Give or take a few periods of brief recovery, France has been in crisis now for more than 40 years: the oil crises of the mid-1970s, the industrial crisis and mass unemployment in the 1980s and 1990s and, more recently, the economic and financial crisis of 2007-08, the end of which is not yet in sight. In response to this state of crisis, the state has regularly dipped into the public finances in an attempt to give the economy fresh impetus. It has not been particularly successful, though it has achieved an almost unmanageable level of debt as a result. If we add to this the limits set by the planetary over-exploitation of natural resources and the need to deal with ongoing climate change, there seems no question that a change of socio-economic model is demanded. Is France capable of taking up this challenge? Futuribles open its columns to two expressions of opinion on “France between declinism and transition”.
Pierre Bonnaure goes first in the debate, showing –from an analysis of plentiful sources ranging over more than 40 years– that the problem was diagnosed long ago and that, despite frequent wake-up calls, France is heading further into the mire. Will it be able to embrace the third industrial revolution, the revolution of mass robotization and digital at all levels? The potential for this exists, argues Bonnaure, but institutional rigidities and the vested interests developed by the leading elites over the years etc. represent major obstacles. This is confirmed by the ignorance these elites have always shown with regard to the warnings issued and reforms proposed over the last few decades.