April 8, 2007


The boulevard of broken dreams: It is the epitome of romance and style. But Paris is in the grip of an unprecedented 'flight of the young', with the disenchanted looking to London and New York for a new life. On the eve of the French elections a generation of young Parisiens, frozen out economically and racially, are turning their back on the city (Andrew Hussey, April 8, 2007, The Observer)

The simple fact is that, in the past few years, young people have been leaving France in unprecedented numbers. More worrying still is that although depopulation was a worry in the French countryside in the Sixties, it now has become a specifically urban phenomenon. Nor is it confined to Paris: Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux and Marseille can all report an exodus of young people towards les pays Anglo-Saxons (the United States and the UK). This fact was acknowledged by politician Nicolas Sarkozy when he made his flying visit to London last month to visit the French community there - at 400,000 people this is (as the newspaper Le Parisien helpfully pointed out) equivalent to one of the largest French cities. [...]

[N]ovelist Virginie Despentes, the voice of youthful feminist dissent in France, states that she won't vote for any of the 'fakers and frauds on offer. Better to leave France for good.' In the same cynical vein, Marc Weitzmann - one of the most influential figures on French youth in the past decade, a novelist and former editor of rock magazine Les Inrockuptibles - has claimed Sarkozy as the only choice. In a recent interview, Weitzmann declared that the intellectual left was dead in France, strangled by middle-class and middle-aged functionaries who despised youth and sought only to enhance their pension plans. 'There is no other choice,' says Weitzmann, a former avant-gardist and supporter of such radicals as philosopher Guy Debord and novelist Michel Houellebecq, 'Sarkozy does what all politicians do, only he does it better than most of them.'

Following Weitzmann, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, probably the most fashionable and dashingly youthful philosopher (he's in his early thirties) on the Left Bank, writes of 'democratic nihilism' and describes France as a 'failed state'. Didier Lestrade, founder of the Aids campaign group Act-Up, puts the angry voice of the French clearly: 'We're sick of voting against things. When are we going to have someone that we can vote for?'

The politicians themselves are watching the arguments among young people with a degree of caution. More to the point, after the fiasco in 2002, when Le Pen terrified the French nation (and the rest of the world) by making it to the second round of the elections, largely because of voter apathy in the first, the big political parties are eager to court young first-time voters as insurance against such variables.

The emigration of so many young people is seen most threateningly in the press as the victory of Anglo-American capitalism (most French youngsters dream of London or New York) over the French socialist model. But there is more at stake than money and jobs. Racism, poor housing and the stagnant nature of French society are also, damagingly for the present government, all cited by the present generation of young people as reasons to get away.

Perhaps you oughtn't be writing the piece if you don't get that those are just the inevitable products of the French model?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 8, 2007 11:13 AM

Zo, thees means Ze Frenchies Nuke Ze Americans soonaire than layter, non?

Posted by: KRS at April 8, 2007 3:34 PM

But ... but .. I thought all sorts of right-thinking Americans had moved to France to escape the Bushitlerian gulags and concentration camps and persecutions.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 8, 2007 4:04 PM

Looking to New York and London. A post above was about Brits leaving for opportunities in other parts of the Anglosphere. Gee it's only the great satan here that seems to be the target of yoots the world over. Odd that?

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2007 8:01 PM

New Orleans has a lot of space.....

They don't want to live w/their people?

Posted by: Sandy P at April 8, 2007 8:24 PM

the victory of Anglo-American capitalism [...] over the French socialist model. But there is more at stake than money and jobs. Racism, poor housing and the stagnant nature of French society are also [...] all cited

The writer seems to have missed the insight that capitalism isn't just about "money and jobs," but is also a force against racism, poor housing, and social stagnation.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 8, 2007 10:28 PM

No, capitalism is a force for all three. Libertarians are as ignorant about capitalism as liberals.

Posted by: oj at April 9, 2007 6:21 AM