Can Marine Le Pen Become French President?

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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.

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Peter van den Engel

Thank you Peter for your insights. Describing Marie le Pen as far right is partly due to her father and next to that an ill informed (prejudged) mass media press; in fact a lot of left wing voters vote le Pen; so the real question is who is being populist, the people or the press? No doubt it’s mostly the press.
In fact it even turns out that believing one president will determain a countries fututure is a populist thought, because we live in coalition area, in terms of political evolution. It’s more interesting to see which coalition party will be elected in the next government, to profile it’s compensational route, it believes in most. That likely just buys time. It will not be able to solve economic problems, because politicians don’t create an economy. They adapt to it.
The very reason why representation of the working class in parliament dropped from 20 to 2 percent. They don’t make the money/ but need it for political ideals. The frame politics has entangled itself in, that does no longer solves the problem/ but creates it.

The most likely route for politics to follow is to try socializing again; as far it’s allowed to/ or allows itself; to cover up the biggest financial discours. What it does not know yet, will have an inverted economical result. As far as central banks are allowed to keep their balances in the fog, which is the case already in all western economies and Japan.

Since it’s a batle in the fog, nobody knows the outcome. Probably it will tend to one or the other; economy or social; depending on what the culture believes in most. France mostly is a social republic, although it might pretend to be economic (financial controle), it is not. Only fooling itself. The fog.

noesman

hello, Peter; I’m a longstanding admirer of your works and I use to read your posts on here whenever I can. I just happen to have a few quibbles with these operational definitions of “not-far-right”, left, etc. with respect to french situation and MLP in particular. I guess it is very poor an astrolabe in order to triangulate data points on the political spectrum (by a proxy of alleged posturing to protect some interest — workers… still in MLP’s case, it’s mainly a byproduct of a more substantive national, identitarian, interest, just cleand up a bit and urbanized for a more appropriate fashion https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04-25/le-pen-ducks-euro-exit-question-knowing-french-want-the-currency)
moreover, most of economic as well as political theories after 18th century onward were against some etat the choses/enstablishment; all of them aiming to offer more or less savory recipes to change working-class condition by improving living condition of mases. falangism also wantend the good of the Spanish workers and so Fascism, by means of corporatism, ethno-comunitarianism and stuff – didn’t they? all of them were teaching you that if their guidelines were properly put into practice the ones who would benefit the most are popular masses, as well as average men, the less well off, proletarians, underdogs… the community, of course. all of them have appropriate definition for equity.

I guess we must recognize the mere fact that – from 1800 onwards, since political absolutism has begun to evaporate – the right or left on the political level must be decided precisely and primarily in relation to being in favor or some other conceptual framing. then, whatever you’re going to discove… I’m sure that focusing on national level and behaving as MLP does is more right than left.

noesman

well, that’s not exactly what I said. of course I also agree there’s a multilevel/overlapping semantic-satiation issue, but these labels may still convey some residual meaning that is an increasingly nouanced and theoretical one – just a poor guide for policy analysis, and surprisigly inadequate for mapping the spectrum with some accuracy beyond the commonsense baseline or received wisdom
(e.g. from an economical POV, it’s mostly a matter of how well you think the Welefare Theorems do modellise/approximate to reality, how a market equilibrium is defined in your framework, how markets clear… so on and so forth). maybe you agree, too .

but it seems that contrary to this, what you implyied before and as you (now) clearly suggests, MLP’s stance on loi travail may still link in some meaningful way to the left. i think it’s just epiphenomenical consequences, this being true only when you consider MLP argument appeals an awful lot on a traditionally connotate left-leaning electorate. is that rossobrunomics gimmick our preferred proxy for a left? if yes, we need to verify if there’s any further category and choose the most functional segmentation.

In Europe there is a bunch of controversy over labor market reforms, namely in France, Italy and Spain. in these countries – each one at different places in the gamut – the job market does not work that well: that’s a fact, it’s unable to perpetuate anything reasonably good/competitive for both workers and thery employer (i’m brutally summarizing, ofc). welfare state is also eiter not so sustainable or not efficient to its fundamentally social purpuse. it needs to be efficient, let’s say, inasmuch as there’s efficiency to be achieved also in the way you help the poor to be reintegrated or while they’re unemployed. this is strictly connected with the fundabental truth that labor market is full of privileges, disfluence and inefficiency that do not improve anyone’s condition and definitely have a bad incidence on economic output. also, italy and france have strong (questionable) unionist heritage. It is a difficult bottleneck, of course – because reforming market also mean that some workers or any parasitic figures are soon to go home, but going full-opposed come closer and closer to taking the shape of a defense of an ancient regime.

bottom line: when “left” happen to be subsumed under this stuff, it’s widely irrelevant if MLP’s argument il more likely to wheedle the traditionally socialist-leaning voters.

al loomis

yes, i usually insist fn is ‘far-left,’ in comparison to the center parties, and since le pen makes reference to much local quasi-democratic assessment of opinion and need, that is very left indeed.
maybe only 40% this time, but if she does bring some genuine democracy to local government, young people will join fn in increasing numbers. next time, 51%!

noesman

an helluva lot of reasons for doubting it, even in case macron won’t be doing anything at all “this time”, before next time.

Michael Moser

i find it hard to define the politics of counter elite figures : one day Le Pen says that she wants to quit the EU, the other day she says that it is better to remain in the EU. Also some people had the impression that Trump would make an isolationist president, now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Is it really possible to define them in terms of group/class interests or are they just riding the waves of discontent to get into office?

Vineyard

Yep, it’s also pretty much what Daniel Thorniley has said, who wrote some really good papers about the Post Brexit Era.

https://dt-gbc.com/#reports
https://www.slideshare.net/HRTechWorld/dr-daniel-thorniley-why-brexit-why-trump

golau

Hey,

I’m french and I followed a lot this election more particularity the first round. You describe her as she was “anti-system”. However I would like to discuss about “What if Lepen is a part of the system ?”. To be honest I was supporting a candidate called “Francois Asselineau”. And I can guarantee you that this guy is 100% anti-system. Some proofs: he created his own party 10 years ago, only few (around 5 as far I remember) interviews in the national media in 10 years. He had one of the less time in the media during the campaign, even if his party is now the 5th or the 4th by the number of members (real number not a fake number like most of the political party in France). His Wikipedia is full of lies, and libels. He tried several times to change the article but impossible. I suggest you to make some search on him.
Asselineau is saying that Lepen and her party “le front national” are here to disable around 8 millions of electors and some important and vital ideas for the oligarchy such as EU, euro, immigration,… . Then when any others candidate are trying to take these ideas, they are automatically labelled as racisme politicien and far right. And in the same time when the social tension are rising, people will vote for the far right because the media are saying it’s an anti-system party. But in fact the far right can’t pass in any means in France. An extreme party has never done more than 10 millions votes in a national elections (which is not enough to pass the second round). This post is way to small to have a serious debate but at least bring you a new reflection on this problem.

Peter van den Engel

Hello Golau. Let’s say it’s in broad terms a discussion between economy and culture, where there is an economic political elite opposed to a culture of people that no longer likes the financial economic route, because they are loosing their jobs and their money. They are getting poorer and the rich richer. While at the same time the media; that is mass media; are supporting the elite, give false or little information and call anti establishment movements populist and therefore unreliable. Someting fishy is smelling.
Nevertheless anti establishment party’s like le Pen are growing, so the question is when that will break through. It did somehow in GB and the US, whatever you think of the outcome.
I can imagine le Pen also got tangeld up in the immigrant discussion, that plays a role in Europe as well as in the US, as if they are threatening the economy, while the big financial mistakes that caused the crises where made by the elite and not the immigrants. So, the question is how this evolves. Immigrants out/ or a different anti establishment elite? Or a combination of both.
In GB and the US it resulted in something like that, although it is unclear what political power they have; in the US parlement goes it’s own way/ despite what the mass media are telling us about Trump and in England it’s more a political debate about the future course, regarding immigrants, legislation, economic competition with Europe, etc.
In Europe there is more fear the elites will loose their power, because they gard economical safety and posibillities/ while in fact they screwed up, so which way you want to go?
In France as well as in the Netherlands; where I come from although I live in Berlin; the alternative that popped up is an elite that believes (or pretends it believes) in clean energy, as a more acceptable cultural route/ while in fact they are only looking for benefits for their economy that is in jeopardy, to find new employment and money flows. In France Macron is that kind of new elite, I believe.
All in all not totaly negative.
But still the question remains if mass media and their populism are endangering cultural evolition as it should be. When you say an anti establishment movement has never gained the elections, because mass media are telling you so, are you being manipulated into conservatism, or not. I think you are. It is manipulating the outcome of free elections. Or, perhaps a conservative culture feels content by that, because nothing will ever change.
Anyway, France is now gambling on a new economic potential, that in ecological terms is very necessary, but does not solve any of the other problems. It’s even peculiar Macron is profiling himself regarding to Trump/ in stead if looking for European coorporation.

Christopher Kavanagh

It’s hard to see how Le Pen doesn’t qualify as a far right candidate. The fact that she has sought to rehabilitate her party’s image, including purging the obvious neo-Nazi elements, does not mitigate her party’s stated goals and policies which exhibit the hallmarks of the far right, e.g. opposition to immigration/integration, extreme nationalism, ethnocentrism, appeals to ‘tradition’ and so on.

The fact that (like pretty much all populists) she is willing to make concessions where it serves her strategically is not surprising and it still doesn’t make her difficult to categorise. Similarly, that Macron endorses some more conservative economic policies is precisely what makes him a centrist, he’s not advocating the economic revolutions sought by both the far-right and the far-let.

Le Pen may yet have her day but it wasn’t close this time and it does seem like the predicted domino like victory of of far right populism following Brexit and Trump has failed to materialise. Wilders lost in Holland and Le Pen was defeated in France, of course these may just represent temporary blips but I’m not so convinced yet. Populists are certainly on the rise but I wonder how long it is before the public become disenfranchised with the various claims made by ‘outsiders’- given the actual outcomes they can observe with Trump and Brexit.

Peter van den Engel

Yes. It’s hard to define what’s actually going on in politics by just using single minded terms like far right and populism. De national socialist party in Germany at the time f.i., which is now known as the most dictatorial political movement in the western world, you would describe as far right, actually where socialists, so had a left connotation. The left a 100 years ago was clearly anti establishment, which is now called a far right movement by the establishment. So which is which?

You could define so called populists as an anti immigration fraction; where Wilders and le Pen for a good deal based their policy’s on/ but the same ‘populists’ are also the Beppe Grillo movement in Italy that is much more successful in involving the public in politics by using internet and is not an anti immigration movement.

In general populists are an anti establishment movement, because the establishment failed. England was put in a bad situation by European financial demands that where politically unreasonable and had to allow an enormous inflow of immigrants because of the no borders policy of Europe, that certainly is based on the right ethics, but in this situation turned out to be counter productive, as Greece and Italy had noticed too. So the elite had failed to organize a proper border policy and execution, while at the same time members of Europarlement make about double the income of Angela Merkel f.i.. No wonder people get upset and it’s a pretty arrogant way to put that aside as stupid populism. The elites are stupid.

In the US Obama failed in his policies, he did not change Wall Street, he did not cancel Guantanamo Bay, he hardly succeeded in a national health program and poverty was on the rise.

Not that much, they don’t understand some compensation is needed. So the green energy route of Macron and the Dutch coalition; that is not finalized yet; are such a strategy, while in Germany probably a more social route will be followed to lever income differences. The ‘populists’ already have an influence on establishment elites and I guess that will continue, depending on how well they are listening. .

Christopher Kavanagh

I thought it was pretty well established that the lip service paid to ‘socialist’ ideals in National socialism was a) mostly opportunistic and was largely discarded as the Nazis gained power and b) was entirely secondary to the ‘Nationalist’ aspect of the phrase; indeed, the Nazis themselves presented their philosophy as antithetical to Marxism and rejected notions of class struggle. They did argue for the importance of state interests over capitalism but that was due to authoritarian, not socialist, principles. So no, the Nazis were never left wing socialists, anymore than the Democratic Republic of Congo is a democratic nation.

And in regards Beppe Grillo, yes there are left wing populists and they aren’t all anti-immigrant (see Jeremy Corbyn in the UK). Being a populist does not require being right wing but it is somewhat notable that Beppe has kept Five Star’s position on immigration rather ambiguous until very recently and now he seems to have started signalling a strong anti-immigrant stance.

I’m with Peter on the rise of popular discontentment due to increasing inequality and how this generates a fertile environment for populists and social disorder but I’m not convinced that what the populists claim to be the source and solution to the problems are correct. England has benefited economically from being part of the EU and immigration levels are much lower (and from different countries) than is popularly perceived. Moreover, what is typically presented as ‘the will of the people’ only actually reflects a vocal segment of the people. Brexit didn’t exactly pass on a landslide victory, 48% voted against it despite the blatant lies of the Leave campaign (Turkey is on the verge of joining the EU, millions will be redirected from the EU to the NHS, etc.). And Trump lost the popular vote in the US by 3 million votes, despite the Democrats campaigning for a third term with their most unpopular candidate in recent history. Elites may well be out of touch and the focus of a lot of well deserved ire but that doesn’t mean the populists are right.

EdwardT

When authoritarian Sociaists gained power they acted just like Nazis. There was only one “Nazi Germany” and Hitler but there were a number of Pol Pots, Mao, Stalin, Ceaușescu who used almost the exact same institutions as the Nazis – secret police, elite guard loyal to dictator, one party rule etc. Hitler was not a one-off unique case but another manifestation of the same processes that occurred after elites first got their hands on large-scale media institutions. Leaders used this technology to appeal to masses and used them project their image and authoritarian rule. Still happening in North Korea. The Internet has taken the technology of large-scale media and handed it from the elites to the masses who can now observe their elites and governments in unprecedented detail. Which means elites can no longer further their self-interest by operating in the shadows. They need to give more back to the societal unit to whom they owe their position. Elites that don’t get this will probably not be elites for much longer because few people willing cooperate with people out purely for their own self-interest (unless they can get away with it too, which is now increasingly difficult).

Christopher Kavanagh

There have been many authoritarian far left regimes. My point was not to argue against that. I was responding to Peter van den Engel’s suggestion that the Nazis were once considered left wing ‘socialists’ and that now they are seen as being far right. This is incorrect, they did not self-identify nor were they widely considered to be left wing socialists. I’m not disputing that Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, etc. were (and still are) associated with the far left & Communism.

Peter van den Engel

Yes. There seems to be a babylonian speach confusion in determining which is which. I am sure Nazi soldiers in the beginning of the war believed they were acting out of a social ideal that concerned the whole german speaking culture/ but was in fact opposed on them as disagreement with debt of war that led to bancrupcy.
Likely any surpression from a totalitarian centre of cultural controle is in social selection percieved as a far right act, because the elites in power are usually the establishment/ while the left opposed them. Certainly after that the left become the new totalitarian center, so social selection loses its vocabulary.:-)

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Sebastien

As a French, I have to qualify the statement that le pen is not so far right.

Her party is well known to be part of all authoritarian conservative coalition there ever was. They are colonialist protectionist and racist as far as French law ever allowed them.

It is not a right wing party, it is a party with a white supremacist identity.

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