David Rieff diagnoses The French Malady: some thoughts by Political Observer

Where else but The National Interest, home of the self-infatuated and verbose Francis Fukuyama, would you find an essay by David Rieff titled France’s Grand Illusion? Mr. Rieff manages to execute the historical/literary meander never letting the practice of brevity get in his way. He tries the patience of the reader!

Some selected quotes form the Rieff essay:

Has this anti-Zionism morphed into anti-Semitism in immigrant communities in France, as it has throughout Europe? Unquestionably.

If Mr. Netanyahu presents himself as spokesman for world Jewry, what might be the consequences of such an oft repeated assertion?

On the Washington address to joint session of Congress:

Netanyahu, in defending the visit, has indicated that he is coming to Congress to speak as the representative of the “entire Jewish people.” American Jews are largely appalled by the notion that Netanyahu, or any other Israeli politician — one that we did not elect and do not choose to be represented by — claims to speak for us.


On the Copenhagen attack:

“Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews,” Mr. Netanyahu said Sunday in Jerusalem. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” he added.


On the following quote one might make the same assertion about Israel, with some minor adjustments :

In reality, it is not so much that things are actually worse in France—and even with regard to the Muslim immigrant question, one can plausibly argue that despite Charlie Hebdo, it remains considerably better in France than in the United Kingdom—but rather that France’s acute obsession with its own identity has morphed from the dialectical (France as compared with other countries) to the autarchic (France turned inward on itself). Geoffrey Wheatcroft offered an apt encapsulation of this in an essay provocatively titled “Liberté, Fraternité, Morosité.” “Not long ago,” he wrote, “France had a hang-up about America. Now, France has a hang-up about France.”

The fundamental problems of France are not mainly the product of cultural capitulation but rather the result of the transformations of the world economy that make any return to Finkielkraut’s beloved cultural and moral status quo ante a total impossibility.

The Neo-Liberal model/Globalization is in free fall i.e. abject failure which Mr Reiff fails to confront. As an American he proffers no ‘fix’ for American woes, yet feels free to diagnose the French Malady, with an ease that is what? All uttered with a self-congratulation he criticizes in others. Call his whole approach arrogant bordering on the hubristic! He becomes prescriptive, one wonders about the how of it?

How would teaching immigrant kids about the greatness of Racine and Corneille have any effect on any of these questions?

One might just conjecture that a history that includes both Racine and Corneille and an honest confrontation with France’s dismal colonial history: a history that includes the failure to integrate immigrants from the Maghreb, as an integral part of the learning experience for all students, might be a beginning point!

Political Observer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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