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Which vision will the French go for?

Competing visions for a fragmegrated society

For the last five years, the government has ruled like a club class technocracy turning the French society into a low cost democracy. What we need is to champion the revolutionary vision of the French Republic - “liberté, égalité, fraternité” - and chase out reactionary vision pervaded the narrative of a populist right, flanked by the extremes of the FN and the MPF.

More than the policies they propose, what they all offer are competing visions of how we will be able to live in society. While Ségolène Royal’s vision starts from what we share with others in terms of how we live our daily lives, Sarkozy and Le Pen starts from what sets us apart from each other – those who can work and those who can’t, those who are genetically predisposed and those who aren’t, the so-called “fat cats” and the so-called “scum”.

The more the right try to divide, the more fear and insecurity will be the overarching feature of the social landscape. For the candidates that want to define identity as the knock-out theme of the elections, the result will be a clash of identities and a tipping point from a consensus of mutual respect to an instinct of fear, embodied by the succession of riots.

We need to embody the values of our citizens, reflect their aspirations and respond to their needs. What better way to do that than to involve them in the design of a better society. Indeed, Ségolène wants the citizens to provide an injection of fresh and creative thinking into the burning issues that the French society faces. She also wants to draw together all progressives to discuss these issues in a constructive and collaborative way – epitomised by the debate with Bayrou.

A breath of fresh air in a mood of fear

After the breath of fresh air and hope the “participative campaign” has brought France, the PS doesn’t want its wings clipped by a “tout sauf Sarko” narrative – the theme tune of the radical left – but neither will remain silent in the face witch hunts. When Sarkozy professes to turn back the clock on the values of May 68 – cultural, political and social liberalism - he not only sparks the flames of reactionary dogma pervading French society, but threatens the freedoms and rights that were established as a result of 1968.

When Ségolène desires to empower the collective wisdom of the French to reform society, she understands how more negotiable forms of social interaction are necessary, theorised by Anthony Giddens as “reflexive modernity”. Indeed, there is a disconnect between what have we have been brought up to expect and what we experience in our everyday lives. Involving citizens to participate in shaping the solutions to their needs seeps through the ideal of socialisation towards a co-created national identity – “la France métissée” in every sense.

Co-producing identity through shared experiences

In France there is always been a very mixed picture of fragmented and overlapping identities and allegiances within a body of republican values. In many ways, through her political journey and the participative campaign, she has gained a deep understanding of the contradictions that exist within these identities, and the need neither to dilute nor to deny them, but to promote these differences less as threats than possibilities, “sharing experience on the basis of meaningful, palpable identity” which also helps answer how we can live together. To negotiate them on the basis of shared responsibility and collaborative leadership:
* adapting the lessons of the 35 hours week, which champions its benefits and allows flexibility of implementation
* incentivising competitiveness and innovation in business while proofing funding against outsourcing
* rebuilding a coalition on a more social and democratic Europe which puts the ball in the people’s court
* reconciling liberal and social democrats without changing her manifesto

A fragmegrated electoral offer

France has become a fragmegrated society – where electoral choice is dominated by a dual paradox of fragmentation and integration The French want a dynamic economic model where everyone can access opportunities and be rewarded on merit, a society which empowers them to shape their lives and ensures mutual respect and social justice. These patterns, previously predictable and individually coordinated are now increasingly fluctuating and interdependent of one another. Shaping these contradictions has become easier than keeping them in shape – both candidates promise to shape them within competing visions of what their good society looks like. Which vision will the French go for?



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