This piece, by the editor of the European edition of London’s Financial Times, showcases the thinking of Christophe Lambert, president of the French advertising group Publicis. -- Lambert takes a line like that argued by Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles, who believes that an historical transformation in the principle of state legitimation was effected by the “Long War” of the 20th century (1914-1991), ending the era of the nation-state (which justified its existence by its dedication to the welfare of the people) and beginning a transition to what Bobbitt calls the “market-state,” whose principle of legitimacy is the maximization of opportunity. -- Both Lambert and Bobbitt evince deeply anti-democratic strains of thought: it is not for “we the people” to decide the nature of the state in which we live, but rather for impersonal dynamic economic forces (here given the name “globalization” to connote inevitability, but indistinguishable in practice from capital). -- The Achilles’ heel of this argument is public opinion: since the modern state has no other means than elections and referendums to demonstrate convincingly its legitimacy, the people are still able to make themselves heard. -- This they did last May 29, proving that democracy is not altogether dead after all in the heartland of Old Europe, and provoking endless gnashing of teeth (like Lambert’s “Our social model is dead,” quoted here) in publications like the Financial Times by representatives of the interests of business elites and corporations....

Business Life

By John Thornhill

Financial Times (UK)
January 27, 2006

In a New Year address, President Jacques Chirac appealed to French citizens to stop their destructive "self-flagellation" and to take pride in their country's achievements. A few days later, Dominique de Villepin, Mr. Chirac's staunchly loyal prime minister, echoed the theme by railing against the "déclinologues" who constantly talk France down.

But Christophe Lambert, the punchy president of the French arm of the Publicis advertising group, suggests that many French politicians are simply refusing to stare reality in the face. "The problem of France today is obvious," he says. "Our social model is dead. We are not able to continue to finance our system as it is running today.

"In the early 1980s the U.S. and the U.K. revolutionized their economies to face globalization. We have refused to do so and in election after election we have chosen politicians who have told us we can do without change."

As the author of a polemical essay, The Society of Fear, [La Société de la peur (Plon, August, 2005)] which analyzes the reasons for France's current gloom, Mr. Lambert has pitched into the national political debate by calling for more radical change. In many ways, the advertising executive is representative of a younger generation of French business leaders, conversant with the ways of the globalized world, frustrated with the apparent inability of their political counterparts to adapt, and unafraid to speak their mind. Like many young executives, Mr. Lambert pins his hopes on Nicolas Sarkozy, the populist president of the ruling center-right UMP party, winning the 2007 presidential elections.

"Since the end of the Second World War we have been proud of our social model and we have been absolutely convinced that France has invented something unique between the capitalism of the Anglo-Saxon world and socialism," he says.

But slower economic growth over the past decade, stubbornly high unemployment, an increase in business outsourcing to Asia and North Africa and more intense global competition have spread anxiety among the population. "Now we have a society dominated by fear. People are asking for more and more social protection, but the more protection they get the more it weakens the system. We have to face the truth about the French decline and seize our opportunities."

Mr. Lambert says that without a rebound in the French economy there is a danger that it will become increasingly disconnected from its national roots and weakened in its ability to compete globally.

"The CAC-40 companies make 80 per cent of their profits outside France. The domestic market has proportionately become smaller and smaller. There is a disconnect between the main companies and the performance of the country," he says. "But ultimately we cannot be strong in the business world if the domestic market is not in good shape."

However, Mr. Lambert says there are some encouraging signs that France may be ready to change. In his book, he argues that France's young people are beginning to recognize the need for reform. He cites an opinion poll showing that fewer than 5 per cent of 15- to 30-year-olds approve of the 35-hour working week. He suggests this generation of voters is increasingly clamouring for opportunities for hard work and good pay.

Mr. Lambert even argues that the French voters' shock rejection of Europe's constitutional treaty last May also highlights the desire for change. According to Mr. Lambert, the No campaign came to symbolize a way of making things change in Europe. The Yes campaign, so strongly backed by the country's discredited technocratic elite, was seen as reinforcing the status quo.

But while fear might encourage people to contemplate radical change, there is a danger that it could also paralyze them into political inactivity. It is striking, for example, that Mr. Sarkozy, who has been campaigning on the need to bring about a "rupture" [better translated as “break” --J.R.] with the failed policies of the past, is now toning down his rhetoric.

"Rupture has done the job it was supposed to do," Mr. Lambert says, suggesting that it has reinforced his reformist credentials. "But now [Sarkozy] is worried about going too far and frightening people about the consequences of change."