Macron vs Everyone

We talk to Shahin Vallee, former economics advisor to Emmanuel Macron, about the state of the Macron presidency: from the gilets jaunes to the pensions protests, from dealing with Merkel to facing off with Putin, and from now to the next presidential election in 2022. Did Macron save the centre of French politics or has he destroyed it? Can he really be sure he'll beat Le Pen next time? And what is his plan to rescue the West? Plus, we discuss what the Griveaux and Mila affairs tell us about the state of French politics. With Helen Thompson.


Talking Points:


How should we relate the gilets jaunes and the pensions protests? 

  • The pensions reform is a more traditional opposition to neoliberal reforms; the gilets jaunes is different and it includes a number of people who do not regularly express themselves politically.
  • The gilets jaunes crystallize a more profound opposition to the French political system.


Macron has centralized the French system to a remarkable extent.

  • This is in part because of the collapse of the main parties.
  • But Macron’s majority is composed of people with a limited power base. 
  • What you have is a presidential system with a weak cohort of parliamentarians. 
  • Macron has also empowered the technocrats.


Macron’s claim to competence was that he was going to get reforms done.

  • But the way he won power made it hard to achieve economic reform.
  • Macron forgot the importance of the unions in mediating public opinion.


Before Macron’s presidency, the hope was that France could get its house in order in exchange for favours from the EU.

  • But there wasn’t much reason to believe that Europe would budge.
  • Macron lacks a theory of change for Europe.


Macron initially presented himself as above political divides, but that didn’t last too long. 

  • He chose a right-wing prime minister and then made domestic policy choices that signaled that he was on the right.
  • For example, he ended the State of Emergency law but then brought its provisions into standard legislation.
  • Macron destroyed the centre and divided and conquered the left, but he does have competition from the right. 
  • In the next election, left wing voters might abstain rather than vote for Macron. 
  • Macron presented himself as order versus chaos. The risk is that he now looks like the source of chaos.


Mentioned in this Episode: 


Further Learning: 


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking


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