Home > Politics (general) > Paris in the Spring (crossposted from Crooked Timber)

Paris in the Spring (crossposted from Crooked Timber)

May 28th, 2013

Sunday was Mother’s Day in Paris, and also the occasion of a big demonstration against equal marriage, titled “Manif Pour Tous”, presumably with the unspoken reservation “sauf homos”. I ran into a bit of the crowd, coming back from this event [^1], and they were certainly loud and boisterous. The idea that this was a rightwing version of a “Paris Spring” occurred to me, and also to this commentator in Le Monde.

I’ve seen it suggested that resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages – everyone has to go through the same civil ceremony. I’d be interested in other thoughts on that.

Overall, the real appeal of the right still seems to me to lie in anti-immigrant rhetoric and, within Europe, on attempts to blame the people of one country or another for a crisis of the entire global system of financial capitalism. The backlash against equal marriage seems to me to be the last gasp of the cultural right, rather than the basis for a sustained upsurge. But then, what I know about social developments in France would fit comfortably on a restaurant menu, so I’d be interested in what others have to say on this..

[^1]: I’m actually in town for this conference, where I’ll be talking about bounded rationality and financial crises. Essentially a preliminary attempt to describe the “Black Swan” problem in terms of formal decision theory, with the hope that this will lead to a more developed theory of financial bubbles and busts.

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  1. conrad
    May 28th, 2013 at 18:47 | #1

    I ran into a large gay pride march in Lyon last year (I believe it occurs sometime in June each year), which sounds like a much happier affair than such a protest. I also personally wouldn’t take big protests as suggesting there really is greater resistance to gay marriage in France than other places (surveys show that the majority of people are in fact sick of the protests on this issue), since you always get much bigger and much roudier protests than places like Australia, even for similar issues.

  2. May 28th, 2013 at 19:16 | #2

    I’ve seen it suggested that resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages – everyone has to go through the same civil ceremony.

    That is incorrect. My own parents were married in France, but not through that standard civil ceremony; they were actually married by a consular process, at the British Embassy. This isn’t anything to do with embassies not being technically part of the host country, either; it was a consular function, and consulates generally aren’t extra-territorial like that. It was just a coincidence that it was in Paris, with the embassy there operating the consulate.

    The backlash against equal marriage seems to me to be the last gasp of the cultural right, rather than the basis for a sustained upsurge. But then, what I know about social developments in France would fit comfortably on a restaurant menu, so I’d be interested in what others have to say on this..

    Ha. In general, French centralising forces have been sitting on the lid of regional identities and practices for centuries, and they will never be able to stop while this order of things persists. It is a misreading to think of this as anything to do with any “cultural right” at all, as it is rather a widespread customary thing – just as Poujadism was better read as an outwelling of something old and decentralised that displayed as right wing, rather than something that essentially was right wing.

    As, when, and if the visible backlash is suppressed, it will not mean any last gasp at all. Instead, completely outside the political process, you will get lots and lots of gay bashing, unco-ordinated, diffuse and inchoate, triggered by those taking advantage of the new rules to get notionally married – and so, marked out by the paperwork of that very procedure. That will be aggravated rather than helped by legal bans on discrimination, as those will make gay bashing a “costly display” of macho values. I’m not speculating here; my mother (whose parents had immigrated) noticed how the women of the French village where she grew up tried to provoke their men into beating them enough to leave visible marks, which the women displayed with pride as proofs that their men loved them enough to risk jail – and that wasn’t somewhere remote, it was very near Paris, and it is now more or less a suburb. That put my mother off assimilating.

    Oh, and Conrad, it’s LyonS, not “Lyon” – just as it’s Rome and not Roma, etc. “Lyon” is just the French place name.

  3. May 28th, 2013 at 19:49 | #3

    Pr Q said:

    Overall, the real appeal of the right still seems to me to lie in anti-immigrant rhetoric and, within Europe, on attempts to blame the people of one country or another for a crisis of the entire global system of financial capitalism. The backlash against equal marriage seems to me to be the last gasp of the cultural right, rather than the basis for a sustained upsurge. But then, what I know about social developments in France would fit comfortably on a restaurant menu, so I’d be interested in what others have to say on this..

    In Pr Q’s hopeful imagination the Cultural Right is always heaving its “last gasp”. He has been heralding “the end of the Culture War” for nigh on ten years now. But the Right-wing Cultural Warriors somehow failed to get the memo and have yet to go through the motions of signing an instrument of surrender.

    In fact exaggerated reports of the Cultural Rights demise have run in tandem with the most massive upsurge in political support for the Cultural Right in EU history. See the UKIP latest polling results illustrating the Cultural Rights “sustained upsurge” right across the EU. Its been gathering momentum since the early noughties, well pre-dating the recession. It’s passingly strange that this brute fact has ducked under the radar of liberal social scientists.

    The truly amazing thing is that the Cultural Rights biggest gains have been in the traditional bastions of Left-liberalism: the low-countries and Scandanavia. When the Left-liberals have lost the Nordics you know they are in trouble.

    Pr Q is correct to say that the social dynamic driving the rise of the Cultural Right is populist conflict with lower-status ethnic groups (coloreds, Muslims), rather than conflict with lower status “estrogenic” groups (feminists, gays). The problem with the gender war is that there is too much fraternization between opposing sides. Most Cultural Rightists tend to give up on this one after a while, for the sake of a quiet life.

    Ethnic conflict is a bigger deal for HBD evo-cons for basic evolutionary reasons: it breeds and breeds true. This brute fact too seems to have escaped the notion of liberal social scientists. But then the l’affaire Richwine proved that liberal social scientists are neither particularly liberal or scientific.

    The bottom line is that the ethnic question will not go away or be drowned out by one last marketing effort, as demonstrated eloquently by the past weeks series of atrocities. Therefore the Cultural Right will continue to gain political power at the expense of the Cultural Left. As I predicted about 900 years ago.

    As Cochran says, “wishful thinking is the most powerful force in the universe”.

  4. May 28th, 2013 at 20:38 | #4

    Pr Q said:

    But then, what I know about social developments in France would fit comfortably on a restaurant menu, so I’d be interested in what others have to say on this..

    Some of the wog side of my family live in Paris, so allow me to put in my two cents worth. on the basis of some limited experience.

    There are two Frances: the France of Paris and the France of the provinces. Both Frances, being French, sanctify romantic love.

    The France of Paris – of art-house movies, haute cuisine and impeccable couture – follows the elite liberal rules of Brussels, or perhaps it is the other way around. In any case, the alumni of the lycee are accustomed to running things, which they usually do pretty well. They naturally believe that love is race, gender & sexuality blind.

    The France of the provinces is culturally conservative because its soul is committed to l’patrie. France is, I believe, the most ruralised nation in the EU 15 (open to correction on this). The France of the provinces is rightly proud of its cultural traditions, this makes for an inherent conservatism on certain key points.

    And the key historical point is the French tradition of chivalry, courtly love and romance. The troubador culture of France has since medieval times promoted heterosexual romantic love as the sublime experience for human kind. Its a big ask to get all these starry eyed romantics to take the opposing sexes out of this delicate equation.

    So there is a huge largely submerged popular base which is attached to a romantic conservative view of human relations. Occasionally this base takes to the streets, beats its chest and wears its heart on its sleeve. Just to let the lycee know when it has over-stepped the mark.

    Its quite amusing watching Left-liberals grapple with the la French difference on the matter of gay marriage. French culture is cool, all those post-Impressionists, cinema verite and worldly attitudes towards sex, right? Yet French culture also contains a strong streak of rural conservatism.

    Does not compute. [Head explodes]

  5. May 28th, 2013 at 21:08 | #5

    The idea that this was a rightwing version of a “Paris Spring” occurred to me

    Interesting in light of this quote from an ABC story online today:

    About 1,000 members of the English Defence League (EDL) staged a protest near Cameron’s Downing Street office on Monday, waving red and white England flags and banners saying “No surrender”.

    EDL leader Tommy Robinson addressed the largely male crowd on Whitehall, many of them shouting “Muslim killers off our streets”, saying: “They’ve had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English spring.”

    As far as France and protests. Can’t remember where I saw a quote along the lines of ‘the difference between France and the US/UK is in France the Government is afraid of the people but in your countries the people are afraid of the Government’.

    As an aside, about 10 years ago a French relative related a story about the nightly rioting and burning of cars in the streets. The MSM was breathlessly reporting the figures for car-burnings every day over a week or two (can’t remember what the issue was about). At some point the figures were falling and one of the TV talking heads pointed out that the number of burning cars were back to “normal levels” so the riots were probably over.

    More seriously, all the civil unrest and disquiet boils down to the loss of democracy and the rise of propaganda masquerading as news media. That’s pretty much what “Occupy” or “Indignados” etc.. is all about. We need to get our democracy back.

  6. Ikonoclast
    May 28th, 2013 at 21:28 | #6

    The “last gasp of the cultural right” is a figment of the imagination. The plutocratic capitalists control the global system. Income inequality is egregious and getting worse. These are the fundamental facts. The “Right” are winning hands down on all the measures that really count and the only measures that really count are money and power. Everything else is froth and bubble. They can be wrong about all the facts (climate change, evolution, economic ideas etc.) and most of morality and yet they still win everything hands down. Doesn’t this tell you something about their near absolute grip on power? Nothing can ever change until plutocratic capitalism is replaced by a better system. Culture means nothing now. Political economy is everything.

  7. paul walter
    May 29th, 2013 at 02:15 | #7

    They had riots in Sweden, too- the coloured proles on the hi-rise estates letting off steam?
    Jack Strocchi’s contention that the social democrat countries have been in decline is true, but not for the reasons he fondly imagines.
    I’d follow on from Ikonoklast actually.
    As with Hansonism here and Teaparty stuff in the US, it comes down to people underwhelmed by badly-handled change inevitably and intimately tied in with neo-liberal insensitivity, in denial, seeking a return to some halcyon “good old days”. They have the residual distaste for gays, women and intellectuals who are smart-asses and foreigners. Events unfolding have disrupted their cognitive road maps and reactive and future-shocked they want “out”.
    Given the opportunity and pause for reflection, they’d work out eventually what was really happening, but no doubt in France there is all manner of tabloid press, media and political “noise” preventing it, as elsewhere in the West. It’s all part of divide and conquer.

  8. may
    May 30th, 2013 at 14:04 | #8

    thinking of you JQ,in Frances honour, i had for lunch a baked bean and croissante sandwich.

  9. May 30th, 2013 at 18:01 | #9

    Deleted, along with subsequent comments. You’ve been warned about this kind of thing before – JQ

  10. sunshine
    May 30th, 2013 at 20:06 | #10

    If the cultural right are anti-homo ,anti womans right to choose etc , anti euthenasia ,anti animal , anti climate ,pro war ,and pro church ,then, amongst the young they are out of breath here in the Western nations . They have had more success with the anti multicultural sentiment though .

    The economic right has been very successful in impressing the young with its logic of consumption, choice ,and freedom .

  11. May 31st, 2013 at 00:58 | #11

    @sunshine

    Are you suggesting that the trinkets the ‘economic right’ bestow on the kiddies results in political support for the two “right” political parties (ie: ALP or LNP)?

    If so, I can’t share that view. I’m seeing the “youff” overwhelmingly underwhelmed by the sad-arse charade we grown-ups consider to be important politics. They know it’s all BS. WE know it’s all BS.

    Why do so many people pretend it isn’t?

    After some kid chucked a vegemite sandwich at the PM, I had the greatest feeling of hope for the future of our world that I have had in ages. I had just about given up.

    Today that glimmer of hope turned into a renewed determination when another kid chucked a salami sandwich at the PM.

    If the kids get the symbolism of the pointlessness of our choice of alternatives as leaders and if they can express themselves through harmless physical acts of dissent then that is surely reason for hope?

    Possibly the sandwiches will tell us more about the genuine public opinion than the clown media?!

  12. Ikonoclast
    May 31st, 2013 at 06:37 | #12

    Politicians should never be permitted to visit schools in their official capacity. Our children need to be safe at our schools and nobody is ever safe (from lies, exaggerations and distortions) when politicians are around. Cavalier disregard for truth is not something we want to be teaching our children. Schools should be politician free zones.

    By all means let politicians visit universities. Almost all students there are over 18; the legal age of consent to being rules over by stupid politicians. I can imagine the receptions that Abbott and Gillard would get from most uni student bodies. It would make isolated sandwich throwing look positively polite.

  13. Mel
    May 31st, 2013 at 18:20 | #13

    Megan:

    “After some kid chucked a vegemite sandwich at the PM, I had the greatest feeling of hope for the future of our world that I have had in ages. ”

    Such maturity. I hope you don’t have kids.

  14. May 31st, 2013 at 19:15 | #14

    I’m in a generous mood.

    I’ll assume you completely missed my point.

  15. sunshine
    May 31st, 2013 at 22:22 | #15

    @Megan

    Are you suggesting that the trinkets the ‘economic right’ bestow on the kiddies results in political support for the two “right” political parties (ie: ALP or LNP)?

    You are right that that there is a widespread sense of disillusionment with politics and its process amongst the young and the others .I think the greens got 1/3 of the 18-35 vote last time
    .I do think though that there is now a wide acceptance of some conservative economic principals like – its best to focus on yourself, unions are bad ,less rules is always better than more rules ,big government is bad, only competition is natural , every other good flows from a healthy economy, happiness is proportional to wealth ,the left want your freedom ,and ,too much compassion is risky .
    Luckily not all youth are like that, I know plenty that aren’t – but I think now days there is pretty widespread acceptance that its glorious to get everything you can for yourself .Kids used to want to be firefighters or farmers now they want to be a celebrity .Maybe the trinkets will run out soon and prompt change . Im worried that the conservative economic outlook has defined us for long enough that no alternative is easily imaginable anymore .Climate change science may be the biggest threat to this order -hence its prominence on the conservative hit list .I think things can change fast, as they have sometimes in the past – but what looks fast in retrospect may not feel fast at the time .

    My recent ‘feeling of hope for the future’ moment was seeing a newly built playground /bbq area in a local park full of adults and kids from all kinds of cultural backgrounds having fun .Government money did that.

  16. TerjeP
    June 1st, 2013 at 03:04 | #16

    The backlash against equal marriage seems to me to be the last gasp of the cultural right, rather than the basis for a sustained upsurge.

    Is the “cultural right” distinct from the “political right” in France?

  17. June 1st, 2013 at 10:10 | #17

    Its way past time to conceptually formalise and sharpen the notion of Cultural Right.

    Just to clarify, for both poster and commenters, the “Cultural Right” is that part of the Right which appeals to populist antipathy to post-modern liberalism in the de-construction and re-construction of human social groups. Roughly speaking, anyone who holds to the way of life laid out by Dead White Males over the past few hundred years, up until about 1965. Law-abiding, God-fearing, hard-working, tax-paying, military-serving, family-rearing good citizens.

    That is to say, the Cultural populist (Old) Right emerged in opposition to the Cultural elitist (New) Left. Particularly, those promoting the empowerment of lower-status members of the fashionable “rainbow coalition”:

    Ethnic: colored races, Islamic religion
    “Estrogenic” feminists, gays
    Esthetic: advertising hucksters & art schools

    The Cultural populist (Old) Right has a very uneasy coalition with the Class elitist (New) Right. Indeed there is a strong strain in the Cultural Right (DLP, Family First) who support trade unions, family friendly welfare state and environmental protection. The hero of the Cultural Right is Teddy Roosevelt who was probably the greatest Greenie of all time.

    The Cultural Right found its group consciousness in Richard Nixons famous “silent majority” speech in 1969. The political strategy was conceived by Pat Buchanan who argued that the REPs should “split the country in two and take the bigger half”. This was on the basis of opinion polling work done by Kevin Phillips (“the emerging Republican majority”) who perceived that traditional Caucasian-Christian families still contained most of the countries votes and were responsive to the Republican “law & order” message. Many of these voters were working class, so called “Reagan Democrats”.

    What Cultural Rightists sometimes stupidly refer to as “Cultural Marxism” is actually the brain child of Gramsci, who advocated a “long march through the institutions” political strategy focusing on changing cultural values rather than mobilizing class groups. This policy was explicitly laid out by C. Wright Mills in his (in)famous “Letter to the New Left” which ditched the workers as an agency of historical change in favour of “intellectuals’ and their client groups.

  18. sunshine
    June 1st, 2013 at 10:41 | #18

    Jack – Ive heard the Republicans divided between ‘country club republicans’ and ‘red neck republicans’ . The angry old white man demographic is shrinking there and here . J Howard once defined Conservative as ‘someone who doesnt think they are morally superior to their grandparents’.

    They are losing the moral message big time with the young , but having more luck ,I think, with their economic message. What worries me most is that the economic part is full of worrying moral implications too. Are Libertarians morally Left and economically Right ?.

  19. June 1st, 2013 at 11:50 | #19

    sunshine @18 said:

    Jack – Ive heard the Republicans divided between ‘country club republicans’ and ‘red neck republicans’ .

    Thats not a million miles from the reality. Although the notion of “country-club” conservatives is now fairly dated, excepting those who fantasize about a Ralph Lauren lifestyle. Magazines like Vanity Fair and films like the Great Gatsby are capitalising on this,

    Basically the Broad Right is an uneasy coalition between nationalist Old Right (“Southern heartland”) ethnic populists and capitalist New Right (“bi-coastal stock-broker belt”) economic elites. But this is just the complement to the Broad Left which is an uneasy coalition between socialist Old Left (“Mid-Western rust-belt”) economic populists and the hodge-podge New Left (“bi-coastal campus-belt”) ethnic/”estrogenic”/esthetic elites.

    Neither side of the partisan ideological divide can win elections unless it appeals to people who are basically their social inferiors. This gives social satirists, such as Tom Wolfe, a rich comic vein to mine.

    sunshine said:

    Are Libertarians morally Left and economically Right ?.

    More or less, although it would be better to classify libertarians as “liberals”, with New Right economic interests and New Left ethical ideals. Basically they are hostile to the notion of a nation, where citizens have concentric group loyalties. They believe that the self-determining individual should be focus of all political action, tearing down horizontal barriers (ethnic segregation) and vertical barriers (economic stratification) to individual progress.

    One should not over-estimate the degree of bi-partisan ideological consensus in the bi-coastal cosmopolis. This is basically liberal – Brooks so-called “bo-bos” (bourgeois-bohemians) who basically support New Right liberal economic policies with New Left liberal ethic (ethnic sympathies & esthetic tastes).

    More generally the ideological classification of the US Right as “conservatives” and US Left as “liberals” is idiotic. The US Right is anything but “conservative”. Its agenda is open borders capitalism, weakening constitutional constraints on the executive and promoting liberal revolution in the Third World, with little regard for conserving national ethnic or ecologic identities. Whilst the US Left is anything but “liberal”. Its agenda is statist taxation & regulation, with a strong emphasis on politically correct thought-police work.

  20. June 1st, 2013 at 13:34 | #20

    I think Jack Strocchi’s post is most useful. Obviously, the old old ‘left-wing’ paradigms, not to mention the old right-wing paradigms and the recycled classical economic aka neoliberal paradigms have failed to explain much of world events since at least the late 1950’s.

    I think that free markets can work as long as the Government is democratic and accountable and owns and controls important sectors of the economy such as banking, telecommunications, public transport, roads, etc. It is termed dirigisme in France and practised there to some extent.

    Until 1975, when Whitlam was ousted in the coup of 1975, dirigisme was largely practised also in Australia. This has since changed, thanks to the privatisations of Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Carr, Greiner, Bligh and Newman.

    I, myself, have never been to

       Paris   in thethe Spring

    I am told my parents took me there one autumn when I was very young.

  21. Jim Rose
    June 1st, 2013 at 14:59 | #21

    @malthusista whitlam, a coup! Whitlam and murphy explained the right of senate to block supply was legitimate when they tried to do so in 1970.

  22. June 1st, 2013 at 23:44 | #22

    Speaking of “spring”,

    there is a very interesting development happening in the ongoing world-wide (invisible to our local media and ‘political class’) “occupy” phenomenom.

    Of course, it’s really just a world-wide pro-democracy movement. We want our democracy back and we’re going to get it.

    I often ponder the motivations and bona fides of some of our authority worshippers right here, on this blog and in Australia more generally.

    What happened to my fellow Australians? When did they become so obsequious to wannabe rulers?

  23. Ikonoclast
    June 2nd, 2013 at 07:34 | #23

    If the ruling classes keep on doing what they are doing in Greece, Spain, Cyprus and like places, they will generate revolutions. The revolutions will become violent, because the masses’ demands for real democracy, even if substantially peaceable, will provoke a violent reaction from the oppressive ruling classes. The oppressive ruling classes always react with violence to any challenge to their rule. Once the violence is unleashed, you will have Syria writ large all around the Mediterranean sea-board.

    In summary,

    1. The ruling classes will keep on doing what they are doing.
    2. The people will demand a democratic revolution.
    3. The ruling classes will react with ever increasing violence.
    4. The masses will become radicalised.
    5. Violent revolutions and reactions will break out in many countries.

    There is no telling who will win and what types of governments will result. Extreme rightist and extreme leftist governments are possible in various countries. Superimposed on the civil conflicts there will be international conflicts as well.

    All this will occur because;

    (1) Capitalism cannot stand giving workers fair wages and conditions. That is anathema to capitalism.
    (2) Capitalism wants to grow endlessly in a finite world.
    (2) Capitalism loots and destroys the sustaining environment leaving only a blasted wasteland behind.

  24. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2013 at 10:16 | #24

    @Ikonoclast

    If the ruling classes keep on doing what they are doing in Greece, Spain, Cyprus and like places, they will generate revolutions.

    Have you seen the upper houses of the Australian parliaments: playing host to everything from the shooters party to a recently retired Stalinist. Complete amateurs can win election to parliament in Australia with minimal resources.

    Anyone can get into parliament as long as they have a modicum of support, which the far left does not have in Australia.

    The Far Left does well at elections in countries such as France, Germany, and Japan and has large blocs of MPs in Greece and Cyprus.

    The growth of the state from a post office and a military in 1900 to a post office, a military and a massive welfare state was drive by party victories at the ballot box.

    Joan Robinson noted in 1942 that when the communist manifesto was published, its battle cry ‘Rise up ye workers for you have nothing to lose but your chains’ would have had some currency in 1848.

    Alas 90 years later, Robinson suggested that this battle cry would have to be amended to ‘Rise up ye workers for you have nothing to lose but your suburban home and your motor car.’

    These days, the battle cry of the Trots would be ‘Rise up ye workers for you have nothing to lose but your Ipad and your air miles’.

  25. Ikonoclast
    June 2nd, 2013 at 12:22 | #25

    @Jim Rose

    So Jim, do you really think this system is sustainable? Just think for a moment, what is the end point of each of the following trends? Each of these trends cannot go on indefintely. How will they plateau or go into reverse in your opinion?

    1. The continuing shift of income from wages to profits.
    2. The continuing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
    3. The continuing trend of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) or climate change.
    4. The continuing trend of resource depletion especially of fossil fuels.
    5. Continually increasing global population.
    6. Continuing deforrestation.
    7. Continuing decline of wild fisheries.
    8. Continuing depletion of fresh water reserves, acquifers etc.
    9. Continuing top soil depletion.

    I would be really interested to have you explain how these trends will be stabilised, or reversed, under the current system of plutocratic, oligarchic, corporate capitalism.

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