The scarecrow of the United States does not usually fail in France. Since the Cold War, a part of the left has designated American imperialism as the cause of all evil. It happens in many fields: from McDonald’s to Amazon, many French have accused American multinationals of destroying local food or indigenous businesses, even if they later consumed the fast food chain’s hamburgers with passion or compulsively shopped in the online supermarket.
British culture wars are fought on the pedestals
France has always looked with suspicion and at the same time fascination at everything that came from the US Now, the French Government and a part of the intellectual elite point to the power on the other side of the Atlantic as the origin of concepts supposedly foreign to culture and culture. own tradition. Approaches that contribute to sowing weeds among the French, and fuel destructive ideologies.
Last October, during the speech in which he presented his plan to combat what he called “Islamist separatism”, President Emmanuel Macron criticized “certain theories in the social sciences totally imported from the United States.” Macron alluded, without mentioning them, to the theories about race and gender that in recent decades have proliferated on the other side of the Atlantic and have marked movements such as the Black Lives Matter, against police violence that hits black citizens, or the feminism of the Me Too movement.
The reproach is twofold. First, that these theories artificially transfer to France specific grievances of American society, such as racism after centuries of slavery, segregation and discrimination. And second, that this approach clashes with the principles of a Republic that does not admit race differences and enshrines equality among citizens, not communities.
“I am on the universalist side,” says Macron in an interview published in the latest issue of the magazine. It. “I do not recognize myself in a combat that reduces each one to his identity and his particularism.”
The historian Pierre-André Taguieff coined the term “Islamo-Leftism” a few years ago to designate the left that is complacent with Islamism in the name of defending the oppressed. Taguieff criticizes the “new dominant ideology” in the social sciences “that calls for intersectionality, critical theories of race, neo-identity feminism and a form of racialization.”
Taguieff, who uses these terms to designate these currents in vogue, refers to the call French theory –Literally, French theory– and to thinkers of the sixties and seventies such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida (further back in time, he says, everything leads to Nietzsche). “The French theory it has inspired American cultural neo-leftism and has returned to France in a totally distorted form, ”he says. “The idea is that there is no truth. Each group, each identity has its truth. The truth of men is not that of women, that of whites is not that of blacks … “
François Cusset, author of the essay French theory, refutes the idea of a dangerous Americanization of France. “It is not at all this: it is the tense and protectionist France that fears the invisible invasion, an ancient reflection,” says Cusset, historian of ideas at the University of Nanterre. “What is happening”, he adds, “is an opening of the French debates to what is being done all over the world, not only in the US. And the ferment of what is happening is Franco-French like the history of colonialism. French”.
The debate is not solely academic. In part, it’s less than that: a series of brawls on social media in which each party seeks to present itself as the most offended. But in part it is much more. When secularism is discussed and a more strict vision is opposed to a more liberal one, American styleIn fact, there is talk of the Islamic veil, now prohibited in public schools, and of the influence of Islamist ideology among Muslims in France. And it is a political debate. It divides the left – “the two irreconcilable left”, as former Prime Minister Manuel Valls used to say, largely because of the attitude towards religion. It also reflects a particular French malaise and insecurity about his identity.
The problem is not that the debate is Americanized but that the French, and above all public intellectuals, do not know French thinkers on racial and feminist issues.
The battle has taken various forms in recent years. Some mild, some serious. One day she is a French university student who causes a stir on the networks because she talks in a video about the supposed racist nature of French cuisine; another, a minister who announces that she will open an investigation into the infiltration of the Islamo-leftism. One day, a group of students tries to boycott a lecture by intellectual Alain Finkielkraut; another, the essayist and polemicist Rokhaya Diallo, who presents herself as a feminist, leftist and Muslim, is excluded from a group of experts on the Internet called by the French Government after denouncing that in France there is “state racism”, such as In U.S.A.
Diallo, columnist at The Washington Post and a researcher at Georgetown University, stated in a telephone conversation: “In the United States, these questions are considered legitimate. It is accepted, for example, that postcolonial societies are structured by unequal relations between racial groups ”. And he adds: “The problem is not that the debate is Americanized but that the French, and above all public intellectuals, do not know the French thinkers who deal with racial and feminist issues,” he says by phone. And he cites references in anti-colonial thought such as Frantz Fanon or Albert Memmi.
France, a country that has been passionate about intellectual wars since the Old Regime, has not finished discussing culture wars or dialectical battles between wokes Y boomers, or envelope intersectionality, the racialization o la cancellation. The words are foreign; ideas, which excite some and irritate others, are less so than they seem. They have a distant origin in the French theory and the ideas of the Foucault and Derrida who, after passing through the United States, now return to France like a boomerang. The haze of Anglicisms and neologisms hides a very French debate.