic view of woman body an issue of control that goes beyond the appearence. This is one aspects of social mal-adjustment of some women with their own society. It is possible that French’s woman may have a problem with their own place within it and the role they are able to play. I don’t know if Ségo will be able to remedy to this matter, even if, on the face of it, she claims she is the one to tackle that part of the problem. Beside Ségo institutional feminism, this is the demonstration, that women place in the French society is not so well affirmed. But some women have obviously embraces the rules of the game where they have no function at the point to apply it to themselves drastically. This is part of the psychologisation of the French social structure, and the personalisation of public matters. Beside the fact, that being a good sociologists, rather than paying for a shrink may be the solution, I suggest that personal well being is not only the result of disfunction of the society to absorb part of its population as real actors of its functioning. Personal well being reflects how they are actors of this disfunction themselves since they have decided to live those contradictions in themselves. I guess, if you are young and female in France, you may experience double ostracism attached to being young: (1) to get into some serious professional activities in order to develop and flourish and being a woman: (2) to be easily subjected to the machismo of some frustrated poor sods that act as their bosses.
The only hope may be to be a grand-mother in France. That a perspective to look forward to! This is the last DN paper dealing with an institution called ‘L’école des grands-parents Européens’. It is about our good old grannies who share their views about their grand kids and the conflict of generation. It is a forum for them to also voice some disagreement with their sense of being taking advantage of, when parents disengaged freely from their kids by counting on their grand parents to implicitly fill in the job description.
Well, again, here, we are dealing with the change of social structure, whereby the expectation of the definition of the catholic familly is desintegrating. Grand parents themselves have started to experience other horizons for themselves, which in turn are changing the very expectation of what a familly is about.
I don’t want to comment further on that topic, but, to people interested in that matter, I suggest them to investigate the difference between the French’s construction of the familly relying on very traditional mode of action to every stage of life in constrast to, for example, Swedish household where grands-parents are not, since a while now (more than 30 years) expected necessarily to support their grand-children when their parents are away. It is assumed in Sweden that grands-parents may have an adult life of their own. It implies parents full responsability for the organisation of their own life and the life of their children and perhaps, the organisation, by the state agencies, of structure to deal with different stages of life (dagis, but also policies for teenagers whereby each cities have a cultural budget to support the creation of music (rock) bands).