The August Crisis in France – Good for Political Psychology

Those who enjoy the more traditional aspects of politics will have obtained a degree of satisfaction from the August crisis (or “crise du mois d’août” as they are not calling it) of the French Socialist Government.   Respecting the long-established convention whereby at the two year mark of any good social democratic government, the party’s left wing revolts and is duly thrown out of government.   So this month the party’s left wing rebelled and was duly dispatched from all governance, potentially to their several and individual relief.

Although one aspect of the crisis did break with convention in that in the proximate cause of the rebellion – the French Government’s austerity policies, the insurrectionist left is almost certainly correct.  Now this blog hesitates to make strong political statements as a general policy (its all moral psychology recall) but this other blog which has 5 million more readers than this one, has wrought such total intellectual destruction on the policies of austerity across the world and Europe in particular, that the austerians are in whole scale intellectual flight.  That hardly ever happens since economics in common with politics, is also moral psychology and as in politics it is just as hard or near impossible to change anyone’s mind as your moral psychology isn’t going anywhere fast.

That famous economics blog is trying to use the space afforded by cyberspace to make a series of narrow technical arguments about economics and yet note the revealingly moralistic title- The Conscience of a Liberal.  Krugman believes that something has gone wrong at a psychological level with the austerians and that millions have paid the price in lost jobs, services and incomes.  This blog, the unread one, discussed what these reasons might be on a previous occasion.

If arguments about austerity didn’t cleave the socialist Government in France then the imminent abandonment of the PS’s long-standing hostility to reform in France would have surely induced the schism (indeed it was a factor in the actual crisis).  See the diagram here:

Blog+Pictures+Fiske+left for PS


The PS are very much part of the picture on the left: the hold out against reform isn’t a technical issue or disagreement with particular reform proposals or even the formal explanation that reforms are right wing and the domain of the Sarkozy and friends.  No, if Fiske is correct and these social structures shape our moral psychology the PS has positioned itself as hostile to what he calls Market Pricing but as he points, out should more accurately be called contract.  Existing welfare policy and labour market rights all constitute a contract and to consider amending changing or even examing  those contracts crosses a psychological trip wire for the PS.  A trip wire which the PS assiduously built up opposition by valorisation of both moralised CS – untouchable welfare, defence of public services, the “social” model and moralised EM – demands for accountability and more democracy in counterpoise to the dreaded MP.

Now to govern is to own the contracts in society which in an economic crisis have to be at least examined.  Also the weak economic performance of the PS in government this time is also explained by this moralised hostility to MP as economics sits psychologically in MP.  The resiquite economic or reform thinking that oppositions need to do, doesn’t appear to have been done luxuriating as they were in moralised CS.

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