Plus ça change

Here’s the FT:

When it first appeared in an obscure military blog last month, a ringing call to arms by retired French generals that came close to calling for a coup d’état made it sound as though France was on the verge of civil war. 

“France is in peril,” read the declaration that went on to be signed by hundreds of army pensioners and at least 18 active military personnel. It condemned “laxism”, Islamism and “the hordes” on the outskirts of the nation’s towns and cities, which every French reader understands to mean immigrants. 

Republished in the rightwing magazine Valeurs Actuelles on the 60th anniversary of the failed generals’ putsch against President Charles de Gaulle in 1961, the statement was initially dismissed by the army command as the nostalgic ramblings of elderly reactionaries.

But a public endorsement from far-right leader Marine Le Pen — who said it was the duty of French patriots “to rise up” to save the country — triggered condemnations from politicians and the defence ministry and a promise to punish the serving soldiers who signed the declaration. . . .

According to an opinion poll carried out after the controversy erupted, 58 per cent of French voters — including many on the left — supported the military officers who signed the declaration. An extraordinary 74 per cent thought French society was collapsing and no less than 45 per cent agreed France “will soon have a civil war”. 

Jean-Daniel Lévy, managing director of Harris Interactive, which conducted the poll, said: “Overall, the French have the same views as those that were expressed by the generals.” 

And this is from volume 3 of In Search of Lost Time:

Certainly we must put a stop to anti-militarist intrigues, but neither can we tolerate a brawl encouraged by those elements on the Right who instead of serving the patriotic ideal themselves are hoping to make it serve them. Heaven be praised, France is not a South American replica . . .

Yes, but for how much longer?

PS. For those who desire a break from politics (i.e. those with more sense than I have), this gem is from volume 2 of ISOLT:

But the characteristic feature of the ridiculous age I was going through—awkward indeed but by no means infertile—is that we do not consult our intelligence and that the most trivial attributes of other people seem to us to form an inseparable part of their personality. In a world thronged with monsters and with gods, we know little peace of mind. There is hardly a single action we perform in that phase which we would not give anything, in later life, to be able to annul. Whereas what we ought to regret is that we no longer possess the spontaneity which made us perform them. In later life we look at things in a more practical way, in full conformity with the rest of society, but adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything.

My edition has a blurb from Walter Benjamin:

There has never been anyone else with Proust’s ability to show us things; Proust’s pointing finger is unequaled.



23 Responses to “Plus ça change”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    1. September 2021 at 10:53

    This is concerning. I don’t know how seriously to take the poll mentioned, but I suspect at least a large minority of people in many developed countries have similar sentiments. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are nasty and clueless on these issues

  2. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. September 2021 at 13:28

    I am not a seer, but France will not have a civil war. That is absurd. You are buried in Proust and you are conflating reality with his critique of 19th/20th century France —much deserved. Where you see growth in “authoritarian nationalism”, I see grotesque exaggerations within the media and social media of the magnitude of opinion differences. It is no different here.

    Chill out. This is clickbait and AI trying to keep the media alive.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. September 2021 at 17:44

    Michael, Wait, where did I say that France would have a civil war?

  4. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    2. September 2021 at 04:18

    I know that!

    I should have started a new paragraph——it was called for. I was commenting on the FT

    But I was also commenting on your interest in the FT essay in general—-I do read and retain what you write and you do not exactly hide what you think.

    And it certainly was not an insult, and I don’ think inaccurate, to connect your recent endeavor to read “La Recherche” with your essay title, “Plus ca Change”. In fact, I thought it was insightful.

    But it was the FT that annoyed me—-that’s just me. You don’t need my compliments.

  5. Gravatar of Mary Mary
    2. September 2021 at 05:34

    Multiculturalism will fail.

    It’s not sustainable.

    People with different values cannot live together for very long. History has shown that to be the case.

    The idea that the west needs “bodies” for work and for “growth” because of the decline in births and the unwilligness to work is simply a myth. People can be “encouraged” to pick strawberries. Americans and European don’t need Mexicans for that. They don’t need foreigners to be nurses. They have a lot of unemployed. And the birth decline can be resolved with tax breaks and “inspiration”, lol.

  6. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    2. September 2021 at 05:52

    My fear is that the nationalistic tendencies popping up worldwide are not a temporary blip on a path to a global Western Democratic order, but rather that Western Democracy is a temporary blip in the long history of a world of nationalistic dictatorial/monarchical regimes.

    I hope my fear is unfounded.

  7. Gravatar of Asher Asher
    2. September 2021 at 06:09

    Proust is good at pointing fingers. I sometimes feel that the entire series ISOLT is devoted to documenting, in exhausting detail, how petty human beings are. Of course our pettiness is an important aspect of our shared humanity and literature shouldn’t ignore it, but we humans also share love, selflessness, ideals and at times even genuine heroism. Given the length of ISOLT, I feel that the balance is lacking. Compare it to War and Peace, which doesn’t spare us the pettiness of human life, but better balances it with our occasional grandeur.

  8. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    2. September 2021 at 06:14

    “Western Democracy”

    This ‘democracy’?

    “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
    Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
    Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism—offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. “

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. September 2021 at 10:56

    Michael, OK, so just to be clear, when you say:

    “you are conflating reality”

    The “you” refers to the FT, not me.

  10. Gravatar of Mary Mary
    4. September 2021 at 07:36

    I was speaking to a Colombian woman recently, who spoke about how Venezuelan refugees were taking their jobs, resorting to crime, creating a black labor market, and that “some were good, but most were bad”. The majority want Venezuelans to stay in their country!

    When Donald Trump said “some are good, some are bad”, the U.S. liberals do what they usually do – they cried racism. But everything he says resonates across the globe.

    Most people around the world do not like to see suffering, but they also understand that it’s cultural genocide to accept millions of refugees.

    Visitors are welcome. Temporary asylum is welcome. Permitting a few dissidents to come and live is welcome. But importing 1M people, many of which don’t subscribe to your values, will only create social conflicts. Corruption and violence will increase, ghettos will become larger, competing interests with wildly different views will commence, and the nation will eventually collapse.

    The French people have lived in that region for 2000 years. They share a homeland, a culture, and a language. They are not “racist”. They simply don’t want Africans & Muslims, or English or Russians, becoming permanent residences. Those people have very different cultures. The average Londoner is just as unwelcome to buy up property as the average Syrian.

  11. Gravatar of Mary Mary
    4. September 2021 at 07:39

    For people who subscribe to the multicultural view, I challenge them to think about their response if a 10M whites moved to DRC, Egypt, or Ghana.

    Would the left cry cultural genocide? Would they say the “whites” are “stealing black people’s lands”.

    They would be correct in saying so.

    And whites should not be afraid to say the same.

    Culture, tradition, values – all create the beautiful thing we call “country”. It’s necessary for stability.

  12. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. September 2021 at 07:44

    Sumner a déjà donné une opinion sur la politique grecque – ce que je ne fais même pas et j’y vis – et donne maintenant des opinions sur la politique Français. L’homme est un génie !

    Translation; Sumner once gave an opinion on Greek politics –which I don’t even do and I live there–and now gives opinions on French politics. The man is a genius!

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. September 2021 at 09:21

    Mary, I’m confused. When you say American culture, do you mean white American culture or black American culture or Hispanic American culture or Asian American culture or native American culture?

    And you seem to know very little about French history.

  14. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    4. September 2021 at 10:12


    Yes, that is correct.

    This is a blog, and more to the point, I am a commenter on a blog. Is there a lower form of public writing than a commenter on a blog? (Actually, Twitter, except Trump 😊). But even a commenter can presume proper inference by the reader. But to repeat, “you” is FT. Still………..(:-)).

  15. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    5. September 2021 at 09:52

    Mary, Scott,
    I’ve read Scott’s blog alot, and he(pro-immigration) and anti-immigration folks like to discuss this vague esoteric concepts of “culture” and whatever to describe whether should America import immigrants or not. But from my personal experience, almost anyone who hates or likes immigration simply focuses on the perception of crime and disorder.
    I have no doubt that in France, just like in America, non-Whites commit more crime per-capita than Whites do.

    When people talk about “American culture”, they usually are referring to the atmosphere of the 1950s, when violent crime was approximately 1/4th of what it is today. America(and France) were much nicer and safer back then, and that is motivating the a majority of French to back the generals that Muslims and immigrants should be expelled from France.
    After all, the whole argument for immigration is that it makes the native people better off, and the (White) French who built that country seem to strongly disagree, just like White people in America. Perhaps Mary doesn’t know French History, but the French do, and they support the generals strongly.

    Scott either doesn’t know or care about these things, so he thinks that importing someone with high crime rates into a Western country is good.

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. September 2021 at 10:02

    Anon, You statement about crime in the 1950s is factually incorrect. And to the extent crime has increased, it has nothing to do with immigration. Immigrants have a lower crime rate than native born Americans.

  17. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    5. September 2021 at 11:20

    Immigrants have a lower crime rate than native born Americans, but not native born Whites. Moreover, all immigrant children become “Native-Born Americans”, and I’m sure that the people in France hate the the Native Born Muslims as much as they hate the Immigrant ones.
    All non-White races with the exception of Asians have higher age-adjusted murder rates than Whites do.

    Also, my statement of crime is actually factually correct.
    Here is the violent crime rate over time in the United States
    It clearly shows that the violent crime rate in 1960 is around 150 per 100k and today it is around 400 per 100k, with an average of 450 over the preceding years.

    It’s hard to admit your wrong, but factually speaking, America is worse today than it was in the 1950s and 1960s, which is why so many of the White American population is so mad.

  18. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    5. September 2021 at 11:25

    Better put, you’re from California, and CA’s violent crime rate today is double what it was in 1960, and this is despite the huge rise in incarceration and preventative advancements in criminology.

    So, if immigration or demographic changes have made CA better, then why is the violent crime rate more than double what it was 60 years ago? Are countries supposed to make positive progress on these issues?

  19. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    5. September 2021 at 12:53


    You racists are all alike and so predictable. Things are not “worse” now than in the 1950s for any group on an absolute basis. White men have seen their relative position change however, and that makes the racist and sexist ones among them pretty mad.

    White men used to run shit and now they don’t to the same degree and a large portion of them are upset about this.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. September 2021 at 14:15

    Anon, I presume you know that 400/150 is not 4 times. And that data for changes in violent crimes over time are not reliable. The only somewhat reliable crime data is the murder rate, which was about the same in 2016 as in 1960. (Of course murders rose sharply under the Trump administration.)

    The crime rate for immigrants is lower than for native born Americans. Why you compare all immigrants to white Americans is totally beyond me. You don’t think non-whites are real Americans? Why not compare Asian immigrants to black native born Americans. What is your point? Do you only favor white immigrants?
    I live in a typical immigrant heavy county in California (Orange), and the crime rate is fairly low.

    Some cities like San Francisco do worse, but this has nothing to do with immigrants. The city simply doesn’t prosecute lots of crimes.

  21. Gravatar of henry henry
    6. September 2021 at 09:41

    There will be a civil war in France, because the French people cannot live in harmony with those who cut people’s throats. There are now ghettos which are no go zones in Paris. Unthinkable just twenty years ago.

    From the corrupt loser from Minnesota, who sent 2M in donations to her husbands marketing company, to the millions climbing Frances border we know it will end in violence!

    The multiculturalist are either naive, or they are purposefully trying to destroy the country so they can obtain power.

    France’s generals sent a stern warning. And I can assure you they will make good on that warning very soon, if the French politicians do not act. You cannot ignore the people forever. At some point, they will rise up – with a military faction – to crush you. It’s NOT an empty threat.

    And for the people who clamor “anti-science” does anyone find it comical that Pete Buttigieg and his husband took photo ops in a hospital bed (as if they were giving birth)? Can anyone imagine what the media would be saying if Trump had a photo op in a hospital bed? It would be 24/7 coverage about how he took a hospital bed from an overcrowded and underfunded hospital that was inundated with Covid cases, blah blah.

    This is what conservatives have to deal with. As the totalitarian & communist demothugs like to say: One rule for thee, another for me.

  22. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    6. September 2021 at 13:03

    Due to the advances in the medical world, murder rate is always lower than it would be given the rate of violent crime. For instance, Japan and the US had similar murder rates back in the 1950s, and now Japan has 1/10th of the murder rate of the US. Hence, the country has gotten much worse. Your innumeracy is showing here, which is shocking since you are supposed to be an academic.

    A bullet wound today is much less likely to kill you than a similar wound back then. The US has much better medical tools but a vastly higher violent crime rate, hence it has the same murder rate. The two factors balance each other out, but more people are still being attacked, shot, and hurt. The data is reliable when you take this factor into account.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. September 2021 at 10:13

    Anon, You cite useless violent crime rate data and then accuse me of innumeracy? That’s pretty rich.

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