Today is the second and final round of presidential elections in France. The two contenders are Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Macron is the candidate of the established elites. You cannot get more elite in France: he earned a master’s of public affairs at Sciences Po, and he is a graduate of the École nationale d’administration (ENA).
Le Pen is an anti-establishment candidate. In the jargon of Structural-Demographic Theory (SDT), she is a “counter-elite”, an elite aspirant who mobilizes masses in her struggle to overthrow the established elites. While she is not a graduate of a Grande Ecole (such as the ENA), she still is far from being a commoner (again, a SDT term). After all, her law degree is from the Pantheon-Assas University or “Sorbonne Law School”.
I haven’t done a proper structural-demographic analysis of France (it’s a lot of work, and I have other things to occupy me now, most notably analyzing the Everest of Seshat data), but from just reading about France in the news, it looks to me that it is also entering its own Age of Discord, although perhaps the negative structural-demographic trends are not quite advanced there as they are in the US.
In an article titled The French, Coming Apart: A social thinker illuminates his country’s populist divide, Christopher Caldwell writes:
For those cut off from France’s new-economy citadels, the misfortunes are serious. They’re stuck economically. Three years after finishing their studies, three-quarters of French university graduates are living on their own; by contrast, three-quarters of their contemporaries without university degrees still live with their parents. And they’re dying early. In January 2016, the national statistical institute Insée announced that life expectancy had fallen for both sexes in France for the first time since World War II, and it’s the native French working class that is likely driving the decline. In fact, the French outsiders are looking a lot like the poor Americans Charles Murray described in Coming Apart, failing not just in income and longevity but also in family formation, mental health, and education. Their political alienation is striking. Fewer than 2 percent of legislators in France’s National Assembly today come from the working class, as opposed to 20 percent just after World War II.
In SDT terms, we see clear evidence of popular immiseration and of elite overproduction. The monopolization of political power by the established elites, in particular, is a common development in pre-crisis phases. In my books on SDT, Secular Cycles and Ages of Discord, I use the Italian term—La Serrata del Patriziato (the closing of the Patriciate)—for this development, when the established elites close their ranks to exclude upward mobility from the commoners.
Is it surprising that the National Front of Marine Le Pen is doing so well? What’s actually surprising is that only 40 percent will vote for her tomorrow, according to the polls.
The mainstream press always tacks the adjective “Far Right” to Marine Le Pen. But is she, really? The old National Front under the leadership of her anti-Semitic father was “Far Right”. But Marine purged the extremists and anti-Semites (including her father) from the party when she took over. If you compare her program, and contrast it with Macron’s (for example, here) you would be surprised to see many left-leaning elements in it. For example, she wants to repeal the El Khomri Law, which made it easier for companies to lay off workers, reduced overtime payments for hours worked beyond France’s statutory 35-hour workweek, and reduced severance payments that workers are entitled to if their company has made them redundant. Doesn’t sound particularly “far right.” If anybody is “far right” it’s “business-friendly” Macron, with his anti-labor, cut the taxes on corporations platform.
It’s unlikely that Le Pen wins today. But under Macron the structural-demographic trends will continue moving in the wrong direction. Le Pen is only 48 years old. I would not be surprised at all if she will be the first woman to become the President of France in the next election cycle.