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The Last Neoliberal: Macron and the Origins of France's Political Crisis by Bruno Amable & Stefano Palombarini

The Last Neoliberal: Macron and the Origins of France's Political Crisis by Bruno Amable & Stefano Palombarini

Author:Bruno Amable & Stefano Palombarini [Amable, Bruno & Palombarini, Stefano]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Verso
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


IS FRANCE FOLLOWING IN GERMANY’S FOOTSTEPS?

While the bourgeois bloc rallies together social groups who were once aggregated in each of the left- and right-wing blocs, it cannot itself be taken for a ‘centrist’ project. On numerous public policy questions, it is characterized by positions that are anything but ‘moderate’. If the European question were to replace the left–right divide as the main axis of political differentiation, the strategy corresponding to the bourgeois bloc could itself be termed ‘extreme’; in any case, it would leave no margins for mediation over the need to proceed with European integration within the treaties that have been signed, or indeed regarding the need for certain institutional reforms – especially those concerning various aspects of employment relations. The model of capitalism corresponding to the bourgeois bloc would result from a determined bid to push through a ‘social-neoliberal’ model. This would be based on structural changes to the labour market and the market for goods and services, which participation in the European project could both propel and provide with legitimacy.

It is thus not surprising that, after the PS and Hollande’s election victory in 2012, France saw the resurgence of the ‘German model’ as an ideal to pursue, since it embodies the effort to overcome the contradictions inherent to the attempts to reform the labour market and social protection in a neoliberal direction. It does so as a continental European type of capitalism in which regulations in these fields are crucial to sociopolitical balances and economic performance. Governed by an SPD–Green coalition from 1998 to 2005, Germany deeply reformed the labour market and social protection even while preserving – for the moment at least – key elements of its economic competitiveness. 33 This made it possible in the early 2010s to parade its better performance in terms of unemployment, foreign trade and even growth than the rest of the Eurozone countries. 34 In 2013, President Hollande sang the praises of these reforms: ‘As Gerhard Schröder has shown, progress is also about making courageous reforms in order to preserve employment [levels] and anticipate cultural and social shifts. We do not build anything solid if we ignore reality.’ 35

Germany had answered the apparently intractable problem of how to reconcile neoliberal reforms with the foundations of competitiveness in a non-neoliberal capitalist economy. It had done so by creating an outright dualism: aside from the core of workers whose skills were central to the model’s competitiveness, there was a periphery whose employment and working conditions and access to the welfare state were weakened. This did not, for the moment at least, mean undermining the mechanisms for creating a skilled workforce, which are at the foundation of German industry’s competitiveness. In more simple terms, the partial preservation of the continental European model for one segment of workers and application of the neoliberal model to another helped to lighten the burden – especially the fiscal one – that this second group represented on the first. For the moment, at least, this would stabilize the divide.



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