France’s tumble

Perry Anderson bemoans, er, looks at France’s decline.

“The current scene is as good a place to start as any, since it offers a pregnant example of the illusions of familiarity. Newspapers, journals and bookshops brim with debate over French decline. Gradually trickling to the surface in the past few years, le déclinisme burst into full flow with the publication last winter of La France qui tombe, a spirited denunciation of national default – ‘the sinister continuity between the 14 years of François Mitterrand and the 12 of Jacques Chirac, united by their talent for winning elections and ruining France’ – by Nicolas Baverez, an economist and historian of the centre-right. Rebuttals, vindications, rejoinders, alternatives have proliferated. Baverez looks at first glance like a French version of a Thatcherite, a neo-liberal of more or less strict persuasion, and the whole controversy like a rerun of the long-standing debates on decline in this country. But the appearances are deceptive. The problem is not the same.” (read on)