Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Resilience, The French Way…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 6, 2007

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Not everyone, outside of France, understood the French population’s sigh of relief two weeks ago, after the results of the first round of the presidential electionsUnlike 2002, the leader of the of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a notable racist and nationalist politician, did not make it to the second round.  And those who don’t know France well cannot fully appreciated the extent of the political crisis that Le Pen’s presence in the second round of the election triggered.  This is not saying anything about France’s rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, which was just another proof – as if it was needed – of the crisis and the greater defiance towards the French political class. 

So from Le Pen’s humiliation – his score was divided by 2 and he lost more than a million votes in absolute terms –  we can draw one fundamental lesson about French politics and society: In the wake of a major political threat – fascism – that France has known too well in the past, the French society as a whole has been able to display a remarkable resilience by adapting its behavior and imposing once again the most reasonable political order it wishes.  As a matter of fact, Le Pen’s ruin is first and foremost the result of a very high participation rate – a historic record of 85% – which turned out to be the Front National’s candidate’s worse enemy.  This bounce back was made possible by various institutional and social mechanisms, which all allowed for the reasons of Le Pen’s success in 2002 to be analyzed and understood by a major part of the population.  In turn, this allowed France to return to a political pattern it recognizes itself in, with a traditional divide between Socialists and Conservatives.  

Little has been written on resilience applied to aggregate masses.  A recurring idea, though, in the literature regarding the notion of resilience, is the concept of threshold: Resilience is a feature that can and must be maintained in time, and must not be taken for granted.  Otherwise, the threshold beyond which an organized group cannot revert back to its primary and preferred order, will become increasingly frail. 

Thus, there is a second lesson France must draw from the future: It is not because the country has displayed a remarkable capacity to adapt its behavior in order to avoid what a major fraction of society fears that this will necessarily take place the next time around.  As a matter of fact, many commentators have underscored the fact that, if Le Pen is likely to retire now, his daughter Marine, whose rhetoric is much more soft-core but not less specious, could be a 2012 favorite if the country’s problems are not fixed.  Political activism, as well as maintained awareness, could be the two items making French resilience a long term phenomenon.

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One Response to “Resilience, The French Way…”

  1. […] Be as it may, the British composure we celebrated in the wake of the 2005 bombings remains relevant today, as the British people has proven once more. This is not an empty victory by any means. It is an example of how Western societies can partially win, at the individual level, the fight against terror. Everybody has it its own way with resilience. […]

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