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In contrast to the situation in the Anglo-American world – where detailed racial data gives a good sense of most groups’ educational and socio-economic performance, criminality, voting patterns, etc. – there is no systematic collection of such data in France.

This means that we have to estimate the general situation using proxy data, such as first names in birth registries and voter registration rolls, the percentage of children tested for sickle-cell disease, or parallels with comparable countries who do have some data (such as Great Britain and Belgium).

The French pollster Jérôme Fourquet has gathered a considerable set of data on France’s Muslim communities. As he documents in his book L’Archipel français, there is a clear pattern of residential (self-)segregation and socio-economic stratification along ethno-religious lines:

Even if this phenomenon [of immigration] is not new, the geographical concentration of certain communities, associated with the quasi-planetary diversification of migratory flows and the impressive demographic rise of populations from the Arab-Muslim worlds constitute major drivers for the archipelization of French society. (p. 143)

Settlement patterns are strongly influenced by “family and acquaintances networks” (p. 142). As a result, immigrant groups in France tend to not only be concentrated in particular neighborhoods, but also tend to come from particular areas and communities within the home country.

Using data from voter registration rolls, Fourquet could determine that in the municipality of Sarcelles (population 58,000, in the northern suburbs of Paris), 92% of Indians are from Pondicherry (a former French colonial possession) or the surrounding state of Tamil Nadu (p 142). Similarly, Sarcelles hosts a significant community of Christian Chaldeans overwhelmingly hailing from just three Turkish districts. If you give immigrants even a toehold into the country, this greatly facilitates the whole clan being brought over.

These ethnic clustering patterns are long-term if not permanent. For instance, Armenians are still heavily concentrated in certain areas of Marseille (making up 10-40% of some neighborhoods), despite the fact they mostly arrived in France after 1915, around a century ago (p. 142-3).

Seine-Saint-Denis, France’s most Afro-Islamic département, a county outside of Paris in the 1900s and the 2010s.
Seine-Saint-Denis, France’s most Afro-Islamic département, a county outside of Paris in the 1900s and the 2010s.

The tendency of ethnic clustering and self-segregation is being reinforced by the sheer scale of immigration, particularly Islamic. It is becoming easier and easier for Muslims to live among their own and not have to adapt to local French norms:

The greater the immigrant presence, the greater the tendency to reject mixed marriages among Muslims, reaching 35% or even 37% in neighborhoods and municipalities with a very high immigrant presence (15% to 30% immigrants or immigrants’ children in the local population). (p. 153)

One set of polls found conflicting tendencies: between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of Muslims who would be happy if their son married a non-Muslim rose from 41% to 56%, while those who would be happy if their daughter married outside the faith fell from 38% to 35% (p. 152). Interestingly, the more educated a Muslim is, the more likely he/she is to intermarry with a non-Muslim (p. 158). The less educated working class Muslims are more hostile to intermarriage, reproducing the pattern of ethnocentric sentiment inversely correlating with intelligence and socio-economic status.

Hostility to intermarriage is suggestive of the clash of values between native French and Muslims. As a rule, we can expect initially stark differences between liberal post-60s Frenchmen and first-generation Muslims hailing from relatively traditional societies, and then a partial convergence as the immigrants acculturate to the new environment (or, to some extent, as the French are reeducated to “adapt” to the newcomers’ cultures).

Convergence has always been limited. Muslims in France are no more likely to adopt French names for their children they they were in the past (p. 161). Muslim naming follows its own patterns completely independent from the general French population (p. 162). Whereas the French population overwhelmingly supports women’s right to abortion or gays’ right to “be free to live as they wish,” only small majorities of French Muslims also do so (p. 165).

Convergence may have, if anything, peaked as there is evidence of a resurgence in Islamic sentiment:

The studies and polls that we have all converge in indicating a greater frequency and observance of religious signs in the population of Muslim faith or origin. The turning point seems to have been the early 2000s. (p. 163)

In the early 1990s, around 60% of Muslims in France fasted for Ramadan, the figure for the 2000s varied between 67% and 71% (p. 164). In the 1990s, 35% to 39% of Muslims said they drank alcohol, a figure which fell to 32% in 2011 and 22% in 2016. The proportion of Muslim women wearing headscarves has risen from 24% in 2003 to 35% in 2016. Perhaps most surprisingly, a recent poll found that young Muslims are significantly more hostile to sex before marriage than are their elders. Whereas 55% of Muslims over 50 said “A woman should remain a virgin until marriage,” 74% of 18-24 year-olds were of this opinion (p. 167).

It is unclear what is driving this re-Islamization. In addition to the Muslim community’s growing confidence as it also grows in size, it may also be an ethno-religious reaction to certain polemics of the early 2000s: the War on Terror, the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and new measures by conservative French politicians to limit overt Islamization (such as the 2004 ban on headscarves in schools or President Nicolas Sarkozy’s “Le Pen-lite” campaigning). President Emmanuel Macron’s draft “law against separatisms” may have a similar effect, aiming as it does to eliminate Islamism through various measures so as to assuage native French fears, measures which will likely stoke greater ethno-religious sentiment and a feeling of persecution (justified or not) among Muslims.

We can expect to see a continued cycle reinforcing Muslim and native French ethnic/religious sentiment as measures appealing to the French offend Muslims, Muslims adopting behavior offensive to the native French, and so forth. One of the most common vectors of this: cases of alleged police brutality becoming causes célèbres for protest among Muslims (and Africans), in a context of distinctly higher Muslim (and African) violent criminality).

 
• Category: Culture/Society, Foreign Policy • Tags: France, Immigration, Muslims 

A specter is haunting Europe: the specter of basic statistical literacy.

As a law-abiding French citizen, I do not engage in any conspiracy theories or really any thoughts disapproved of by my democratically-elected politicians in the National Assembly and by public-spirited ethno-religious lobbying organizations like the LICRA and the CRIF.

According to Wikipédia, the Great Replacement is an “extreme-right, racist, and xenophobic conspiracy theory according to which there is a deliberate process of replacement of the French and European population by a non-European population, especially from Black Africa and North Africa. . . . The main arguments of this thesis, whether demographic or cultural, are refuted by the great majority of specialists, who reject both the methods from which its rests and its underlying logic.”

Naturally, I then reject the despicable arguments claiming there is a change of the European population citing so-called “facts” such as our current immigration policies, demographic statistics, and quotes of our political leaders celebrating our bright multicultural future.

But now my consciousness is troubled . . . the Belgians, our strange neighbors beyond the village of Quiévrain, are now claiming through their State propaganda outlets that there is a growing change in Belgium’s population.

The francophone State broadcaster RTBF blares with the headline: “Now 20% of the Belgian population is of foreign origin and Moroccans outnumber Italians.” It gets worse in the body text as the article claims that “Diversity in Belgium has increased over the past 10 years. It’s what, in any case, is shown by new statistics on the origin of the Belgian population, published by Statbel.”

RTBF provides striking graphs to illustrate their claims:

Population by origin in Belgium, Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. Blue: non-Belgians, light green: Belgians of foreign origin, teal: “Belgians of Belgian origin.”
Population by origin in Belgium, Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. Blue: non-Belgians, light green: Belgians of foreign origin, teal: “Belgians of Belgian origin.”

In fact, the headline understates matters because RTBF has hatefully excluded resident “non-Belgians” from the Belgian population. As of 1 January 2020, 12.4% of the population is non-Belgian, 19.7% are Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and 67.9% is native Belgian. Already, native Belgians then only make up two thirds of the population!

Foreigners’ and their descendants are very unevenly spread geographically however. Flanders, a region which votes heavily for anti-immigration parties, is still over 75% native Belgian, while French-speaking Wallonia is only two-thirds Belgo-Belgian. In Brussels, astonishingly, native Belgians barely make up a quarter of the population!

It is true that the Belgian middle class has largely fled the capital, sandwiched between relatively dysfunctional Muslim neighborhoods and gentrifying neighborhoods taken over by European expats.

Ethnic (self-)segregation in Brussels: Europeans in blue, Arabs in pink, Turks in yellow.
Ethnic (self-)segregation in Brussels: Europeans in blue, Arabs in pink, Turks in yellow.

In a recent paper, psychologists Emil Kirkegaard and Baptiste Dumoulin examined the the correlation between Muslim settlement and social outcomes in 589 Belgian municipalities:

We find very strong relationships between Muslim% of the population and a variety of social outcomes such as crime rate, educational attainment, and median income. For the 19 communes of Brussels, we find a correlation of -.94 between Muslim% and a general factor of socioeconomic variables (S factor) based on 22 diverse indicators. . . . For the entire country, we have data for 8 measures of social inequality. Analysis of the indicators shows an S factor which is very similar to the one from the Brussels data only based on the full set of indicators (r’s = .98).

Background of foreign-origin people in Belgium: neighboring countries (including Britain) in red; the EU27 in blue; non-EU27 in green.
Background of foreign-origin people in Belgium: neighboring countries (including Britain) in red; the EU27 in blue; non-EU27 in green.

RTBF also provides data on the origin of foreign-origin people in Belgium: 51.3% are from non-EU countries (mostly North Africans, Turks, and Black Africans), 20.5% are from “neighboring countries” (including Britain), and 28.2% are from other European Union countries. We observe that non-EU migrants are concentrated in Brussels (60.7% of foreign-origin people) and markedly underrepresented in Wallonia. Indeed, the latter has a long previous history of Italian immigration.

Top 5

Romanians have also progressed enormously, now the sixth-most important nationality, with a massive wave of immigration since that country’s access to the EU in 2007. This is a heterogeneous group: many Romanians work in EU affairs as yuppies, others work in blue-collar professions such as construction, go to church, and vote for nationalists, and others still are in fact Gypsies who now make up about half of the beggars that hang about so many of this little global city’s street corners. (Many of these Gypsies have adopted migratory patterns of begging a few months in the West and then returning to the home country in stints.)

Most important sources for foreign-origin residents broken down by region: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.
Most important sources for foreign-origin residents broken down by region: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.

Over 10 years, the proportion of each category of foreigner (neighboring, other EU, and non-EU) has not varied much.

One important thing not mentioned by RTBF is the age structure of the native vs. foreign-origin populations. As Jérôme Fourquet has emphasized in his study of France, headline statistics often understate the intensity and rapidity of changes because the elderly are included, but as always the future belongs to the young.

Population pyramids for the whole Belgian population, native Belgians, Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and non-citizens. (Source: Statbel)
Population pyramids for the whole Belgian population, native Belgians, Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and non-citizens. (Source: Statbel)

If I were to trust these Belgian statistics, I would add this makes the traditional Wallonian-Flemish bickering over Brussels now look very petty indeed: with native Belgians making up only around 20% of residents, the city is fully lost to both sides. The Belgo-Brusseler is a marginal whose proper place is on the endangered species list.

Brussels may as well be an independent city-state and/or EU capital district, something which would no doubt assuage the new residents’ alienation from smalltime Belgian politics (interminable negotiations and gridlock between the Flemish and Francophone parties). This would also give an opportunity for Brussels to become a “Singapore of the North” by shedding the Belgian State’s appalling tax burden on income and social charges. Then again, I suppose the emerging Afro-Islamic majority Brussels citizens overwhelmingly votes socialist.

But why not make English an official language of independent Brussels? We could even make Arabic and Turkish into recognized minority languages. Then different residents could not only live in different neighborhoods, as they happily choose to do now, but could each be educated in the language and culture that most resonates with them.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Belgium, Immigration 
On Your Own Time

In my working life, I regularly encounter people in public affairs with a total lack of interest in history. Even officials with PhDs who swear by democracy and the rule of law, and who claim to promote them, will tell me that a man like Alexis de Tocqueville is too ancient to be of any relevance today.

This sort of thing leaves me stunned but is not particularly surprising in our age when Western “elites” look upon their own civilization’s past with a mixture of total incomprehension and righteous indignation.

It is obviously extremely dangerous when a society’s leadership is ignorant and contemptuous of its past. I’ll go much further back than Tocqueville and cite Cicero as an authority: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” We are governed by the human equivalent of self-loathing goldfish.

I well understand the frustration that people feel in studying history, “one damn thing after another.” Almost every child’s memory is scarred by their high-school history classes presenting an inchoate series of dates, personalities, and events to be memorized. Paul Valéry felt the same way, so if you’ve a distaste for history, you are not in bad company. In fact, there is some sense in drilling a few common references into young people’s heads, but on the whole this misses the point. The fault here is with our systems of secondary education, apparently uniformly odious forms of mental circus training, not with history as such.

The point is: How did we get here? What can we learn from past experience? What have we inherited so we don’t start from scratch? I advise every thoughtful young person to discover the pleasures of browsing a good historical atlas to understand how his society, his moment of time, fits in the big picture of the wider human journey. This can inspire right action. Again Cicero: “For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Personally, I have always strongly felt the intrinsic kinship between history and politics. I later discovered that ancient historians long before me had felt the same way. But the ancients went further, in always emphasizing that the study of past lives and societies should also improve our personal moral character.

Take Polybius, that Greek historian of a Roman Republic which triumphantly unified the lands of the Mediterranean: “not only is there no more authentic way to prepare and train oneself for political life than by studying history, but also there is no more comprehensible and comprehensive teacher of the ability to endure with courage the vicissitudes of Fortune than a record of others’ catastrophes.”

I would go further and claim that the ancient historians’ approach and interests directly resonate with our experiences today. Peruse the introductions of Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, or Livy. What do they discuss? The great deeds of the Greeks, Romans, and other nations, the rise and fall of republics and empires, the diversity and conflict among tribes and civilizations, and even globalization. Consider Livy, who says he will document “the history of the greatest nation on earth . . . [so] that each reader will pay the closest attention to the following: how men lived, what their moral principles were, under what leaders and by what measures at home and abroad our empire was won and extended.” Who could be uninterested in the roots of the power and glory of Rome?

Nota bene: You don’t need to read the whole damn things. Chronicles may be necessary but often make for dreary reading. Though a good guide helps, e.g. the excellent Oxford Classics and Landmark series. Walls of text should also be complemented with illustrated encyclopedias featuring all the beautiful non-literary evidence and heritage left behind by our predecessors: architecture, statuary, paintings, artifacts, etc. The past was as alive as we are today, if anything, more so.

History itself also shows that its study is not limited to that of humble bookwyrms like myself. The fact is that the most serious and consequential modern leaders were also men of historical culture: the American Founding Fathers, Bonaparte, Hitler, De Gaulle, Gandhi, even that supposed knucklehead Patton . . . all were great and voracious bibliophiles with wide-ranging interests, in particular historical.

And why do great men study history? Because they seek to put their life’s work in the perspective of the ages, of all past human accomplishment. That is the challenge they put before themselves. That is how they incite their manly pride to accomplish something truly worthy and as great as can be.

But I well understand that such a mindset is incomprehensible in our times, where not just mediocrity but outright defectiveness are celebrated as sacred rights. Why would anyone study the great deeds of past men if this would only remind them of the humdrum nature of their own existence?

In truth, I would not recommend studying history at university randomly, like the Anglo-Saxons and increasingly Continental Europeans do, without a view towards a specific career. Do so, if that is your calling, that is, with the specific goal of becoming a history teacher, a professor, a researcher, a museum curator, an independent historian, etc.

You may be put off by such humble careers. I will say, in France, high-school teaching used to be a fairly respected and prestigious profession, one compatible with higher political activities. Hervé Ryssen had a stint as a history-geography teacher (his pedagogic skills indeed transpire in all his work) and, in a very different genre, the charming leader of the French conservatives in the European Parliament is the 30-something philosophy teacher François-Xavier Bellamy.

More generally, I discover every day more and more content creators who are forging their own career path, most commonly through the steady production of YouTube videos. It seems most young boys these days dream of becoming video game streamers, and no doubt there is a large market for that. (Streamers provide viewers with the characteristically male pleasures of competitiveness, creativity, comradeship, humor, and . . . victory, made shameful only by their virtuality.) But I also encounter more and more surprisingly popular history channels such as those of Survive the Jive, Simon Roper, History Debunked, or the weekly reliving of World War Two series.

There are real openings today for bold, young entrepreneurs. Do not hesitate to call and talk to the best people working in your field of interest. Don’t worry about making money right away, as long as you are actually accomplishing something noteworthy. Live in your mom’s basement if you have to free yourself from the tyranny of rent.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Academia, History 

The European Union and China have agreed “in principle” to a deal on investment after seven long years of negotiation, pointedly ignoring the concerns of the incoming Biden administration. The economic consequences of the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) remain unclear, but the political signals are telling: the EU is following an essentially German economic agenda centered on global trade while the United States of America’s attempts to economically contain China are manifestly ineffective.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the agreement with Trumpesque hyperbole, to not say fake news, gushing that China had just sealed a deal with “the largest single market in the world.” In fact, with Brexit the EU economy is now unambiguously the second-largest in the world, with a respectable nominal GDP of $18.3 trillion (as against the United States’ $21.2 trillion and China’s fast-growing $15.2 trillion).

I suppose von der Leyen’s transparently false statement was made based on contrived interpretations of the word “single,” as if the U.S. economy did not form a “single market.” If the EU’s head honcho is willing to be so misleading in the headline, beware of the fine print.

All that being said, there’s no denying the importance of trade between Europe and China. With U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war against China, the EU has now become the East Asian giant’s biggest trading partner. Total EU-China trade amounts to some 560 billion euros ($690.7 billion, as against U.S.-China trade of $634.8 billion).

The deal essentially aims to enable European companies and investors to operate securely in China, while granting Chinese companies similar rights in the EU market. It should become easier for European investors to set up joint ventures in China, get shares in automobile and telecoms companies, operate in financial services, and offshore their production. The Chinese should in principle be able to more easily invest – critics would say take over – the European energy and tech sectors.

EU companies currently invest the most in the Chinese automotive sector, naturally of great interest to Germany. (Source: European Commission)
EU companies currently invest the most in the Chinese automotive sector, naturally of great interest to Germany. (Source: European Commission)

The deal represents a “rebalancing,” the EU says, of a trade relationship which has long been marked by China’s closedness, currency manipulation, and mercantilist trade practices. The deal in principle “prohibits technology transfers and other distortive practices” and demands transparency for certain subsidies. The deal also has a plethora of environmental and labor provisions, but critics (no bleeding hearts at that) lament that these are too general and basically unenforceable.

Money talks

Some have hailed the deal as a triumph of European Realpolitik and even a manifestation of the bloc’s ambitions for “strategic autonomy.” In fact, the EU has long been promiscuous in negotiating trade deals, often with precious little regard for so-called “EU values” (witness the bloc’s agreements and/or negotiations with Israel and the Gulf Arab states).

European trade deals and negotiations as of 2019. (Source: European Council)
European trade deals and negotiations as of 2019. (Source: European Council)

In the Balkans, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus, such economic deals are indeed part of a wider and generally effective strategic agenda of securing these states in the EU’s orbit and away from Russia.

Some have attacked the EU for making a deal at a time when Beijing, which leads the largest dictatorship in the world, is reasserting control over Hong Kong and is said to be committing “cultural genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority, complete with million-man-strong concentration camps. Raphaël Glucksmann,[1] a Jewish-Socialist-globalist-Zionist member of the European Parliament, denounced EU leaders in a dramatic speech, declaiming “J’accuse!

Certainly, the deal makes a mockery of “EU values.” But then, perpetual hypocrisies are merely the wages of Wilsonianism.

(Franco-)German leadership confirmed, U.S. on sidelines

The EU-China deal is indicative of certain tendencies in both global and intra-European politics.

Just days before the EU-China agreement, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had warned that economic engagement with China had failed and that the Chinese Communist Party aims to “dominate the free world,” noting that parts of the world still did not recognize this. The latter was something of an understatement as indeed the EU-China deal came on the heels of China’s own trade agreement with other 14 Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

Even if these agreements are in fact not particularly deep, they show the United States’ inability to corral allies and the general futility of attempts to contain China economically. In a decade or two, China is likely to become too powerful economically to contain, period.

Within the EU, the deal is suggestive of real power dynamics. The deal was rushedly concluded “in principle” at the end of 2020 under pressure from Germany,[2] which then held the EU’s rotating presidency. German Chancellor Angela Merkel no doubt wished to tie a bow on her final months in office. Germany is the only major European economy which is a net exporter of goods to China.

The deal was sealed over the objections of several EU countries – namely Italy, Spain, Poland, and Belgium – particularly regarding labor rights (China is alleged to be using slave labor). The French trade minister had even threatened to scupper the deal but in fact backed down. The triumph of Germany’s position is no surprise: EU head von der Leyen long served as Merkel’s defense minister, continues to keep close contact with the Chancellor, and was no doubt sensitive to her needs.

What’s more, French President Emmanuel Macron was mysteriously allowed to participate in the conference call with Chinese supremo Xi Jinping, which normally should have only included the leaders of EU institutions. Presumably this was to enable the Frenchman to, yet again, play the statesman on the international stage. The Italians by contrast were snubbed, their request to participate being rejected. The desire to limit personalities on the European side is certainly understandable, insofar as foreign leaders like Barack Obama had long complained of being bored at having to meet with so many interchangeable European officials. All this is suggestive of the EU’s real leadership today: (symbolically Franco-)German.

 
Will Hungary and Poland be bribed into submission?

The year 2020 has seen signification changes and further centralization of power in the European Union. There appear to be three major causes for this:

  1. British withdrawal from the EU which occurred on February 1, 2020.
  2. The coronavirus crisis, whose lockdowns have inflicted tremendous damage on the European economy, particularly in southern Europe, annihilating in mere months years worth of effort to put government finances on a sustainable footing.
  3. A more proactive European policy on the part of Germany.

Without Britain and Germany, the camp opposed to more EU spending was reduced to the “Frugal Four” that are Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, a coalition of smaller nations who lack the clout to block the ambitions of the Franco-German directorate. British withdrawal has deprived the EU of its second-biggest net financial contributor (some €10 billion annually) and of one of its biggest and most dynamic economics, but ultimately the Union has gained in cohesion.

Since the Second World War, the pace of European integration has always been set by the Franco-German engine. This remains the case, even as France has become the decidedly weaker partner. French President Emmanuel Macron has consistently pressured for a strengthening of the EU and Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose policies fluctuate according to factors beyond my understanding, presumably a mixture of German domestic politics and “legacy-building” for a politician on the cusp of retirement – has agreed.

The EU’s response to the coronavirus crisis, while uneven, has been decidedly more proactive and ambitious than during the financial-economic crisis that started in 2007. The European Central Bank (ECB), a de facto sovereign federal entity, has under Christine Lagarde launched a lending stimulus program worth a whopping €1,850 billion ($2,270 billion or 15.5% of eurozone GDP). This measure has allowed national governments, particularly in southern Europe, to continue borrowing from financial markets and escape (critics would say postpone) debilitating bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Germany has abandoned its decades-strong “red lines” opposing borrowing by the Union on financial markets. Berlin has agreed to an EU stimulus plan worth €750 billion to support economies devastated by the coronavirus crisis, particularly Italy and Spain. Significantly, €390 billion of this money will be in the form of grants, basically transfers, rather than mere re-lending to national governments. All the Frugal Four achieved in return was a negligible decrease of the regular EU budget (still worth around 1% of GDP).

Admittedly, thanks to the ECB’s action, national governments could already borrow at their leisure on financial markets. What’s more, the €750-billion plan will be spent over three years, amounting to annual stimulus of a mere 1.5% of GDP. This suggests the vast difference in agency between a de facto federal sovereign like the ECB (which can take action when a simple majority of its independent Governing Council agrees) as against the summits of national governments, each with their veto and sensitive electorate. Still, the new EU stimulus plan amounts to an unprecedented and instantaneous 150% increase in the EU budget for three years, no mean feat.

The new EU borrowing-stimulus plan is particularly significant for the following reasons:

  1. The precedent having been set, European heads of state and government will likely be increasingly tempted in the future to find agreeable compromises through yet more apparently painless EU borrowing.
  2. The EU borrowing will have to be repaid, creating pressure to establish new European taxes (referred officially in Eurocratese as “own resources,” a cold term intentionally designed to confuse European citizens, such is the price of consensus). The European Commission notably proposes a carbon tariff on imports, a tax on tech giants, and a financial transactions tax.
  3. Like the United States of America, albeit on a much smaller scale, Europe’s Union conditions states’ access to its funds, thus the EU now will have increased means to bribe national governments to accept its norms.

The latter was the sticking point which led Hungary and Poland to threaten to veto both the regular EU budget for 2021-2027 and the creation of the new stimulus fund. Indeed, the European Parliament has demanded a “rule of law” mechanism to punish Hungary and Poland for their national-populist governments. The mood is suggested by Brussels’ recent decision to deprive several Polish cities of funds because of their creation of “anti-LGBT-ideology zones” (essentially declarations in favor of traditional marriage and pledges to not fund NGOs promoting homosexuality or transgenderism).

The Hungarian and Polish governments strike a balance between appealing to their national electorates’ conservative instincts, whether out of political opportunism or sincere belief, and attracting the ire of Brussels. Up to now, depriving a whole nation of EU funds could only occur with the unanimous support of all 26 other national governments. Naturally, Budapest and Warsaw could count on each other to veto any such proposal (occasionally joined by other central-eastern European allies, most recently Ljubljana).

Unlike their predecessors Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s – whose countries were net contributors to the European budget – Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki were in no position to gridlock the Union as EU net financial transfers to their countries amount to between 2.5 and 4.5% of GDP (mostly going to farmers and local governments). Now, a supermajority of national governments representing 65% of the population and 55% of states may move to deprive a country of EU funding.

Orbán and Morawiecki did secure a significant concession however. Legally, cutting funding may only occur for instances of misuse of EU funds and not for general enforcement of “EU values.” In principle, the EU Parliament will not be able to economically blackmail Hungary and Poland simply because their governments do not promote homosexuality or accept migrants to the desired extent.

What’s more, the deprivation can only occur with a concurrent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Admittedly, the ECJ, like other Western courts, has been known for plenty of legal creativity over the years. Nonetheless, given that the ECJ is made up of 27 equal independent judges, one from each member state including 11 central-eastern Europeans, this makes it less likely national-populist governments will be punished for ideological reasons as against legitimate accounting ones. (There appears to be significant corruption in Hungary, though this is difficult to gauge because the issue is systematically exaggerated by Orbán’s liberal opponents for political reasons.)

All these developments give some indication of the character of the emerging European Superstate, which creeps along imperceptibly year after year, though ultimately forms something substantial: as of today, a sovereign and influential market regulator and an effective trade bloc (as the British have learned), able to bring into its orbit much of its near abroad (notably in central-eastern Europe).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, EU, Germany, Hungary, Poland 

Over a century after Marx, a specter is indeed haunting Europe: the specter of nationalism.

For the latest proof, we turn to Romania where a new nationalist party has burst into parliament with 9% of the vote. Romanian liberals, who very much form a minority sensibility in the country, are in shock at the nationalists’ surprise breakthrough. Indeed, it seems few people saw it coming: prior to the elections, AUR was barely noticed even by the popular nationalist website Incorect Politic. Much as France is an important indicator of trends in Western Europe, so Romania with its almost 20 million inhabitants is significant for Eastern Europe and in particular the Balkans.

This party is called the Alliance for Romanian Unity, whose acronym AUR means GOLD in Romanian. The organization, led by the 34-year-old street activist George Simion and the traditionalist journalist Claudiu Târziu, has managed to strike a balance between uniting a diverse of coalition of right-wing supporters and presenting a reassuring image to the general public. This coalition includes nationalists, Orthodox Christians, philosophical Rightists, and opponents of the anti-COVID lockdowns in Romania.

AUR’s logo is indicative: a map of Romania, the eastern border suggestively superimposed by the stars of the European Union. The message? We are a responsible, pro-European party – important given how many Romanians work in the EU or have benefited from EU funds – and we wish the neighboring country of Moldova to rejoin Romania. Indeed, the recent centennial of Romanian unity, the nation was fully unified in 1919 in the wake of the First World War, was widely celebrated throughout the country. Reunification with Moldova, a poor country of 2 million souls, then seems natural to Romanians, even if the goal is rarely actively pursued.

Why did AUR break through?

It is not completely clear why AUR was able to break through while remaining under the radar for much of the media. George Simion, who has been active in public causes for many years, had crisscrossed the country visiting localities since July in the “Golden Caravan,” a sleek bus. Attention was also brought by party member Diana Șoșoacă’s street protests against lockdown measures. The party also evidently did well on social media. Simion’s Facebook page now has 428,500 likes and 617,500 followers. AUR voters are young (45% between 18 and 35) and less educated (8% university graduates).

The “Golden Caravan.”
The “Golden Caravan.”

The previous parliamentary elections had seen the breakthrough of the liberal-globalist Union to Save Romania (USR, analogous to the Macronist tendency in France), who had done particularly well with educated Romanians abroad, on an anti-corruption platform. In 2016, USR received 8.9% of the vote and they have more than consolidated their position by winning 15.4% in 2020. This time however, many have been surprised to learn that AUR also did well in the diaspora, seemingly from the hundreds of thousands of Romanians abroad working in farming, construction, and other blue-collar work. Indeed, the “AUR in Germany” Facebook group has over 17,500 members and AUR was competitive with, or even received more votes than, USR in many cities in Belgium.

Search interest for “AUR” in Romania.
Search interest for “AUR” in Romania.

Romanians abroad are generally politically rather inert. Many rise through the ranks of their new homes however (e.g., among countless cases, the current French minister of sports, Roxana Mărăcineanu) and diaspora networks, liberal or conservative, are eager to use their considerable resources to influence and do good in the home country. Empty Catholic churches in the West are sometimes converted into Orthodox ones. One such well-frequented church I visited in a Western country proudly displayed pictures of Ion Moța and Vasile Marin on the walls, two celebrated members of the Iron Guard, a fascist group, who died fighting atheistic socialism in the Spanish Civil War.

Many AUR organizers seem to have been part of the Coalition for the Family (CPF), a group which had managed to initiate a civic referendum to make gay marriage unconstitutional. The referendum was held in 2018 with 93.4% of votes in favor of the reform. However, the result was void because turnout was a measly 21.1%, partly because progressives called for a boycott and because of Romanians’ evident disinterest.

The failed referendum however evidently served as a milestone in the successful reorganization of the Romanian Right.

Personally, I’ve long thought that there was a considerable electoral niche for nationalism in Romania, unfulfilled since the decline of Vadim Tudor’s Great Romania Party in the 2000s. Tudor had managed to reach the second round of the presidential elections in 2000, receiving 33.2% of the vote.[1] AUR was able to be the one to capitalize upon this latent demand.

Christians and Traditionalists

Traditionalist journalist and AUR co-leader Claudiu Târziu.
Traditionalist journalist and AUR co-leader Claudiu Târziu.

As mentioned, the party combines diverse elements. Alongside Simion is Claudiu Târziu, 47, a journalist who runs the Christian news site ROST. The site has sympathetic coverage of Romania’s historic Christian fascist movement, the Iron Guard, and documents the activism of Romanian Jewish groups, such as the Élie Wiesel Institute and the Federation of the Jewish Community.

In recent years, such groups have put pressure to remove the name of anti-communist dissident Petre Țuțea from city streets (because of ultimately quite mild and balanced comments of his on the Jews) and to censor the writings of leading Romanian intellectuals Mircea Eliade and Emil Cioran (who early in their careers had supported the Iron Guard). This year, Romanian MP and Jewish Federation leader Silviu Vexler successfully passed a law to deprive anti-communist dissidents (and their relatives!) from receiving special state pensions if they had been members of the Iron Guard.

Romanian philosopher Sorin Lavric.
Romanian philosopher Sorin Lavric.

Several university professors openly support AUR, notably the philosopher Sorin Lavric, who now serves as the party’s president in the Romanian Senate. The mild-mannered Lavric is widely known as a genteel and wry moralist. In a recent video, Lavric explains that he “entered politics out of disgust and despair” and because of “a suffocating ideology due to which one can no longer breathe intellectually in this country.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: European Right, Nationalism, Romania 
Lessons from the Collapse of Catholicism in France

Jérôme Fourquet’s The French Archipelago provides a kind of dynamic radioscopy of the French nation as she has developed in recent decades. The picture, as detailed in my review of the book, is one of the fading away of the old sociological left and right, leaving behind a fragmented subcultural and political landscape, divided in multiple ways along educational/economic, ethnic, and religious lines.

As part of this, Fourquet meticulously documents the decline of Catholicism and the triumph socially liberal values in postwar France. The pollster identifies a number of patterns which are instructive both for France and other Western nations, which are virtually all experiencing similar changes.

The decline of Catholicism in France is overwhelming and apparent in innumerable areas:

  • Baptism: once overwhelming, down to around 30% of newborns in 2015 (p. 25)
  • Regular mass-going: from 35% in 1961 to 6% today.
  • Divorce: taboo until the 1960s, then steadily rising.
  • Marriage: once a “hegemonic social norm,” declining since the 1973 Oil Shock (p. 37). Out-of-wedlock births have steadily risen from 5.9% in 1965 to 59.9% in 2017. A caveat: this figure is not synonymous with broken homes and single mothers, as many unwed couples live together, typically within a civil union (PACS, p. 42).
  • Abortion: 48% of French supported in 1974 (moreso among the young), with hegemonic 75% support across generations in 2014 (p. 44).
  • Gay marriage: steady support of over 60%, though only around half of French support adoption by gay couples, with some fluctuation (p. 48). Older people’s opinion on the matter is rapidly converging with the young, with little class divide.
  • Gay children: There is a marked male-female divide on the acceptance of homosexuality among one’s children. In 2000-03, two thirds of women said they would be perfectly happy with their child being gay, but only half of men said the same (p. 52).
  • Medically-assisted procreation: half of French support allowing lesbians and single mothers to conceive children through in vitro fertilization, with the mention that “fatherless children” would be born. Two thirds of young people support the measure (p. 55).

Catholicism’s decline to marginality and even oblivion in France is evident from the number of Catholic priests. In 1950, there were about as many priests and monks in France as during the French Revolution in 1789 (around 170,000, bearing in mind the general population had more than doubled). Today, they number only 51,500 and the authors predict that Catholic parish priests will be a virtually extinct breed within 30 years (p. 28).

Number of Catholic diocesan priests in France
Number of Catholic diocesan priests in France

At the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries, France provided three quarters of the Catholic missionaries proselytizing in Africa and Asia. Today, in a dramatic reversal, the bulk of new Catholic priests comes from the Third World. Some African prelates, such as Cardinal Robert Sarah, have themselves expressed grave alarm at Europe’s godlessness, infertility and invasion by Muslim immigration.

Catholicism has gone from forming the core of one of France’s two primary subcultures to merely one subculture for the 6-12% of French who remain practicing Catholics (6% being the ones who go to mass, 12% those who claim to be practicing). Even these have embraced many aspects of social liberalism (e.g. acceptance of sex before marriage). Practicing Catholics tend to be older than the general population.

Fourquet also documents other social changes. Only Muslims and practicing Catholics still prefer the traditional funerary practice of burial, with a majority of French now wishing to be incinerated after death (p. 57). Fourquet links this to the fact that most people no longer live in their old villages near to their ancestors’ graves and thus no longer feel the importance of lineage.

Tattooing used to be a very marginal practice (sailors, soldiers . . .) but has steadily risen and now stabilized, with a quarter of young people having tattoos (p. 59). Tattoos and the adoption of rare names represent “a major phenomenon of today’s societies: mass narcissism” (60). There has also been a steady growth in the number of young people who have engaged in oral sex.

The attitude of the French towards animals is also changing. In the mold of the Old Testament, the French used to consider animals as essentially humans’ slaves, to be used however they saw fit. Today, two thirds of French oppose the use of circus animals or the stuffing of geese to make famous French delicacy of foie gras. “Anti-specism” is a new fashion among academics and talking heads.

The evolutionary meaning of traditional culture

Many see in the decline of Catholic practice and customs a triumph over the irrational superstitions inherited from the ignorant past. Even a secularist should ask however: How did these values come to predominate and what do they represent?

In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin himself had stressed that traditional cultures tend in a crude and primitive way to be guided by what is good for the community: “The judgment of the community will generally be guided by some rude experience of what is best in the long run for all the members; but this judgment will not rarely err from ignorance and weak powers of reasonings.”

Many traditional cultures, including those of the West, emphasize patriarchy, the specialization of gender norms, child-rearing, and familial responsibilities. It’s easy to conceive how nations and families adhering to such norms would naturally outcompete those who did not.[1] This is especially so if we recall the conditions of premodern life: a fairly high fatality risk for pregnant mothers, high infant mortality, and constant struggle – undertaken especially by men – in the physical and social world to secure the one’s security and livelihood.

After the Second World War, the emergence of an affluent society meant that the egalitarian and individualist tendencies of liberalism, which had always been present since at least the eighteenth century, would dramatically radicalize and upturn the social order.

Human beings have always chafed against the apparently, and often actually, arbitrary rigors and constraints of their particular culture. As the sophist Hippias is supposed to have said some 2400 years ago: “I regard you all as relatives and family and fellow citizens – by nature, not by custom. For by nature like is akin to like, but convention is a tyrant over mankind and often constrains people to act contrary to nature” (Plato, Protagoras, 337c-d).

Put simply, young people increasingly could no longer accept the traditional familial and religious constraints of the past and no other coherent value system could rise to replace them – besides, precisely, an ethos of individual entitlement. What’s more rising prosperity and the welfare state actually meant that people could, more and more, get by materially with looser family ties. The father and husband’s economic responsibilities to the household were increasingly substituted by the corporation and the State.

Patterns of cultural change: deep generational shifts, not events

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Catholic Church, France, Religion 

There is a striking contrast for the historian between how popular culture portrays National Socialism and how the historians present it. In popular culture, the portrayal is uniformly negative, to the point that National Socialism becomes a wholly incomprehensible phenomenon. At the same time, Nazi aesthetics and themes – whether or not these are framed within a noble struggle against Nazism – continue to enjoy widespread popular appeal. This is evident in the copious output of TV documentaries and Hollywood films dealing with World War II.

It is also evident in European and in particular francophone comics. Go into any European comic book store and Nazi iconography and themes feature in and on many of the books. Indeed, Nazism may well be the single most common topic, even among comic books not primarily dealing with history. Here is a sampling:

Dutch comic “The Kennedy Files: The Man Who Wanted to Be President,” on Joseph P. Kennedy’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, including his antiwar efforts, fascist sympathies, and criticism of the Jews.

Bruxelles 43: A look at ordinary life in German-occupied Belgium viewed through the eyes of a young girl.

Sixth volume in the “Children of the Résistance” series.

Promotional material for the Nazi superhero “der Ritter Germania,” part of the Block 109 comic series featuring an alternate timeline in which Nazis battle zombies.

Nazi furries portrayed in the Spanish noir detective series Blacksad.

Bruxelles 43 and Les Dossiers Kennedy make a serious effort to portray a sense of day-to-day normalcy and be historically accurate. The general tendency however is to have Nazis as generic go-to bad guys. As one might expect, most of these comic book artists are stronger on striking imagery than on history

This is particularly the case in the Block 109 series, which abounds in both evocative aesthetics and sadistic cartoon Nazis. Life and government in the Third Reich is imagined as a perpetual Night of the Long Knives-Kristallnacht-Auschwitz. Even military buddies are shown slaughtering each other at sociopathic random.

Paradoxically, the evils of Nazism serve as a pretext for artists to express their own sadistic tendencies. Cruel and sadistic revenge fantasies are a common theme, perhaps most famously portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s popular 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.

Even the popular culture sometimes comments humorously on the Nazi-/Judeo-centrism of much of our cultural output. Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad! had this to say on the surest way to win an Oscar:

Or consider the following scene from the excellent French spoof spy thriller OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies in which our dashing hero is interrogated by Nazis:

Agent OSS 117: “I won’t tell you anything, Moeller. The Third Reich and Nazi ideology have always left me . . . skeptical.”

Gerhard Moeller: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Isn’t it funny that Nazis always play the bad guys? It’s 1955! Can we have a second chance already? Thank you.”

And the classic scene in the Cohen brothers’ The Big Lebowski:

The historians – while virtually all acknowledging the great scale of Nazi atrocities in Poland and the Soviet Union – are also willing to take a more holistic view of the Hitlerian experience. Each historian, from his or her particular angle and area of expertise, is willing to go beyond demonological caricature and thus actually understand why National-Socialism was appealing to so many and why the Third Reich was so powerful.

Consider American historian Claudia Koonz’ 2005 The Nazi Conscience, which emphasizes that the appeal of National-Socialism was in being morally demanding. Harvard University Press presents the book as follows:

The Nazi conscience is not an oxymoron. In fact, the perpetrators of genocide had a powerful sense of right and wrong, based on civic values that exalted the moral righteousness of the ethnic community and denounced outsiders.

Claudia Koonz’s latest work reveals how racial popularizers developed the infrastructure and rationale for genocide during the so-called normal years before World War II. Her careful reading of the voluminous Nazi writings on race traces the transformation of longtime Nazis’ vulgar anti-Semitism into a racial ideology that seemed credible to the vast majority of ordinary Germans who never joined the Nazi Party. Challenging conventional assumptions about Hitler, Koonz locates the source of his charisma not in his summons to hate, but in his appeal to the collective virtue of his people, the Volk.

This is the paradox, actually not particularly surprising in evolutionary terms, of National Socialism: simultaneously inspiring great altruistic idealism among the people and great ruthlessness towards ethnic outsiders. A recent book on foreign tourists in the Third Reich similarly emphasizes how many travellers were impressed by the idealism and activism they found, particularly among young people.

Or consider Clarkson University professor Sheila Weiss’ The Nazi Symbiosis: Human Genetics and Politics in the Third Reich, which is at pains to dispel facile stereotypes about “Nazi pseudoscience”:

Moreover, in discussing the actual science pursued by these human geneticists, the book will reinforce the efforts of other scholars who have tried to dispel a second myth common among the nonspecialist: that eugenics and racial anthropology, two essential subspecialties under the rubric of human heredity in the first half of the twentieth century, were “pseudoscientific” pursuits. Whatever one might think about them today, both were internationally respected and practiced by world-renowned human geneticists for most of the first half of the twentieth century. As the first chapter will make clear, neither eugenics nor racial anthropology was a Nazi invention. Both flourished inside and outside of Germany prior to the advent of the Third Reich. . . .

Moreover, Germany was unique, even among fascist countries, in functioning as a “racial state”—a nation where the criterion for citizenship was determined by race and heredity. National Socialist Germany approached a biocracy, that is, a government where biomedical ideals and biomedical professionals were central for the regime in both word and deed. (pp. 8-9)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron came to attention recently with a long interview in which he criticized the German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. “AKK,” who is also the leader of the ruling Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) and heir-apparent to replace Angela Merkel, had written in an op-ed for Politico: “Illusions of European strategic autonomy must come to an end: Europeans will not be able to replace America’s crucial role as a security provider.”

You can watch / read the interview (with English subtitles) to get a sense of official thinking by the reigning liberal-globalist wing of French politics, if you are so inclined. There’s not much new in fact.

The interview was more revealing for me in showing some of the new players in French foreign policy and in particular Franco-German relations. The interview was published by Le Grand Continent, a magazine released by the École Normale Supérieure, one France’s Grandes Écoles top universities.

There is evidently high-level support for this para-statal publication, with a highly attractive website and authors representing a wide range of high-level intellectuals. Besides the university and numerous students, various internationalist think-tank professionals and political party staff (mostly Socialist or Macronist, it seems) are involved. The line is decidedly Macronist, with almost Spencerian ambitions of creating an Europe-puissance. Given that the publisher was founded in 2017, one wonders if people close to the president himself are involved.

The interview has been bigged up on Twitter by various Anglo journalists and elements of the German foreign policy establishment. Some of the latter praise was somewhat embarrassing.

The head of the Munich Security Conference and of a policy school in Berlin:

A prominent think-tank analyst:

This publication’s echo in Germany is an indicator of the “pro-French / EU maximalist” wing in German policy, which wants to go along with Macron’s grand designs for “European sovereignty” and “strategic autonomy.” The mainstream German establishment is wary of all this though, being aware of the fact that it will be expected to pay the bill for these schemes.

For instance, many Germans consider that Macron’s ambitions to federalize the Eurozone are but an elaborate ruse to put German taxpayers on the hook to bailout the bankrupt French banking system (“debt mutualization”) and put German economic policy under incompetent Med control.

Le Grand Continent will soon be translated into German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish. But not English, the working language of all EU institutions. The publication is decidedly punchier and has more personality and vision than your standard EU fair, precisely because it is a national and, in particular, French scheme. Anything produced by the EU must go through a series of committees of committees where anything interesting or original will be carefully weeded out one by one by any objecting member. Hence the consistently insipid and vague nature of EU production.

I chuckled when Macron said “The EU has a tremendous amount of non-thought [impensé].”

As to Macron’s general message, there’s not much to say, except a lot of stuff is going on in the world right now innit. He’s alarmed by the decline of postwar liberal international institutions and “a crisis of the universal values borne by these structures.”

What it boils down to: the postwar Western establishment, called “liberal” for lack of a better term, and its values are in decline. This power elite’s influence solidified after 1945 and became hegemonic after 1989, but now is in rapid recession.

My reading: liberal power emanated from actually fairly small, but influential obviously, nodes in North America and Western Europe. (Even Japan can barely be put in this category, it is an ally, not an active player.) In no other part of the world did the assumptions of this coalition come naturally, but only predominated because of foreign influence (imposed by force, cash, or cultural soft power). As the West declines and itself becomes less coherent because of socio-cultural disintegration, so global liberalism is declining.

China, Turkey, Russia, Latin America, etc, don’t care about all these Western liberal-globalist obsessions.

The most telling part of the interview for me is when Macron flags the problem of “unacceptable” growing inequalities within and between countries. He thinks some kind of international cooperation could get rid of these: “Just as socialism could not work in a single country, the fight against this kind of [inegalitarian] capitalism cannot take place in only one country.”

Good luck with that.

Presumably Macron is thinking of the Krugman-Piketty snake oil of equality-through-redistribution in our new open-borders and multiracial context.

People will believe anything if only they don’t have to think.

Macron by the way mentions European demographic decline and the Africanization of Europe and the globe:

Today, we have reached a world population increase of 400 to 500 million people every five years. And above all, this increase shows acute imbalances : if you take the Europe-Africa region, for one European country demographically disappearing, in the same period, one African country appears. We are witnessing a kind of acceleration in the twists of history. . . . All of this also creates a re-conception of the world, of economic capacities, of futures, and obviously also disrupts transnational relations. . . . Africa is part of our societies. We have a part of Africa in all our societies, which also lives in tune. And when I say Africa, I mean Africa and the Mediterranean region in the broadest sense.

Amid all the blabber of policymakers and journalists, these demographic realities are what matters most for the future character of Europe and humanity. These changes are creating literally unsolvable and intractable permanent problems and tensions from a liberal-egalitarian perspective. But when will this be recognized?

European politicians fiddle while their people steadily fade away year after year.

Macron concludes, contrasting the good liberal-globalists to the bad nativist-authoritarians: “Popular democratic sovereignty is a treasure.” Just not on immigration.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Emmanuel Macron, EU, France, Neoliberalism 
A Statistical Portrait of a Nation in Decay

Jérôme Fourquet, L’archipel français: Naissance d’une nation multiple et divisée (Paris: Seuil, 2019)

Jérôme Fourquet is a mainstream pollster with the venerable French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), the nation’s leading polling agency. He made a splash last year with his book, The French Archipelago: The Birth of a Multiple and Divided Nation, which presented a fine-grain statistical analysis of socio-cultural changes in French society and, in particular, fragmentation along ethno-religious and educational lines.

The book persuasively makes case that the centrist-globalist Emmanuel Macron’s election to the presidency and the collapse of the traditional parties of government in 2017 were not freak events, but the reflection of long-term trends which finally expressed themselves politically. The same can be said for the growing popularity of anti-establishment movements like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) and the yellow-vests.

Following the works of many sociologists and historians, Fourquet sees French politics as historically divided between a Catholic Right and secularist Left. This divide had been highly stable since the French Revolution, if not earlier, with a dechristianizing core stretching out from the greater Parisian basin into the Limousin, with most of the periphery remaining relatively conservative. These subcultures united people of different classes within particular regions and corresponded politically with the conservative and Socialist parties who have taken turns governing France since World War II.

Percentage of Catholic priests swearing loyalty to the Constitution in 1791, a good marker of secularism.
Percentage of Catholic priests swearing loyalty to the Constitution in 1791, a good marker of secularism.

 

Political party of representatives elected in the 1936 parliamentary elections. Supporters of the Popular Front Socialist-Communist coalition in red, pink, orange and yellow.
Political party of representatives elected in the 1936 parliamentary elections. Supporters of the Popular Front Socialist-Communist coalition in red, pink, orange and yellow.

Since 1945, the collapse of Catholicism and the steady cognitive/economic stratification of French society have destroyed the reach and unity of the Catholic-right and secularist-left blocs. Macron was able to tap into the latent political demand of the wealthiest, most educated, and mobile 20% of French society, while the increasingly alienated and déclassés lower classes of French Whites have been falling out of the mainstream political system altogether.

Fourquet meticulously documents the social trends of the past 70 years: the decline of Catholicism, the Communist Party, and traditional media, the triumph of social liberalism, the division of cities into gentrified areas, crime-ridden ghettos, and the (self-)segregation of individuals along educational and ethnic lines. In all this, Fourquet’s book serves as an excellent statistical companion piece to Éric Zemmour’s Le Suicide français, which looks at many of the same themes through the lens of political and cultural events.

What’s in a first name? Quite a lot, actually

Fourquet uses a wealth of socio-economic and polling data to make his case. Some of the most innovative and striking evidence however is the big-data analysis of first names in France’s birth registries since 1900. This looks into the trends for numerous different types of names: Christian, patriotic, regional (Breton and Corsican), Muslim, African, and . . . Anglo. Far from being random, Fourquet shows that the trends in first-name giving correlate with concurrent social and political phenomena. For example, the number of people giving their girls patriotic names like France and Jeanne spiked during moments of nationalist fervor, namely the first and second world wars (p. 35).

More significantly, Marie went from being the most common name for girls (20% of newborns in 1900) to 1-2% since the 1970s. Unsurprisingly given the Virgin Mary’s importance in the Catholic religion, Marie was more popular in more religious regions and declined later in the conservative periphery. Marie’s decline thus seems to be a solid temporal and geographical marker of dechristianization (mass attendance and traditional Christian values, such as marriage and opposition to abortion and gay marriage, also collapsed during this period).

First names also provide a marker for assimilation of immigrant groups. Fourquet shows how Polish first names exploded in the northern mining regions of France in the 1920s and then fully receded within two decades. He shows the same phenomenon for Portuguese immigrants and first names in the 1970s. This assimilation is in accord with sociological data showing that European immigrants tend to rapidly converge in terms of educational and economic performance with the native French population.

Percentage of new-born males with a Muslim first name.
Percentage of new-born males with a Muslim first name.

By contrast, Fourquet shows that people with Muslim last names almost never choose to give their children traditional French first names. He documents a massive increase in the proportion of newborns given Muslim first names from negligible in the 1960s to around a fifth of the total. There is also an increase in the number of people with Sub-Saharan African names.

Somewhat similarly to Europeans, Asian immigrants (disproportionately from the former Indochina) are much more likely to adopt French first names and perform comparably in economic and educational terms.

Beyond these stark ethno-religious demographic changes, Fourquet also highlights more subtle trends that often fall below the radar. First names also provide a marker for the degree to which the French have a common culture or, conversely, of heightened individual or sectoral identities.

Fourquet identifies an explosion in the number of different names used by the French. This figure was stable around 2000 from 1900 to 1945, rising to over 12,000 today. And this does not count the proliferation “rare names” – those for which there are less than 3 people with that name – among all populations. Fourquet takes this as evidence of increased individualism and “mass narcissism,” more and more people wishing to differentiate themselves.

In principle, until recently the French were forced by Napoleonic-era legislation to choose their first names from the Christian calendar, medieval European names, or Greco-Roman antiquity. All of France proper used a common corpus of names, with little local variation. The list of acceptable names was extended by ministerial instruction to regional and mythological names in 1966, while in 1993 the restriction was abolished. However, the trend of more-and-more names in fact long predates these legal changes. Evidently municipal authorities already were tolerating unusual names more and more.

What are the names in question? All sorts. The use of Breton (Celtic) names in Brittany has more tripled from 4% to around 12% (p. 127), with sharp rises corresponding to moments of heightened Breton regionalist politics in the 1970s.

 
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