Emmanuel Macron supporters Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images

Global Bookmark

La Condition Française

From the looks of Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping victory in the French presidential election, France seems to be recovering its self-confidence. But appearances can deceive: Macron will inherit a deeply divided country that remains mired in dysfunction and despair.

PARIS – Emmanuel Macron’s overwhelming victory in the French presidential election has opened a window of opportunity for France to recover its self-confidence and banish xenophobic populism back to the depths from which it emerged. To take advantage of it, however, Macron faces an unenviable task: recreate the dynamism that transformed France in the three decades (les trente glorieuses) after World War II, when General Charles de Gaulle established the French Fifth Republic. Because the modern French presidency was built for de Gaulle’s outsized character, it confers on the incumbent the power that he once exercised as a virtual republican monarch. But, unlike de Gaulle, Macron will have to do more than simply pursue a “certain vision of France.”

France’s malaise is not fake news; it is old news. But this national morosité still perplexes many outsiders, who regard France as a beautiful, bountiful country, and wonder why it consistently ranks below most other Western European countries in global happiness surveys.

During the recent election, puzzlement gave way to shock. In the first round, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left ex-Trotskyist, each won around 20% of the vote. In fact, of the 78% of voters who turned out for the first round, almost half cast their ballots for anti-establishment candidates who openly oppose institutions such as the European Union and NATO. Macron is clearly inheriting a deeply divided country. But several recent books by leading French thinkers and researchers provide much-needed clarity about France’s predicament.

To continue reading, please subscribe to On Point.

To access On Point, log in or register now now and read two On Point articles for free. For unlimited access to the unrivaled analysis of On Point, subscribe now.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/NLUrBGN;
  1. Trump visits China Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

    China’s New World Order?

    • Now that Chinese President Xi Jinping has solidified his position as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, he will be able to pursue his vision of a China-led international order.

    • But if China wants to enjoy the benefits of regional or even global hegemony in the twenty-first century, it will have to prove itself ready to accept the responsibilities of leadership.
  2. Paul Manafort Alex Wong/Getty Images

    The Fall of the President’s Men

    • There can no longer be any doubt that Donald Trump is the ultimate target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

    • But even if Mueller doesn’t catch Donald Trump in a crime, the president will leave much human and political wreckage behind.
  3. Painted portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and late communist leader Mao Zedong Greg Baker/Getty Images

    When China Leads

    For the last 40 years, China has implemented a national strategy that, despite its many twists and turns, has produced the economic and political juggernaut we see today. It would be reckless to assume, as many still do in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, that China’s transition to global preeminence will somehow simply implode, under the weight of the political and economic contradictions they believe to be inherent to the Chinese model.