Emmanuel Macron, French presidential candidate for the movement En Marche!, former investment banker and Minister for the Economy, professing to be neither of the Left nor the Right, has picked up the stale scent of François Hollande’s winning metaphysical prejudice that France is an ‘idea’, and does not constitute an ‘identity’. Warming to this well-known theme of the Parti socialiste, Mr. Macron says in different speeches to his supporters «Il n’y a pas de culture française, il n’y a pas une culture française», and then «Il y a une culture en France et elle est diverse». There is no French culture, there is no such thing as a French culture. There is a culture in France, and it is diverse. On the word diverse, which brings relief from confusion, applause breaks the silence in a moment of collective recognition — but it is disturbingly sub-rapturous applause. And then, for good measure, «L’art français, je ne l’ai jamais vu». French art? I’ve never seen it. The barb seems to have been crafted self-consciously for an audience of philistines.
“Any sane person recognises French culture when he encounters it, and does not require a definition.”
This is a continuation into the campaign of the vacuous and philistine discussion that the Parti socialiste has been having with itself and its militants throughout the five-year term of François Hollande, if not for decades before. It has always been an empty wrangle with semantic casuistry, the purpose being to develop a self-sustaining political provocation. Any sane person recognises French culture when he encounters it, and does not require a definition. Whether Mr. Macron is a philistine in the privacy of his own æsthetic contemplations is of no particular interest. The real question is whether the culture to which he is electively blind is under threat from, well…. winsome globalisers like him. §