In This Review

The Last Neoliberal: Macron and the Origins of France’s Political Crisis
The Last Neoliberal: Macron and the Origins of France’s Political Crisis
By Bruno Amable and Stefano Palombarini
Verso, 2021, 192 pp.

This updated version of a book that first appeared during the 2017 French presidential election—in which Emmanuel Macron prevailed—argues that France has become ungovernable. In the authors’ view, all the major parties in France have given up on the traditional postwar “social-liberal” compromise that combined moves toward fluid labor markets, external openness, and EU cooperation with continued redistribution, social solidarity, and upward mobility. Instead, both left-wing and center-right parties have sacrificed the latter for the former. A center-right “bourgeois bloc” is now pushing this process further, triggering rising inequality and the marginalization of low-wage labor and stoking intense disillusionment and opposition on the traditional left and the far right. Although it is certainly true that in recent decades France has moved toward more free-market policies in some areas, one cannot help sensing that these authors often miss the forest for the trees. Inequality in France today is roughly equal that in Sweden. Its levels of taxation and social spending top the European charts. Its public services—not to mention the five weeks of paid vacation guaranteed for all full-time workers—are the envy of most of its neighbors. If France’s welfare-state model is collapsing, then bring on the collapse!