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RE: <nettime> 12th night
keith {AT} thememorybank.co.uk on Fri, 11 Nov 2005 09:50:33 +0100 (CET)


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RE: <nettime> 12th night


Thanks, Brian. I've been sitting out this whole thing in Switzerland, having and recovering from an
eye operation. It's a relief to get a report from you on the spot.

The debate, such at it is, has an excluded middle so large as to swallow up rational thought. The
organized left has nothing to say. The weak economy has added to the hopeless misery of the kids on
the estates. We all know that the public sector has to be reformed. Here the iconic case is the
bankrupt Corsica ferry and its featherbedded union. How can the case against the right and
neoliberalism be made, if this issue can't be discussed from the left? Sarkozy, apart from inflaming
everyone with his use of street language, is the only politician proposing to shake up the job market
with a view to making more room for outsiders. But it's too confusing to consider his populism as a
distinctive response to neoliberalism and not just the thing itself.

And even the French press, not just the self-congratulatory Brits with their smug multi-culturalism,
are talking about the end of the republican ideal, as if it can't be distinguished from the
nationalism and racism tha= t actually undermines equal citizenship. It's one thing to vote 'no' in an
EU referendum, quite another to tackle what stands in the way of a viable social democracy for France.

After living in Paris for almost a decade, I have come to cherish the palpable existence of a
'public', of the public thing, res publica, that everyone belongs to and can contest the politicians'
claim to own. I knew something like it when I grew up in Manchester after the war and I thought it had
gone for ever. I would like to see a real debate about how such a social vision might be affirmed
while responding to the deep causes of the riots. But I am not holding my breath.

Keith




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