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Category Archives: Democracy & Citizenship

Forty years of green

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The foundation, on 13 January 1980 in Karlsruhe, of a nation-wide ecological party in West Germany came as a surprise. Not the idea itself: the time was ripe for creating a strong political movement based on environmental concerns, frustration with representative democracy, and radically pacifist convictions in the middle of the Cold War arms race. […]

Striking

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French transport strikes bear a “striking” resemblance with Hollywood blockbusters.  Unlike Star Wars episodes, they are not numbered, but they are released at similar intervals, draw large crowds, and you get easily lost between sequels and prequels. This year’s episode seems particularly serious. If the trade unions don’t even respect the unwritten rule of letting […]

Breaking: The Truth about the EU!

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The truth is out: the EU does not exist. It’s a hoax, made up by a vast conspiracy. I have evidence. You can look it up on my Facebook page. I always believed that the story of a French foreign affairs minister proposing a coal and steel community under a yet-to-be defined supranational high authority […]

Deeply conservative

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There will be a lot of talk about the extreme right’s entry into the Bavarian parliament and the impact of yesterday’s election on the federal government in Berlin. But the most important fall-out may reside in a significant shift in political semantics. For as long as I can remember, Bavaria has always been described to […]

Keep calm and worry on – transatlantic relations in the Trump era

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It’s not because the messenger is particularly unpleasant that the message is necessarily wrong. And its not because many of his messages are plain lies, narcissistic bragging or whining paranoia that each and every message is automatically beside the point. This may be, in an admittedly crude nutshell, one of the main lessons for Europeans […]

Weakened leadership, but undiminished potential

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One year after the disastrous TV debate, where does the Front National stand in spring 2018? One year ago, on 3 May 2017, I watched the final debate between the two remaining candidates for French presidency. It turned out to be the most curious ‘Surreality TV show’ ever on French television. It was almost as […]

The railwayman’s dignity shall be inviolable.

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French society under Macron’s reform steamroller. „I do think that we can build efficient politics; politics that escape ordinary cynicism and engrave in reality what must be the foremost duty of political action, I mean human dignity.” Who would want to contradict Emmanuel Macron on this point? Certainly not the venerable ‘Episcopal Conference of France’, […]

Nation-building. Participant observation, June 2015.

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A text I published elsewhere over two years ago. Read it again against the backdrop of this week’s news, found it still valid.   It is not every day that a researcher has the opportunity to be the eye-witness of a nation in the making. Sunday evening 7 June 2015, at the intersection between Avinguda […]

Brexit and the German Elections: a Tale of Two Countries

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1. In early August, FT columnist Simon Kuper dedicated his weekly piece to the three ‘enduring flaws’ of British politics as revealed by Brexit. His (rather devastating) diagnosis – ‘substance-free, hot air’ rhetoric instead of political debate, ‘the ruling class’s insularity’, and ‘delusions of grandeur’ – was accompanied by a delicious illustration by Harry Haysom. […]

France 2017: La grande coalition

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Ever since I started to talk to the French about their political system and listened to their perceptions of what was going wrong in the Fifth Republic – a little more than three decades now – I had this impression, unbacked by any robust statistical evidence, of a quite large majority at the centre of […]

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