Sure looks a lot like conservatism

Didier Fassin

  • Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation by Sophie Pedder
    Bloomsbury, 297 pp, £25.00, June 2018, ISBN 978 1 4729 4860 1

During his presidential campaign last year, Emmanuel Macron’s insistence that he was ‘neither left nor right’ was seen as the defining feature of his attempt to transcend old-fashioned politics. Jürgen Habermas declared that Macron ‘has dared to cross a red line untouched since 1789’ and ‘has broken apart the entrenched configuration of the two political camps of right and left’. This positioning caught the imagination of French voters disillusioned with Les Républicains, whose leader, François Fillon, had been disgraced in a nepotism scandal, and with the Parti Socialiste (PS), undermined by François Hollande’s disappointing presidency. Macron had been an investment banker at Rothschild and was minister of the economy for two years under Hollande. He appeared amenable both to a neoliberal approach and to the progressive programme of the socialists, although as a minister he was responsible for a pro-business turn. His much derided verbal tic – he will make a case for something and then say ‘en même temps’ (‘at the same time’) and give the other side – allows him to seem to situate himself above the political divide. Was Macron neither left nor right, or was he both at the same time? His portrayal of himself was so fascinating that many voters forgot their historic loyalties: Macron seemed like a new figure on the political stage, whose presence would require a rearrangement of the scenery.

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