Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Party Realignment in France

The election of Emmanuel Macron as the next president of France could presage a dramatic party realignment.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
AP Photo/Christophe Ena French President-elect Emmanuel Macron waves to the crowd during a campaign rally in Chatellerault. L ast Sunday, Emmanuel Macron became the eighth president of France’s Fifth Republic. It was a stunning victory, with Macron grabbing two-thirds of the vote against his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen. Yet skeptics have claimed that Macron’s triumph was not really a victory at all but rather an expression of fear of the extremist alternative. Macron therefore has no mandate, claim the nay-sayers, and his presidency will soon succumb to the various forms of conservatism and resistance that doomed his two predecessors, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. This analysis ignores the extent to which Macron’s victory has destabilized the French party system. He won the presidency without the support of an established political party. That has never been done before. Neither of the major parties, the Socialist Party of incumbent President Hollande nor the Republican...

France Avoids the Worst

In the first round of the French presidential election, voters shocked everyone by doing exactly what the polls predicted they would do. Round two will make 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron the youngest French president and the first not to be a member of one of the two major parties.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti Ballots are counted by volunteers for the first-round presidential election at a polling station in Paris, Sunday, April 23, 2017. U p to the final minute, the world watched in suspense. Would French voters stun everyone, as British and American voters did in 2016? In the final weeks the polls had tightened to the point where no one could say what the outcome would be. But in the end the pollsters proved to be spot on: Emmanuel Macron came in first, with 23.7 percent of the vote, and Marine Le Pen second with 21.9. This result makes a Macron victory in the second round almost certain: no poll has put Le Pen within 20 points of him in a head-to-head contest. The next president of France will therefore be, without a doubt, a 39-year-old centrist technocrat who staunchly supports the European Union. Yet this was supposed to be the year of populist revolt, rejection of globalization, and disdain for external constraints on national economic policymaking. What...

Rumbling on the Left in France

Given up for dead just a few weeks ago, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has come roaring back and threatens to turn the French presidential race upside down.

Samuel Boivin/Sipa USA via AP Images
Samuel Boivin/Sipa USA via AP Images Jean-Luc Mélenchon gathered about 130000 people in Paris for a large gathering of "La France Insoumise." J ust as the French presidential race appeared to be settling into a comfortable two-person contest, with polls showing Marine Le Pen in a dead heat with Emmanuel Macron in the first round leading to a comfortable (and comforting) Macron victory in the second, the previously moribund left of the Left discovered that what Marx called “the old mole ”—popular discontent well-concealed in its underground lair—still has some life left in it. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had been languishing at around 12 or 13 percent in first-round estimates, well behind the front-runners at around 24 percent each, suddenly began rising. He is now at 18 or 19, even with or slightly ahead of the right-wing Republican candidate François Fillon and within striking distance of the front-runners, and thus with a slim but real chance of making it into the May 7 runoff. Who is...

Some Versions of Utopia

Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. The art of politics is to illuminate the landscape while casting the smallest possible shadow. The five of 11 French presidential candidates standing highest in the polls will face off tonight in a televised debate.

Eliot Blondet/Sipa USA via AP Images
Eliot Blondet/Sipa USA via AP Images French Socialist Party presidential candidate, Benoit Hamon, delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on March 19, 2017. T he literary critic William Empson wrote a book called Some Versions of Pastoral . The French presidential election this year might be called “some versions of utopia.” Each of the five principal candidates offers his own. “If you want to build superhighways for the French,” Charles de Gaulle said, “you’ve got to give them poetry.” Start with the most pastoral of the lot, Benoît Hamon. Hamon conjures up a future of diminished toil, mutual succor, and harmony with nature. Although he proposes a dose of Keynesian stimulus to put the unemployed back to work, he simultaneously adheres to an explanation of persistent French unemployment that has nothing to do with chronic underinvestment. Technology has made mankind too productive, Hamon’s program insinuates. We don’t need to work as much as we...

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