Guy Sorman on the “Autism” of the French State

Posted by John Rosenthal

Guy Sorman is one of that rarest of species among French intellectuals: a liberal, that is in the classical, which is also the etymological, sense of the term: a defender of individual liberties who consigns the state to very specific and limited functions – but expects it to fulfill them. In
an article for Le Figaro (14 November; link in French), he identifies the source of France’s current troubles as a failure – or, more precisely, as he puts it, "autism" – of the French state.

This failure of the state is indeed blatantly obvious and "autism" is the perfect word to describe the malady from which the French elites chronically suffer. Nonetheless, with English-language media reports on the French events being dominated by pc platitudes, on the one hand, and well-nigh messianic pronouncements of the advent of jihad, on the other, Sorman’s perspective is one that has had very little hearing in English. Here, then, some choice extracts:

The urban guerilla warfare launched by the "youth of the banlieues" is just the latest proof of the total disconnect between French society such as it has become and the French political class such as it never changes. The state in France – that is to say those who run it – has been displaying symptoms of a remarkable autism for some thirty years now…. For the "stateocracy" nothing changes and nothing should change because France is perfect as it is and as it was…. According to this ideology of the state, there is a perfect model that the whole world is jealous of us for having….The state fixes the objectives and society follows. Now, since the 1980s, the state is in fact whistling in the wind while society goes off in a thousand other directions….

The state is naked, but it does not know it. The political class – taking refuge in its 18th century palaces in two arrondissements of Paris, served by a public bureaucracy made in its image, so little representative of the rest of the country, more than ever preoccupied by its internal quarrels – has as its principal objective its own survival. In the meanwhile, France – the real France – is burning….

Who is going to admit that the French state that gets involved in everything – the economy, culture, military interventions and other noble causes – has become totally ineffective on the ground? Two years ago, it let 30,000 dehydrated senior citizens die in their nursing homes without air conditioning. Now, it proves incapable of resisting a couple of hundred commandos of hooligans. The state? It is everywhere where society no longer needs it and absent where it is most needed. This political autism is the true cause of the conflagration.

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