What does Gilets jaunes mean?

Rumblings on the hustings, the corporate global economic order has Always been predicated on sacrificing the working class. Always:

It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole.The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer. The problem is at the same time unemployment, insecurity and poverty have also increased. The central question, therefore, is not whether a globalised economy is efficient, but what to do with this model when it fails to create and nurture a coherent society?

In France, as in all western countries, we have gone in a few decades from a system that economically, politically and culturally integrates the majority into an unequal society that, by creating ever more wealth, benefits only the already wealthy.

The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic. But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock.

Switch out France périphérique for the Rust Belt. They are interchangeable, except that the former has not, as yet, voted straight fascist and retains the habit of taking to the street – as well as tearing up parts of it to throw at the police. It’s how different cultures tackle the same problem: the left-behindness, debt, low pay, high taxes, inequality, and ignorance upon which the limited successes of late capitalism depend. It’s certainly not pleasant, but people have long-understood this and attempted to warn us from the dragons – Dr. K, Joe Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty – nor it is unrelated to the bizarre vortex we’ve been documenting here for ten(!) years. And the Gilets jaunes are not solving this problem. But they are making us look, and we’re not even used to that.

Image: Author photo of a different type of inundation, near Pont Neuf, 2016

America: Too American?

If there are two consecutive sentences in this long article one of which does not smack of the utter idiocy of our present epoch, I can’t find them. The whole thing is summed up in this one sentence:

So thousands of companies here remain stubbornly small — all of which means Italy is a haven for artisans but is in a lousy position to play the global domination game.

Game. Set. Match. Because if you’re not trying to do that, why do anything? Positively everything that is wrong with our present trajectory is contained in that one little nugget. Delusions of scale? Check. Outright antagonism toward localized ventures? Got it. Condescension toward quality as value? In spades.

The thing is, this is also perfectly indicative of the tone of all business reporting; anything that can be interpreted as gains for workers is seen as negative, as is anything which diverts revenue from shareholders. It’s all of an anti-human, anti-person scale piece. As if it is inevitable that the high-quality fabric in question would give way to lower-priced faire from elsewhere because, well, that’s how we define things: down.

But it is rich how Italy is castigated for its lack of competition, as if the U.S. was some kind of hot bed. It is true that companies do most anything to drive others out of business, though in the sense freedom is just another word for a race to the bottom. Even the article sites the thousands of small bakeries in Italy vs. Quiznos here. Enough said. I guess the entire meaning of cheap never occurs to anybody.