France: Any End to L’immobilisme?

Also in the LRB, Jeremy Harding on the French elections:

[Said] Hammouche is young – mid-thirties – and successful; the people he’s trying to place are even younger and hoping for a break; in Clichy-sous-Bois, nearly half the population is under 25, for the most part with very few prospects. However loudly the main candidates sound off about youth opportunity and youth unemployment, this feels like a race in which the contestants are appealing primarily to an older electorate, typically setting aside their differences to concur on the urgent need to keep funding research into Alzheimer’s disease. Younger voters are marginalised in the surveys by the fact that so many of them have no fixed-line phones, on which pollsters currently rely for a lot of their research. What this portion of the electorate thinks is obscure. Is it as radical as [the Friedmanite] Hammouche, or radical in the same way? The only safe bet is that it’s likely to favour change.

Royal can provide a version of the social market and Bayrou a feelgood moment, but this is not really change. As for Sarkozy, unless he can think of a way to redeem his tax and contributions cuts, he would be moving France in much the same direction it has been going. His views about French ‘identity’ and immigration are proof, in case it was needed, that he is not a right-wing libertarian of the full-fledged sort. Quite the opposite. In the absence of a model for his proposed ministry of national identity and immigration, French voters are left contemplating the purification committee set up under Vichy to target Jews, and the population office established in 1945, whose intention to screen out North African immigrants fell foul of the postwar reconstruction boom. Sarkozy is, by proper neoliberal standards, naively opposed to ‘speculation’ – which he sees as the wrong kind of capitalism – while being an EU regionalist, a staunch protectionist and a defender of the Common Agricultural Policy. He is opposed to golden handshakes for company directors and means to destabilise the 35-hour week, not abolish it. He is for republicanism with a grimace rather than a smile and the right of government to tell people what to do. The future, if Sarkozy gets it, is l’immobilisme as usual, only with fewer pleasantries and more naked confrontation.