Futuribles Journal n° 445

Institutions - Société, modes de vie

Reflections on the French Social Model

In this interview with Arnaud Teyssier, Alain Supiot shows that there exists a French social model (in Fernand Braudel’s sense) and that its philosophical and anthropological foundations — and hence its specific character by comparison, for example, with the English model (omnipotence of the individual) or the German (omnipotence of society) — are often forgotten. He reminds us that this French model, inspired by a “moral and social idealism” — the idealism of political equality — has been compromised by “wage subordination”, which itself induced the state to intervene to establish a “social citizenship that represents an extension of political citizenship”.

He stresses, however, that the social model in question relies on the self-organizational and mutual-aid capacities of individuals, on a mutualist tradition which the state is there to underpin not to manage. Moreover, it cannot be subject exclusively to economic and market laws, which explains the importance of legislation to provide a regulatory framework. Hence, “social security was not conceived in France as a state service to shore up the market economy, but as an extension of the principles of mutual aid to the entire nation.”

Recalling those principles, and warning against the immanent laws of a market that has become all-encompassing and against a dismantling of the French social model — though not excluding the possibility of international solidarity — Alain Supiot shows the dangers in the public policies that have been pursued for the last 30 years, and how the ecological, economic, social and health risks we face make it necessary to restore meaning to political action.

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