Michael Stothard’s all to brief report on the loss of influence of French Intellectuals. A comment by Committed Observer

The perpetual intellectual obfuscation, here at The Financial Times, is again striking, although the idea of a ‘liberal elite’ remains a central dogma of their Party Line.There is no ‘liberal elite’,there is only the utterly disreputable, not to speak of an utterly failed Neo-Liberal elite, or their fellow travelers.

The soul-searching of leftwing intellectuals such as Mr Foessel in part mirrors that of liberal elites across the western world, who are struggling to understand the populist surge that swept Donald Trump to victory in the US and the UK out of the EU.’


What we in America get of French Intellectuals is the highfalutin chatter of Bernard-Henri Lévy, in the pages of that journalistic sink-hole The Daily Beast. Lévy and editor Michael Weiss are political allies. Lévy’s latest essay at the ‘The Beast’ is a ringing denunciation of Leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which reads like the notes for a speech due for declamation before an adoring multitude. See my full comment on the Lévy essay here:


Lévy presents himself modeled after haute couture Yves St. Laurent’s, YSL becomes in a dull-witted act of ‘branding’ BHL: Lévy does not enjoy the status of Sartre or Camus for a reason, he is product of the Market, not of the intelligentsia. But most assuredly Lévy has a penchant for war mongering, rather surprising for a war correspondent, who witnessed carnage at second hand.

Sartre’s great antagonist,and classmate, was Raymond Aron, author of The Opium of Intellectuals (1955), can the reader name a BHL antagonist recognizable to the English speaking reader? Perhaps another indication of BHL’s irrelevance as thinker, who does not enjoy respect as intellectual/moral leader?

Should the reader look to France’s most celebrated novelist Michel Houellebecq for a reason that is indicative of ‘loss of influence’? Read Adam Shatz’s review of Michel Houellebecq’s novel about a Muslim takeover of France…’ titled Soumission.  Shatz can’t quite bring himself to call Houellebecq an Islamophobe:

Michel Houellebecq’s novel about a Muslim takeover of France is a melancholy tribute to the pleasure of surrender. It’s 2022, a charismatic Islamist politician called Mohammed Ben Abbes has become president, and France has fallen under his spell. Houellebecq’s timing could hardly have been better: Soumission was published on 7 January, the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The novel was hailed by the right as a prophetic warning, a fictional cousin of Eric Zemmour’s anti-Muslim tirade, Le Suicide français, and attacked by the left, in the words of Alain Jakubowicz, as ‘the best Christmas gift he could have given to Marine Le Pen’. Both Houellebecq’s admirers and his detractors assumed that he still believed Islam was what he’d once called it: ‘the stupidest religion’. But Houellebecq has had second thoughts, and although his novel is deeply reactionary, it is not Islamophobic.


Mr. Michael Stothard provides a fascinating, if all too brief, sketch of the French political/intellectual scene. Yet the coverage of French life, its politics and its thinkers, needs to be expanded if the notion of ‘Premium’ is to have any meaning at all!

Committed 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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