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I’m having a hard time getting my head around all the vicious snark out the last few days in relatively unlikely places vs. the sustainability of the French social model. Sure, there are problems, high unemployment, etc. But this was rather surprising…

First the Globe and Mail comes out with a glowing endorsement of Sarkozy… which is unfortunately behind a paywall, so you’ll have to settle for a summary from here. And then this half-baked paragraph from the LRB of all places:

Much of this is difficult to grasp in the UK. It was the same when the French voted down the European Constitution in 2005 and again, in 2006, when Dominique de Villepin’s ‘first-time contract’ brought large numbers of school and university students – and their parents, and the unions – out on the streets because the law would have allowed companies to dismiss employees under 26 during their first two years in a job without giving a reason. It seemed incomprehensible that an attempt to loosen up the labour market could be greeted with such a suicidal response in a country of high unemployment. Yet to many in France the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ model has mysteries of its own. In the parody version, it is an irrational economy with low-wage, low-security work, where employees push onions round a skillet or stick on a nametag and live at the mercy of a line manager, shuffling their debt around a full deck of credit cards, consuming for all they’re worth and then some. Small numbers of people get unattractively rich and the gap between wealthiest and poorest widens.

I’m sorry, did he just say that this is the “parody” version? As far as I know, Americans and Brits, no, generally don’t have much or any job security, legally speaking, and thus, yes, live at the mercy of the manager. Sure. And is Harding doubting the “full deck of credit card” issue? Is he disputing the widening gap between rich and poor?

Very strange stuff… There’s room for critique of the French system from many different perspectives, sure. But the bilious description of the French organization in the LRB piece speaks, I think, to a certain nervousness about the “Anglo-Saxon” model on the part of the Anglo-Saxons themselves, no?

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 27, 2007 at 12:21 am

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