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2003-10-04 Europe
For its intellectuals, France falters
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Posted by True German Ally 2003-10-04 1:22:39 AM|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [6474 views since 2007-05-07]  Top

#1 Reality always sets in the morning after.
Posted by Baltic Blog 2003-10-4 5:00:16 AM|| [http://balticblog.blogspot.com/]  2003-10-4 5:00:16 AM|| Front Page Top

#2  TGA >> Great post. At least a few inside of France can see exactly what the rest of the world already does.
Posted by Paul 2003-10-4 7:58:52 AM||   2003-10-4 7:58:52 AM|| Front Page Top

#3 TGA

France and Germany have produced some grat thinkers throughout history. Are the new generation of intellectuals offering any solutions? The US and Britain have both been through periods where we looked to be following bad models leading nowhere.
Posted by Superhose  2003-10-4 10:06:43 AM||   2003-10-4 10:06:43 AM|| Front Page Top

#4 Superhose

As a French let me tell that I disagree. Thinkers produced by France have usually been first rate bastards and fourth rate thinkers. Take a look at the Enlightenment philosophers: Diderot, Voltaire and their ilk were
for slavery, for restricting to the rich (on the base that the poor were not educated enough) and... for forbidding education to the poor (ie they were more reactionary than the monarchy).
Forget Voltaire's "I disagree with your opinions but I will fight to express it". This was a
hollow sentence: in practice he supported the
didcriminations and repression as long as the
victims were Catholic. The ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers are directly responsible for the horrors of the revolution.


Now let's take a look at Sartre who as a philosopher was only a dumbed down Heidegger,
who didn't take part i the Resistance and whose
career was in no small part due to the support
of communist networkQ.


About the next generation of intellectuals: Bernard Henri Levy and Glucksman have spoken
against the anti-American hysteria. But they
are fifty something and dont have direct access
to media. Baverez (author of "La France qui
tombe") is strongly anti-american but at least
he is lucid and doesn't want a clash for the sake
of it. Begbeider (the guy who designed the
propaganda for the communist party, who got historical lows) has just written a repugnant
novel entitled "Windows of the world" where
the people trapped in WTC spending their last
minutes fist-fucking. He is still a moderate
compared to Nabe. However I have to say that
I never heard of the later two (Begbeder and Nabe)
as philosophers or thinkers. AFAIK they are
novelists but fashionable ones. I hope they will
not get more tha five minutes of fame.

Posted by JFM  2003-10-4 11:47:18 AM||   2003-10-4 11:47:18 AM|| Front Page Top

#5 Take a look at the Enlightenment philosophers: Diderot, Voltaire and their ilk were
for slavery, for restricting to the rich (on the base that the poor were not educated enough) and... for forbidding education to the poor (ie they were more reactionary than the monarchy).


I would argue that these were the fashions of their times. One truly overrated French thinker you have not mentioned is Derrida - in my view, he is a self-important moron verging on self-parody.
Posted by Zhang Fei  2003-10-4 1:43:56 PM||   2003-10-4 1:43:56 PM|| Front Page Top

#6 I thing Rantburg needs a French troll, you know, a Murat from Marseilles.
Posted by Raj 2003-10-4 3:00:07 PM|| [http://angrycyclist.blogspot.com]  2003-10-4 3:00:07 PM|| Front Page Top

#7 Zhang Fei:


No they weren't the fashions of that time. French
monarchy hadn't abolished slavery, true, but it had been restricting it. In addition a slave became a free man at the instant it set foot on the soil of continental France. Positions of Voltaire and Diderot (both of them investors in slave-trading companies) were more favorable to slavery than the "reactionary" French monarchy. See also Voltaire's "Candide" where he derides the
Jesuits who had taken arms in order to protect Indians from slave-traders.


For the education thing: education was mandatory
in France since, I think, Louis XIV or at the most since Louis XV. Thanks to the Catholic Church it was also largely free. Of course very poor peasants needed the work force of their children and were unable to send their child to school. But it is still wrong to say that asking to forbid
the education of poors and peasants was the fashion of the time. It was purely and simply a try for preventing other classes to compete with the bourgeoisie. Compare to Nazi laws forbidding education to Slavs.

Posted by JFM  2003-10-4 3:03:16 PM||   2003-10-4 3:03:16 PM|| Front Page Top

#8 TGA, Zhang Fei and JMF

In the US there are a bunch of liberal and conservative think tanks funded through private foundations. Out of these think tanks come actual policy initiatives that are often implemented sometimes sucessfully. Are any of the intellectuals in Europe generating policy recommenations to address issues?

For example, it doesn't take a genius to see that French influence is waning. I have read Chirac has a plan to bring the economy of France back in line by 2005. Is there a legitimate plan or is he playing a Gray Davis shell game?
Posted by Super Hose  2003-10-4 3:29:19 PM||   2003-10-4 3:29:19 PM|| Front Page Top

#9 JFM with reference to slavery during Voltaire's era: No they weren't the fashions of that time.

I used the word fashions which is now taken to mean fad, when I should have used the word customs. Given that slavery was not only legal, but a business in which one could invest passively through ownership of stock, I would say that slavery was the custom of the era, just as it was around the rest of the world. But even the writers of the American Constitution were mostly slave-owners, and I put that down to economic survival - if others are slave-owners, and the major economic sector is labor-intensive agriculture, it is impossible to compete without being involved in the trade. And without the leisure from being an owner of income-producing property, how is one to write profoundly thoughtful political works such as the Federalist Papers?

Compare to Nazi laws forbidding education to Slavs.

We can't really compare Nazis, who should have known better, to the French philosophers from over a century ago. The French philosophers were the products of their times - aristocracy was held to be better than the common man. The Nazis should have learned the lessons of the past, namely, that the only race is the human race, but did not.
Posted by Zhang Fei  2003-10-4 4:25:28 PM||   2003-10-4 4:25:28 PM|| Front Page Top

#10 Zhang: I had the opportunity to hear Derrida speak once at my university. He came to town and enormous buzz, and they had the largest lecture hall set aside for him. Even though I'm across campus in the med school I figured, "well it IS Derrida", and went to the lecture.

The man is incomprehenisble. I don't mean that his thoughts are so dense or so advanced that you can't understand him, I mean he's incomprehensible. His speech was total word salad. Since deconstructionist thought means in the end that words mean what you want them to mean at the moment, he just went off on an extended tear and never once got back to whatever point he was trying to make.

My seat was in the middle toward the back, and I got to watch people -- at first a trickle, then more -- bailing out during the lecture. My own moment came about 1/2 way (who could tell?) when he said, and I quote from a seared memory, "... when it comes to pass that the blindly doubled shall lead the doubly-blind ..."

What? What was he saying? What? I realized at that moment, an epiphany if you will, that Derrida was a complete, fucking idiot. It was all a scam and a well-paying one at that, and Derrida had all these smart people snookered.

That was my moment with Derrida.
Posted by Steve White  2003-10-4 5:00:29 PM||   2003-10-4 5:00:29 PM|| Front Page Top

#11 I am a solutions type guy so I looked for a website that might be helpful for the intellectuals of France. I found some motivational materiel from one of my favorite companies despair.inc. It might be helpful :-)
Posted by Super Hose  2003-10-4 5:05:00 PM||   2003-10-4 5:05:00 PM|| Front Page Top

#12 JFM I wouldn't be so hard on French philosophers although I must say that my personal preference are Montaigne and the "moralistes". Voltaire and Diderot may not be right on every issue but they did some compelling writings. And Julien Benda's "La trahison des clercs" (1927) still should be read by everyone interested in France. Sartre certainly is the most overrated French intellectual, and yes Steve White, Derrida is just over the top. I tried to read him but I gave up. Foucault has been rather influential though.
JFM I disagree: Glucksmann and Lévy have very much access to the media, especially Glucksmann is somebody who regularily appears on French TV.
Super Hose, German Thinktanks? Well, not as defined as in the U.S. The political parties certainly have theirs (the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung publishes some very interesting political /philosophical ideas). But German intellectuals are mostly into discussing things, you can hardly speak of well defined strategies. The German "intellectal crisis" isn't quite the same as expressed in the French books quoted in my posted article: The notion of "German grandeur" has certainly been buried in 1945.
I hope we'll get more discussions about European issues. The politicians pretty much try to establish a European Constitution without asking the people. That should not stand.
Posted by True German Ally 2003-10-4 5:42:22 PM||   2003-10-4 5:42:22 PM|| Front Page Top

#13 Raj:

I thing Rantburg needs a French troll, you know, a Murat from Marseilles.

I'm sure the Samizdatas will be glad to let you have Kodiak.
Posted by Angie Schultz 2003-10-4 5:49:25 PM|| [http://darkblogules.blogspot.com]  2003-10-4 5:49:25 PM|| Front Page Top

#14 La France a perdu une bataille. Mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre!
Posted by True German Ally posing as Charles de Gaulle troll 2003-10-4 5:54:11 PM||   2003-10-4 5:54:11 PM|| Front Page Top

#15 In my first experience of reading Derrida, my thoughts flashed from "Wow! This is really deep" to "What the *%&( is he saying?" to "Is this guy for real?", all in within a 10-minute interval.
Posted by Zhang Fei  2003-10-4 6:03:40 PM||   2003-10-4 6:03:40 PM|| Front Page Top

#16 TGA

The Contract With America and the revamp of the Defense Department that Donald Rumsfeld is working on were spawned in Conservative think-tanks.
I beleive one of the reasons why Hilary didn't acheive Universal Health Care is because she tried to create the program after the election with eveyone watching. It's better to pull out a policy already canned that you can steamroll the opposition with before they can respond.
It may be easier to accomplish this type of policy formulation in a two-party system.
Posted by Super Hose  2003-10-4 9:38:24 PM||   2003-10-4 9:38:24 PM|| Front Page Top

#17 I agree. That's why Schroeder's haste to "reforms" now isn't appreciated too much by the Germans even if some parts of them make sense.

It's like going to a restaurant. You don't really want to see how your food is prepared. You want to see it looking good on the plate.
Posted by True German Ally 2003-10-4 10:56:06 PM||   2003-10-4 10:56:06 PM|| Front Page Top

#18 Nice repost of my entry from 10/2, FRENCH PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS DISCOVER HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON.
There are some very good French thinkers, Luc Ferry and Alain Renault have been attacking the generation of '68's stupidity for over a decade now.
Posted by Ernest Brown 2003-10-5 10:08:06 AM|| [saturninretrograde.blogspot.com]  2003-10-5 10:08:06 AM|| Front Page Top

10:08 Ernest Brown
07:20 Zhang Fei
04:54 JFM
03:24 Jeff
01:52 typical lefty
00:51 True German Ally
00:30 True German Ally
00:03 Steve White
23:59 Steve White
23:21 Bomb-a-rama
23:15 Sorge
23:08 Bomb-a-rama
23:06 Bomb-a-rama
23:01 True German Ally
22:57 Bomb-a-rama
22:56 True German Ally
22:49 Bomb-a-rama
22:46 Bomb-a-rama
22:23 Frank G
22:21 Frank G
22:19 Frank G
22:18 True German Ally
22:15 GregJ
21:59 g wiz
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