The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The National Front will not win this presidency, nor will many of their voters throw their support behind Hollande, who is the likeliest candidate, but they have certainly been granted new status in the French political dynamic. We haven’t seen the last of the National Front this year. Marine Le Pen’s niece, Marion, stands a very solid chance of becoming one of the party’s first MPs since the 1986 elections when parliamentary elections come around in June. The events of this presidential election both recognize the newly gained power of the far-right movement in France and further the process of mainstreaming its radical stances on immigration and economic policy. This rise in far-right support, both in France and across Europe, is one of the dangerous and potentially lasting side effects of a Europe struggling with economic crisis. Me, in a piece up this morning on The Risky Shift, taking a look at Marine Le Pen and the far-right National Front’s new political power in France.  (via thepoliticalnotebook)

François Hollande and the conservative critique of capitalism | thecurrentmoment

The problem with [Hollande’s] moralizing approach to capitalism was put succinctly in a comment to The Current Moment: an ethical critique of capitalism leaves the system itself untouched and in fact only goes to legitimize the status quo further. It does this by attacking the present for being dominated by a materialistic, vulgar and anti-egalitarian culture, encapsulated in the figure of the bankster and the celebrity lifestyle of its political class. In its place, it proposes a deeply conservative alternative: austere, responsible, more egalitarian and less showy in its attitude to wealth and consumption. This is exactly François Hollande’s argument: he justified his new tax measure not on the grounds of how much money it can raise but in terms of morality and national patriotism. France’s rich elite, by paying more into the national coffers, will be doing its patriotic duty.

Instead of being asked to choose between different economic programmes, what Hollande is proposing is a different style of rule. In place of the crass materialism of Sarkozy, with his rich friends and rich wife, we are presented with François Hollande, a more ordinary and serious individual, with tastes that are less extravagant than those of Sarkozy. Here we can see very strong echoes between the campaign in France and developments in Italy. What Monti brings to Italian politics is more than anything a change of style: far removed from the glamour and glitz of Berlusconi, Monti represents the austere alternative, suited to times of generalized national austerity. When asked about the cost of his end-of-year celebrations, Monti replied by publishing a detailed list of his end of 2011 dinner party at the Chigi palace: 10 guests, all family members, a traditional New Year’s Eve menu, and a list of where Elsa Monti went shopping and how much it all cost.

This is in fact the key: this cultural shift proposed by Hollande and others such as Monti is what is required to legitimize the present age of austerity. Hollande’s moralizing critique of capitalism thus preserves the system in two ways: by proposing a set of conservative values, such as patriotism, duty and national responsibility: and by providing a closer fit between the downturn in France’s economy and the values and conduct of its political class. So far this is working for Italy, as Italians welcome an end to the Berlusconian orgy. Hollande’s bet is that it will work for him in the forthcoming elections. It may do, especially if the wealthy in France catch-on that Hollande isn’t out to get them, he is their saviour.