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

Terror on the Bay of Angels

France is on the verge of losing its grip in the wake of repeated mass murder by members of its own minority communities.

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
Nice is a small gem of a city. With a population roughly half that of Boston, it lies sandwiched in a thin strip of littoral between the imposing Maritime Alps and the glorious Bay of Angels, Nice’s private patch of Mediterranean azure. The city combines a raunchily democratized remnant of 19th-century French elegance with a dollop of olive-tinged Italian bravado, complete with socca , the distinctive Niçois variant of the pizza ( Nissa la bella actually belonged to the king of Sardinia prior to the 1860 Treaty of Turin, and it was part of the Italian zone of occupation in World War II). The sea has carved out a breathtaking crescent of coast between the Nice airport (soon to be owned by a Chinese investor) and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, playground of the world’s wealthy, where Noel Coward once attended a “marvelous party” he later immortalized in song . Beyond the cape lies the principality of Monaco and the casino that preceded Grace Kelly as that...

Memories of Michel Rocard

Former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who died on July 2 at age 85, will be remembered as a brilliant socialist analyst and forthright contrarian. 

(Photo: SIPA/Guillaume Souvant)
M ichel Rocard was one of the great “might have beens” of politics. To say this is to take nothing away from his accomplishments, which were real, but simply to underscore the fact that he never fulfilled his ambition to remake the French left from the top by assuming the presidency, of which he was deprived by his detested nemesis François Mitterrand. Of Mitterand, Rocard declared , “Le mépris profond que je porte à son absence d'éthique est compatible avec l'admiration totale que j'ai pour sa puissance tactique.” (“My deep contempt for his lack of ethics matches my total admiration for his tactical prowess.”) Of course, this might well be read as an apologia pro vita sua : “I failed tactically because I was too ethical to do what was needed.” If so, it would be a tragic verdict on his chosen métier , for which he expressed his contempt in other long-remembered pronunciamentos : “Politics is...

After Brexit: What Remains of the European Project?

The British have made up their minds. But what drove them to it?

AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File
On the night of June 23, I went to bed anxious about the results of Britain’s referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union. On the morning of June 24, upon learning of the British people’s decision to go, I became a European patriot. I discovered that I had an emotional attachment to the European Union that went beyond my reasons for thinking it on the whole, despite certain manifest shortcomings and failures, a good thing. I am well-versed in the critical literature that has grown up around the European project since its inception in the aftermath of World War II. I am aware of the EU’s ungainly, opaque, and often dysfunctional institutional structure . I recognize the force of chronic complaints that its decision-making structures suffer from both a “democratic deficit” and the undue influence of lobbyists, as well as of more recent complaints that unelected Eurocrats have brought the power of the Union to bear to thwart the will of...

Privilege, Passion, and Politics

The carnage in Orlando and hooliganism in Marseille prompt thoughts about reason versus the passions and the nature of the American Constitution.

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP
I spent the weekend on Block Island, a pear-shaped residue of the Wisconsonian Laurentide glacier, which left these 10 square miles of terminal moraine behind when it retreated some 22,000 years ago. The Nature Conservancy counts the island among its “Last Great Places,” of which there are only 12 in the western hemisphere. Ulysses S. Grant stayed here, and he would probably still recognize the place, because 40 percent of the island is now set aside as conservation land, and affluent New Englanders have bought up and manicured much of the remainder in order to savor the tranquil rhythms of rural life without having to endure the inconveniences. Because my parents-in-law had the foresight to acquire an abandoned farm for a few thousand dollars more than 60 years ago, I enjoy the privilege of being able to sojourn in a Thomas Hardy landscape merely by driving south 90 miles and taking a ferry. But it’s no longer possible, if it ever was, to “get away from it all...

In French Politics, May Is the Cruelest Month

In France, May is the month of protest pageantry, but often the real action takes place offstage.

AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu
To the poet, April is the cruelest month, but if you’re a French politician, the month you dread most is likely to be May. The warm weather draws protesters into the streets. On May Day labor flexes its muscles by marching on the symbolic Place de la Bastille, while the Front National celebrates its cult of the nation at the foot of Joan of Arc’s gilded statue in the Place des Pyramides (although this year Marine Le Pen abandoned the traditional site to her father, whom she has expelled from the party). The historically minded will recall that the Bloody Week of the Paris Commune’s martyrdom began on May 21, 1871. May 1968, which most of the people who wield political power in France today experienced as youths, might seem a happier symbol, but it is often forgotten that the party of order soon reclaimed the streets from the celebrants of disorder and went on to rule for another 13 years. The Popular Front swept to power in May of 1936, as did the Socialist Party of...

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