August 20, 2019

Macron, France's Bonapartiste du Jour

“I have long been convinced that most people who reject liberalism do so not because they think it is false or immoral, but because it is boring. One reason for this is that American liberals have by and large abandoned what I have come to think of as the “imperial style” in politics.

Like the elephant, the imperial style is somewhat difficult to describe but utterly unmistakable in appearance. The gold-flecked parody of luxury exemplified by Trump Tower, the harem-like succession of the president’s wives and concubines, the restless White House alive with the whispers of sinister viziers and the gossip of palace eunuchs — all of it probably as close as many of us can come to imagining the life of an Oriental despot — this is the imperial style. So too is the rather pleasant image of Emmanuel Macron dining at Versailles with the CEOs of Microsoft, Snapchat, and JPMorgan Chase. In fact, for reasons that I shall explain, the French president seems to me the imperial style’s greatest living exemplar.

Probably the most important element of modern imperial politics is the self-identification of the politician with the nation and its people. This is a fantasy in which his or her supporters must half-knowingly collude. Then there is the totalizing rhetoric about one’s opponents. To the imperial politician, the opposition, whether it is a formal party or some vaguely defined cabal, is not a group with whom one has reasonable disagreements about prudential issues but an existential threat to the body-politic itself. There is also the romantic fiction of the hero-politician called to purge a threat to the nation on behalf of its people. In some cases this is presented as a simple matter of balancing the budget or freezing out so-called “special interests”; more often, however, it involves an attack on the existing machinery of the state — “draining the swamp” — or something even loftier. Finally, there are the obvious hallmarks — an emphasis on ceremony, a great deal of fuss about security and transportation, and, sometimes, a certain lurid suggestiveness about the private life of the imperial personality.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"On Christmas Eve of 1966, Paddy Roy Bates, a retired British army major, drove a small boat with an outboard motor seven miles off the coast of England into the North Sea. He had sneaked out of his house in the middle of the night, inspired..."

"The book that changed lecturer, activist, and current presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s life, A Course in Miracles, is not available for free online, but its workbook is. You can find it on the website for the Foundation for..."

"Here are two sets of statements from far-distant opposites in the climate change debate. The first is from Naomi Klein, who in her book This Changes Everything paints a bleak picture of a global socioeconomic system gone wrong: “There is a..."

"Voters who trust their government — and each other — are more supportive of ambitious welfare states than those who do not. Across nations, high levels of social trust correlate with high levels of social spending. The relationship between these..."

"With the presidential campaign under way, expect to hear a lot more about a shiny new toy of progressive economic thinking, “modern monetary theory.” It seems to be the only intellectual contortion that might allow candidates to promise..."

"“We don’t want to fight y’all. We’re not trying to go to jail.” That’s what A$AP Rocky, the 30-year-old New York City rapper, can be heard saying in a video of an encounter with strangers in Sweden that has ballooned into an international crisis."

"Israel’s top officials are considering denying Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib entry to their country due to their outspoken, controversial criticism of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians, not to mention their slurs against American Jews as..."

"For most of our lives, we have been conditioned to share a piece of personal information without a moment’s hesitation: our phone number. We punch in our digits at the grocery store to get a member discount or at the pharmacy to pick up..."