France, Farmers, and the Failing 'Extreme Center'
A Guest Essay by Renaud Beauchard
Recently I had a very thought-provoking back-and-forth email conversation with an Upheaval reader, Renaud Beauchard, on the recent trucker and farmer protests, the French elections, European politics, populism, technocracy, and more. His answers to my questions were so detailed that I asked him if he’d like to expand and put them together into a guest essay. The result, below, is I think an especially interesting perspective, in part because I have become convinced that France is at the leading edge of a new, emerging kind of politics, one that largely transcends, or at least badly scrambles, traditional left-right distinctions. That unorthodox view is reflected in this essay – which should not be a surprise given that Renaud, a professor and lawyer, is one of France’s leading scholars on the work of that prophetic political binary-breaker, the late Christopher Lasch.
I also find Renaud’s characterization here of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling-class ideology as being that of the “extreme center” particularly interesting. I was only really familiar with the term from historian Stanley Payne’s work on the Spanish Civil War, where in Payne’s view the pre-war center-left government saw itself as the protector of moderate liberal-democracy, but became so paranoid about the perceived threat from the right that it began to take increasingly extreme extra-constitutional, anti-democratic actions in the name of defending democracy and “the center.” In the end these actions only helped delegitimize the state and hasten Spain’s collapse into factional hatred and violence. Now it strikes me that Renaud’s application of the term “extreme center” may also be a better way to describe the politics of technocratic regimes elsewhere (including in the United States) that have today draped themselves in the progressive identity politics of the New Left but have zero interest in the class struggles of the old working-class left, let alone any intention of challenging global neoliberalism. The dominant political divide is now nearly everywhere becoming that between a technocratic-global-elite vs. rebellious democratic-national-populists.
Anyway, I hope you find Renaud’s guest essay below interesting, as I did. Just to be clear, however: the below represents Renaud’s views alone, not mine, and publication of this or any future guest essays should not be taken as agreement with or endorsement of those views. But if you enjoy Renaud’s essay, do check out his new Substack Limits and Hope, where he’ll be doing more writing in English on cultural and political issues from a French perspective. – N.S. Lyons
If there is one hot spot where upheaval is happening fast, it would be Europe. Facing the consequences of their exit from History after WWII, European nations appear to be facing a moment of reckoning with a rather extraordinary convergence of crises: the ecological crisis, the end of the American century (the crisis caused by the transition eastward of the center of the world economy), the terminal crisis of liberalism, and a looming energy crisis caused by a completely avoidable conflict in Ukraine. In less than a week, we have seen new hunger-related revolts and the intensification of a backlash against rootless laptop elites, with farmer protests spreading all over Europe, along with the stunning resignations of the prime ministers of the UK, Italy, and Estonia. All the while, the conniving prestige media do all they can to dissimulate any causal link between the erupting anger and the resignations.
In this context, nowhere should we be more concerned about such events unfolding than in France. Particularly since the last sequence of elections signals that the institutions of the Fifth Republic are now crumbling. During last month’s parliamentary elections (just two months after Emmanuel Macron was reelected as president), the presidential coalition fell 45 seats short of the absolute majority at the National Assembly, the smallest share of seats for a presidential majority since 1958. Facing two main groups of opposition from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) and the Left/Green coalition Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale (NUPES), led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s movement La France Insoumise (LFI), Macron is therefore about to enter very turbulent times. His fragile government, headed by the formidably uncharismatic technocratic prime minister Elisabeth Borne, will have to face a hung parliament with a performatively fired-up opposition on top of an eruptive population.
Judging from the mood all over Europe, with new “peasant revolts” plus a Russia about to completely turn off the tap of the gas supply, Macron and his government have every reason to be worried about a popular anger which is already several notches above what it was when the massive Gilets Jaunes (“Yellow Vest”) protests erupted in late 2018. As bad as the Gilets Jaunes protests were for Macron then, the movement happened in an economic context incommensurably better than the current one, and while Macron also enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. Now Macron is facing an opposition which will be in a very good position to explain to the discontents why they should be discontented.
Macron, whose coalition controls neither the Senate nor the regional and municipal governments, can simply not afford such a weak majority in the National Assembly. Especially now that he is engaging the country on the suicidal path of a “war economy” which means, above all, energy shortages and an unprecedented escalation in the cost of energy bills – the gravity of which he tried to dissimulate in his Bastille Day address by calling on the French people to participate in the collective effort toward ecological transition through a “sobriety plan.”
Though French farmers have, for now, barely joined the protest movement, it would not take much to ignite an already very tense social climate. Farmers would be added to the list of those already on strike: truckers, electricians, gas utility employees, workers from the aeronautic group Safran, E-commerce company Chronodrive’s order pickers, rail workers, nursing homes aides, employees at Total gas stations, and employees of the Paris airports and Transavia Airlines. There is clearly now a sense of panic surrounding the Elysée Palace, which partly explain why French and European prestige media have uniformly decided to leave the farmers protests entirely unreported.
This electoral setback comes on top of accumulating bad news on the international stage for the French president. In fairness, these are partly of his own making and partly inherited from a succession of calamitous rulers. After having made grandiose De-Gaulle style announcements about European strategic autonomy and asserted that NATO was brain dead, France and its European partners are now more than ever strategically dependent on the United States and what might be called its hubristic “Project for a New American Century 2.0.” Even more so than the original from the 2000s, this new imperialistic adventure sounds like a “Planetary Confederacy of Goodness,” shrouded in empty symbolism and virtue signaling.
This emptiness was on display during Macron’s grotesque visit to Kiev by train on June 16 alongside the German chancellor and the now resigned Italian prime minister. During that trip, which happened days before the second round of the parliamentary elections, Macron vowed to support Ukraine until final victory and to fast track Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova into the EU, thereby reversing a policy of deepening the currently existing European Union and instead embarking on a new phase of enlargement – an unpopular prospect for the populations of EU member states. Since that visit, it has become increasingly obvious that the economic sanctions imposed against Russia have backfired and are being borne heavily by European populations. Their support for the war in Ukraine has all but plummeted amid an obscene shower of military, financial, and humanitarian assistance to the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian government. It looks now like weaponizing the financial system was no match against a country who can weaponize its vast reserves of much-needed energy.
Meanwhile, to the South, the Sahel region (a crucial region for French energy supply, particularly of Uranium) continues its gradual descent into what Serge Michailof labelled “Africanistan”, with Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina-Faso more or less on the brink of falling into the hands of Islamist groups and looking for allies elsewhere – particularly Russia. While rumors multiply of African heads of state ignoring Macron’s calls, French companies present on the continent are losing lucrative contracts and strategic influence to Turkey and Russia, while long-time allies such as Togo and Gabon have defected to “The Commonwealth.” To add insult to injury, the Senegalese president Macky Sall, who chairs the African Union, humiliated Macron by traveling to Russia (without coordinating with the French president) in order to negotiate with Putin about restoring the wheat supply from Ukraine to the African continent, while also demanding a lifting of global sanctions on Russian exports of grains and fertilizers.
The important question to ask is therefore where exactly the main threat to the Macron regime is coming from at the moment. Compared to the pressure from the street, the new National Assembly may be the least of Macron’s concerns after all, particularly since Mélenchon’s NUPES opposition to Macron will be largely performative. Why is that? Because in truth their ideological proximity is only thinly veiled.
The Common Origin of Macron’s “Extreme Center” and Mélenchon’s Ultra-Left
An interesting development occurred during the two rounds of the presidential election, when Macron began to claim for himself the label of being “extreme center.” Claiming the title of extreme to fend off a threat perceived as more extreme (in this case Marine Le Pen) is hardly a novel ruling strategy, but Macron’s use of the slogan “extreme center” in this context is notable. The term was coined by the French columnist Alain Gérard Slama and the Canadian philosopher Alain Deneault to denounce the monopolization of power by a technocratic caste presenting itself as the voice of dispassionate reason and moderation, even while it inflicts extreme damages on the lives of the populations it rules.
One very useful angle to understand the origins of Macron’s “extreme center” and Mélenchon’s “ultra-left” – to use Jean-Claude Michéa’s expression referring to a left that has abandoned all radical (“to the root”) ambitions in order to embrace elite progressivism – is to explore their common origin as the heirs of the post-Mitterrandian left. That common origin can be traced back to 1984 and the official wedding of the French socialist party to neoliberalism, as well as the invention, from the highest echelon of the French Jacobine State, of elite-left identity progressivism.
It was then that, after two years of frenetic Keynesian policies, international bond and currency markets brought the French government to its knees and forced France to accept the neoliberal straitjacket as a condition of remaining in the European Monetary System (EMS). Not only did then President François Mitterrand personally convert to the new neoliberal orthodoxy, he transformed France into a vanguard of neoliberal policies. In the purest Jacobin tradition, Mitterrand’s government even produced a fascinating propaganda TV program watched by 20 million viewers (a rating comparable to the Superbowl in America) titled “Vive la Crise.” Hosted by superstar actor Yves Montand, the program aimed to prepare the French people to welcome crisis as a way of life, a precondition to a felicitous place in the ultimate stage of a homogeneous global society.
But as Mitterrand’s Socialist Party was preparing the French people for the “Great Reset” some four decades before the fact, he also orchestrated the abandonment of the popular classes in favor of identity politics, so as to preserve a left identity unanchored from the criticism of capitalism. While Mitterrand was playing-up and even encouraging the ascension of Jean Marie Le Pen’s Front National (then a true Maurrassian, i.e. reactionary and counter-revolutionary party), two of Mitterrand’s young cronies, Julien Dray and Harlem Désir, launched the now influential NGO association SOS Racism and the very successful antiracism campaign titled “Touche-pas à mon pote” (don’t touch my pal).
Meanwhile Mitterrand’s Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, led a relentless policy of promotion of the “culture of inversion” (defined recently by Paul Kingsnorth as the dedication of “the cultural elites, and sometimes the political and economic elites… not to upholding the cultural forms they inherited, but to turning them on their heads, or erasing them entirely.”) This program manifested itself in such examples as raves in the Louvre and post-modern ballets featuring excrement and menstrual blood. This was the era in which Mélenchon came of age as a member of Mitterrand’s socialist party, where he held positions of senator and then minister. The Mélenchon of 2022 is very clearly the heir of this moment, not a new invention or deviation.
The 1984 moment was also historical in significance because it merged what Jean-Claude Michéa called “the two theoretical moments of liberalism” that had been dissociated in the late 19th century by a trick of history. These two moments are, on the one hand, the constant injunction to move away from forms of communal bonds based on concrete human interactions (family, village, tribe, clan, even the nation becomes too narrow at some point) and toward ever more abstract forms of association in the name of the realization of the individual as a pure desiring machine; and, on the other, the self-regulating market supposed to bring a natural “order to the Brownian movement of rational individuals.”
Interestingly, Mélenchon’s initial ascent started as a “populist” critique of the conversion of the left to neoliberal policies. In a striking parallel with Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbin, Mélenchon, who took his cues from the Spanish party Podemos, campaigned on populist rhetoric in his first significant presidential bid in 2017. The ideologue behind Mélenchon’s appealing ideological cocktail was the Belgian philosopher Chantal Mouffe, formerly the intellectual muse of Podemos. In Mouffe’s view, the left must reclaim the label of “populism” – or more accurately to defend a “left populism” rather than leave populism exclusively to right-wing demagogues. Starting with the prediction that neoliberalism was entering a period of heavy turbulence, Mouffe preached an ideological fault line, which she called “agonism,” between the “people” and the political and economic elites, including the left elites who embraced neoliberalism. Mouffe also advocated a recognition that “right-wing populists” represent a genuine democratic opposition to the prevailing elites (advice which, apart from the original Podemos and isolated voices such as LFI’s MP François Ruffin, none of her readers in politically organized left movements seem to have seriously listened to.)
However, like Sanders after his 2016 campaign, and like Podemos since the movement was turned on its head by its professionalized politicians, Mélenchon and his party moved quite spectacularly toward a more intersectional approach. This move could in fact be foreseen in the big conceptual blind spot contained in Mouffe’s “left populism.” That blind spot is Mouffe’s conception of the “people” in a manner that was largely inspired by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. For Mouffe, the “people” is a pure construction and should not rest on any “class essentialism.” In other words, the “people” are a blank page to fill in, and the problem is political in nature rather than (as Jean-Claude Michéa argued) ethical and proceeding from a lack of commitment to solidarity and common decency. The sin of the neoliberal left, argues Mouffe, consists in having abandoned the agonistic nature of politics, not in having abandoned cultivating the moral values of the popular classes. This constructivist conception of the “people” left an enormous opening for the “woke” agenda to fill the void.
All the movements inspired by her “left populism” have now gleefully embraced that agenda. In doing so, Mélenchon’s ultra-left, Podemos, and movements like the Democratic Socialists of America, have, to paraphrase Mary Harrington, expelled anti-capitalist and anti-technology voices entirely, instead embracing science, technology, and Big Government (and therefore, ineluctably, Big Business) as key delivery partners for their vision of utopia. That explains why LFI was almost silent when Macron’s government unleashed the sanitary pass and tepidly voiced only a little opposition when he transformed it into a vaccination pass, not to mention Mélenchon’s frequent appearances at rallies as a hologram.
The filling of the void left open by the idea of the “people” as a pure social construction has also provided a perfect rhetorical argument for Macron and the extreme center to criticize the wokification of the Mélenchon left even as Macron continues, on an everyday basis, to not only promote but to actually practice wokeness. A cogent example is the recent appointment of the historian Pap N’Diaye as Minister of Education. This is a man who has been one of the most ardent promoters of the importation into French discourse of the idea of systemic or structural racism. But compared to the NUPES’ strident wokeness, N’Diaye appears like one of those dispassionate experts that fit so well within Macron’s extreme center, while also giving Macron, and all Mélenchon’s political rivals for that matter, an opportunity to label the left a dangerous “Islamo-leftist” movement.
Another ideological proximity between Mélenchon’s ultra-left and Macron’s extreme center is their common conception of the welfare state. Mélenchon’s turbo-charged Keynesianism is only a more strident version of state dependency on public spending and redistribution in the country that, even under neoliberal leadership, already holds the world record for public spending as a share of the GDP, at around 56%. In this respect it appears difficult to outdo the extreme centrist Macron’s policy of “whatever it takes” during the COVID pandemic, when his government attempted by means of a huge increase of public spending (61.8% of GDP in 2020) to shelter the French people from any consequences of the artificial shutdown of the economy.
More profoundly, there is not so much as an embryo of reflection on the part of the left (neoliberal or ultra-) about the totalitarian proclivities at the heart of the idea of the welfare state – a reflection which has become urgent at the time of runaway monetary policies. It is eye opening, for example, to read today the brilliant reflection of François Ewald on the Welfare State from 1987. In a chapter titled “The Normative Order,” Ewald explains that the conception of the State as a collective insurance against all the risks of life requires its collection of more and more discrete and infinitesimal data on every aspect of the lives of individuals. These policies, argues Ewald, require the computerization of society as an organic necessity, as the very condition of their society’s possibility. Look no further for an explanation as to why the politically organized left has abandoned any serious reflection on the dangers of technology.
Though NUPES may constitute a performative opposition that can be seen as ruthless (despite a few exceptions like the isolated MP François Ruffin), it is thus more likely to perform the role of useful idiot for the power of the extreme center than it is to be a channel for the legitimate anger of the French people to be heard.
The question, then, is whether the other main parliamentary opposition movement, the “far-right” National Rally, provides a better channel to tame that anger.
The Ideological Unknown of the National Rally
The National Rally suffers from the exact opposite problem of the ultra-left. The latter is encumbered with an ideological baggage it cannot get rid of because of its ontological suspicion of small-scale forms of voluntary associations. At the opposite end, the new right suffers from an almost complete ideological vacuum. So far, its success is based only on the fact that it is a receptacle for the fragmented and legitimate anger of the population and by a predilection to favor social redistribution – which makes its economic program almost indistinguishable from the ultra-left. This vague ideological content makes it at the same time prone to assume the “far-right” label that its opponents use to delegitimate it, and to revert to some kind of residual Maurassian content – as illustrated by the completely failed attempt of Eric Zemmour to organize the refoundation of the right – or to fall into the trap of seeking respectability by adhering strictly to liberalism, which is the weakness of Marine Le Pen. The last strategy is not tenable in the long run, as however closely the new right adheres to the liberal ethos, it will always be accused of being reactionary or Maurassian.
The only conceivable strategy for the new right is to bring into ideological coherence the need for a postliberal order. The National Rally has the resources available from within to engage on moving in that direction, including the hopeful creation of a French localist movement by the Euro-MPs Hervé Juvin and Andrea Kotarac, who have called for a rejuvenation of the French regions and a true and meaningful decentralization. (It is also worth mentioning that Juvin was the only political figure to address the ongoing onslaught by the technological machine during the presidential campaign.)
Beyond that, though the intellectual foundations of a postliberal order are here largely a work in progress, there is a profusion of very cogent criticisms of liberalism to explore, including in the French intellectual heritage of De Jouvenel, Bernanos, Ellul, Péguy, Tocqueville, Michéa, Pierre Manent, the Grenoble Laboratory of Ideas Pièces et Main d’oeuvre. And, from abroad, there are the insightful works of Patrick Deneen, Paul Kingsnorth, Wendell Berry, Matthew Crawford, and Christopher Lasch, among others.
But, realistically, neither the National Rally nor Macron’s government (with the pseudo-opposition of NUPES) will be able to listen to the clamor from the street, particularly with the prestige media now engaged in North-Korean levels of censorship and propaganda. In all likelihood, the biggest, most meaningful, and potentially most unpredictable agent of change will come not from any of the parties but from a revitalized Gilets Jaunes movement.
Toward a Gilets Jaunes 2.0
Before trying to consider a Gilets Jaunes 2.0, let’s analyze what drove the almost hypnotic appeal of its first manifestation in France. Jean-Claude Michéa, who supported the movement, offered this passionate defense of it at the time in an interview in Dissent magazine:
[T]he first merit of this plebian movement (in which women, as in all genuinely popular movements, played an absolutely decisive triggering role) is that it has obliterated the foundational myth of the new liberal left, which holds that the “people” has, once and for all, lost any political significance—except when the term applies to immigrant populations living near major globalized metropolises.
Yet it is precisely this people that is not only returning to the historical stage with a vengeance, but that has already started to achieve—thanks to its refreshing spontaneity and its obstinate practice of direct democracy (“we don’t want to elect, we want to vote!” is one of the [Gilets Jaunes]’ most popular slogans)—more concrete results in a matter of weeks than all the trade-union and far-left bureaucracies managed in thirty years.
This is the “peripheral” France—rural, consisting of small- and medium-sized towns and overseas territories—upon which Bernard-Henri Levy each day vomits his class hatred, despite the fact that, for over thirty years, it has been hit hard by the practical consequences of his liberal gospel, to the point that, in the poorest rural regions, living conditions are even more dramatic than in the “problem” suburbs. It comes as no surprise that this France, which comprises more than 60 percent of the population, has been completely wiped off the left intelligentsia’s radar. It is simply the logical consequence of the process that has led the modern left, since its conversion to the principles of economic and cultural liberalism, to gradually abandon its original social base in favor of the new, overeducated and hyper-mobile upper-middle classes living in globalized metropolises, who represent only 10 to 20 percent of the population and are structurally protected from liberal globalization’s problems (when they do not benefit directly from it) […]
More than anything, it is this “sociological counter-revolution” that explains why the most radical working-class movements (or, at the very least, those with the most revolutionary potential) almost always take root, in our times, outside the framework of left-wing trade unions and parties. Once the new left’s brilliant intellectual elites definitively renounced anything like a socialist critique and became hopelessly incapable of seeing those who produce the vast majority of wealth with their own hands (including Hillary Clinton’s evening gowns and Emmanuel Macron’s suits) as anything more than a sinister and repulsive “basket of deplorables” who are naturally racist, sexist, alcoholic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic, all the conditions were in place to favor, in working-class milieus, consciousness of the fact that, as capitalism enters its terminal stage (to borrow a concept from Immanuel Wallerstein), the left-right divide has lost most of its erstwhile historical significance. Consequently, it corresponds, at present, to nothing more than what Guy Debord, in 1967, called the “spectacular sham struggles of rival forms of separate power.” […]
Whatever the short-term political fate of this [Gilets Jaunes] movement may be (for one must not forget that Emmanuel Macron—good left-wing Thatcherite that he is—will not hesitate for one instant to use every means possible, including the very bloodiest, to break their revolt and defend his class privileges)—it is already clear that it has raised in a spectacular fashion—in a matter of weeks—the political consciousness of those from “below” (notably on the question of the structural limits of this allegedly “representative” system that, at present, is taking on water from every direction).
Harold Bernat, a philosopher who actively participated in the Gilets Jaunes protests in the Bordeaux region, emphasized another key aspect of the movement, in the way it was organized, in order to explain its success. For Bernat, the Gilets Jaunes truly resonated in the minds and the heart of the French people precisely because its actors refused to “play the game” – or more accurately to play by the rules of the games dictated by the laptop elite that parades as a majority. This refusal, he argues, allowed the Gilets Jaunes to assert itself as a majoritarian movement, as an expression of the majority against the minority parading as a majority.
That is indeed a perceptible trait of the popular movements which have now emerged around the world, including in the trucker protests in Canada and the farmer protests in the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Germany, and Spain. Though these movements, like the Gilets Jaunes, started as protests against specific measures, they have rapidly become revolts against an all-devouring intervention of the State in the lives of individuals. Those individuals are now facing an unprecedented onslaught of the homogenizing forces of Big Government and Big Business on the most intimate aspects of their lives. These new movements are therefore an expression of a true quest for autonomy. They have, in a way, captured what Proudhon once so well formulated about the true morality of liberal government:
To be governed is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, drilled, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
It is difficult to predict how far this new wave of protests that was first sparked in Canada with the truckers and is now igniting Europe will go. Though these movements appear to learn from one another, this eruption may very well be crushed like the Canadian truckers were. But as Harold Bernat put it, the Gilets Jaunes, the truckers, and now the farmers have shown that the “ultra-minority” holds its ruling power only by the thin thread of its police and its control over the financial system. The only way for the ruling class to conserve its grip on society is through ever more use of brutal force, censorship, propaganda.
However, as both the Gilets Jaunes and the Canadian truckers have shown, these movements risk an internal fatigue if they cannot lead to any kind of institutional resolution. The risk, as Bernat put it, is that they degenerate in the contemplation of their own mobility. But that’s precisely where the comparison ends between the Gilets Jaunes and the Ernesto Laclau- and Chantal Mouffe-inspired Occupy Movement. Unlike the latter, which was a minority movement whose foot soldiers were the lower rungs of the urban elites, the Gilets Jaunes, the Canadian truckers, and the European farmers have all made the “social experience” one of majority. Once this experience is acquired, it becomes an irresistible force if it does not degenerate into a hallucinating drug, the tragic fate of most revolutionary movements.
So far, France appears to have been spared from the spread of this latest Netherlands-inspired European-wide protest movement (although it is difficult to know, exactly, considering the incredible level of censorship that has swept the French media). But nowhere should we be more attentive to these events unfolding than in the country which, according to Tocqueville, is “the most brilliant and the most dangerous nation of Europe, and the one that is surest to inspire admiration, hatred, terror, or pity, but never indifference[.]”
After the fall of the iron curtain, François Furet wrote in the epilogue of The Passing of an Illusion that the downfall of communism had left us, temporarily, in a world where the idea of another society had become almost impossible to conceive of. We were, Furet said, “condemned to live in the world as it is.” That was hardly an enthusiastic endorsement of the End of History by the greatest historian of the French Revolution, and it should have been interpreted as a very serious warning by the victors. Alas, less than thirty years after Furet wrote those lines, the felicitous promises of the greatest illusion of all, the illusion of progress, are now gone, and have left behind a full-blown techno-totalitarian nightmare – one which the COVID years have now laid bare. We are at a junction where we have no other choice than to conceive of that other society, or let the “ultra-minority” continue its onslaught. This is at the same time exciting and frightening.
 . F. Ewald, L’Etat providence, Paris, Grasset, 1987.
 H. Bernat, La défaite de la majorité, Paris, Les armes philosophiques, 2022