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Review of TIME Magazine paper ‘The French Exodus’ April 15, 2007

Posted by The Writers in Media.

In a paper Peter Gumbel of the Time Magazine (5 April 2007) entitled ‘The French Exodus’, the journalist recalls the obvious, i.e. the lack of opportunities for the young French generation to start businesses, to get even managerial positions when you are under 40 and even, and that’s the scary part, getting a job!

Peter Gumbel succeeds to get an journalistic edge to his paper on a topic any French’s person born in the 1970s onward know too well. He jointly starts his paper by allowing a comparison between a second generation north african immigrant experience and a do-well Frenchman from one of the best school in Paris, leading to the noticing that, at the end of the day, being young in France is certainly an handicap, if not an insult.

There is a series of interesting remarks done by diverse expatried French people which just confirm the general attitudes people who want to have a career feel within the French context. I want to add several remarks prompted by the reading of this paper.
1- The journalist is right about noticing that part of this story is unfullfilled opportunities in France are also the lot of many other countries (which I guess is the history of immigration which partly creates what US is a nation is today). In other words, it is not new, but it seems to be new to the French nation and especially applying to what could have been the Elite of the country, i.e. a part of its well educated citizen.
2- The paper is interesting for what it tells and what it leaves out as well. Since second generation ‘magrebins’ as well as ‘well-to-do French citizen’ have difficulties to innovate and get at the point of starting to exploit their potential, what does it tell to the largest part of the population that live under those archaic rules of its ruling elite?
3- I have been prompted to this article by another French compatriote of mine, who told me in substance that he found himself in accordance to the line of this paper, i.e. the rejection of the youth in France when it comes to do anything. It brings me to the fact that an outright rejection of the Elite is certainly the most stupid thing to do since the question is not about having Elite but the shape that this French Elite takes.
4- It seems to me, since this young man expressing his angst about the approach of the youth within France, that the issue has never been presented within the political frame of an opposition between right and left as conceived by French political organisations. It touches the organisation of society itself and the possibilities of social change within the structures and organisation of the country. It is, in itself, a far more deep issue, since it touches what one is able to do, rather than the ideological issues of what one is thinking about the organisation of French society.

The challenge that France is facing is bigger than the Elite are prepared to handle. This shows in the immigration path taken by the young generation. Politicians had not understood that, beside the claim of democratic representativity, there is the issue of the relationship between the legal (the use of ‘decret’) and the nitty gritty local administration and management of those same ideals and organisational rules.

Ségolène Royale, for example, in a typical socialist way, does not understand this and believe that proposing, ‘a mot couvert’ a VIth Republic would be the solution. The legalistic approach is exactly the problem of French society. The possible change of constitution is not the solution since it is what politician and political scientists perceive through their frame of analysis. I would say, the problem is placed at the level of what lawyers would call ‘jurisprudence’, i.e. where, how best and with which people one is able to apply policies with the people concerned rather than on their behalf.

The issue touches deeply into the relationship between the decisionary power in Paris and the peripheral power that is taking up the issues and translate it at the local level. The best work on that issue is certainly Pierre Gremion analysis, in his 1976 book ‘Le Pouvoir Périphérique’. I suggests the reader to get into this analysis, if you are remotely interested in France. For the rest, journalistic accounts brings us reminder of the state of the situation, but no yet the analysis any well-informed citizen would welcome.


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