Monday, May 24, 2010
"Care" is back in the news. For Anglophones who haven't been following this story, it is essential to point out that the English word "care" has taken French leave and is in danger of becoming a full-fledged French neologism thanks to Martine Aubry's adoption of it as a description of what the "new socialism" hopes to inject into the French social model. "Care," these two defenders of the concept tell us, is supposedly an American concept that will "restore the capacity to act" and "shore up precarious existences." Carol Gilligan is cited as sole source. Well, with all due respect to Carol (my first date with my wife some 27 years ago was a double with Carol and her husband), I think she would be the first to suggest that any connection between her critique of contemporary social theories and any practical social policy would require several layers of mediation. The French debate over the meaning of "care" threatens to become yet another smoke-screen behind which the Socialist Party will attempt to obfuscate what its actual intentions are. It would be better to conduct a real debate in plain French rather than hide behind this rather lofty ideal. Between the idea of "care" and the insistence on maintaining the legal age of retirement at 60, nearly everything of importance to real social policy is left undefined and therefore all the more vulnerable to backroom deals.
The Champs-Élysées were transformed yesterday from hallowed field of heroes into an urban strip farm. Exactly what the point of this exercise was supposed to have been escapes me, but Parisians loved it, huge crowds engaged for a day in what Marx once disparaged as "rural idiocy," Bruno Le Maire made a speech, and a good deal of greenhouse gas was generated. Perhaps the French were deceived yet again into thinking that a nation of agrobusiness and Carrefours has somehow reverted to its former existence as a nation of peasants. Sarkozy isn't the only one who has learned the tricks of la société du spectacle.