In a Deutsche Welle piece on the likelihood of Emmanuel Macron being able to reform French labor and pension law, is this statement by Julie Hamann, a political scientist with the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.
The French have high expectations of the state, for it to fulfill its protective function with regard to social welfare. As soon as reforms are announced that may lead to cuts in social services or labor market insecurity, this very quickly gives rise to very great and very emotional fears.
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The French people—French society—expects government to play the major role in doing for them; individual personal responsibility for a Frenchman’s own future is secondary and operable only within a Government provided framework.
Macron and his La République en Marche! party may well fail as resoundingly as did Alain Juppe, who had the major French labor union on his side 22 years ago but couldn’t do the deed, and as resoundingly as did Dominique de Villepin, whose plan already had passed through Parliament 11 years ago when he folded and canceled reforms similar to Macron’s.
Macron is a younger man, and his party is populated by newcomers still fired by their idealism and disdain, if not disgust, for the establishment. But he will need to go directly against the forces of the people—the popular establishment of a sort—if he’s to succeed.
Macron will change the foundation of French social thinking with his proposals. He and a sufficiency of his party must have the courage to lead in order to enact his proposals—and to face the consequences if his policies, rammed through and held to, do not lift the French economy into prosperity-generating dynamism.