French Society Proud of Its Sickness
Let's imagine that, in 1794, we had asked some illustrions thinkers to describe France in 1815. This certainly would have been a less perilous exercice than the one organised by DATAR, asking some brilliant intellects to ponder about France in 2015. D. Pinto warns us that, the epoch of Napoleon aside, the situation in 1815 was not very different from 1794 while 2015 promises to be radically different from the present.
According to the author, we are risking a revolution which, in its economic, social, cultural and political aspects, will recreate the cleavages which were supposedly abolished by the 1789 revolution. From the start D. Pinto emphasizes the main challenge faced by French society; she then proceeds to describe its assets as well as its handicaps, one being most often the reverse side of the other: a strong State but... impotent, a vast territory... in the process of desertification, a stable society... but deeply torn apart.
The author offers us an attractive analysis of French society as perceived from the United States and from Italy. From North America, the seemingly tranquil French society appears to be blocked, without much social mobility. A centralised and overbuilt machinery of state prevents the incarnation of republican principles, allowing a third-estate to re-emerge, as elites clone themselves indefinitely.
The Italian perspective admires the French state for maintaining public order, but is struck by the lack of genuine dynamism in its civil society. Italians are also sceptical of plans announced by Paris which they view as the product of a long Jacobin tradition finding no echo in the provinces, which lack local identity and true elites.
France, Diana Pinto states politely, still lives in the times of the Sun King, self-absorded in its ancestral grandeur. But it will have to adapt extremely fast to Europe, get over its rigidities, leave aside the repetitive tics of a political technocracy which is unable to listen to society.
Two years have passed since D. Pinto wrote this paper. She has added a post-scriptum: we are witnessing a worsening of the situation rather than the beginning of a process of adaptation.