December 3, 2018

Soak-the-rich Right revolts in France at end of neoliberal era, as 50-year cycle of political violence also returns

First, some necessary background and context on the French riots from Peter Turchin, whose historical data analysis has shown 50-year cycles in collective political violence -- more organized than individual violence, or crime, but less organized than states warring against each other. The last peak was around 1970, and 1920 before that, and 1870 before that. That means we're due for another peak around 2020, and the view from France certainly looks like we're on schedule.

While the immediate trigger was a rise in the regressive diesel tax on ordinary consumers, the revolt stems from a much deeper anger against the entire neoliberal framework of the past 35 years. From a Bloomberg report on the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes), their demands are populist rather than libertarian or elitist:

The movement’s demands have expanded from rolling back the gasoline taxes to higher pensions, an increase in the minimum wage, a repeal of certain other taxes, the restoration of a wealth tax, a law fixing a maximum salary, cutting politicians’ salaries, and replacing Macron and the National Assembly with a “People’s Assembly.” While political parties have tried to show their support for the movement, the Yellow Vests have rejected any political link.

One of Macron's first actions in office was to dramatically slash the wealth tax on high-net-worth owners, in response to the exodus of financial elites from Paris to London in search of a lower tax burden, and to implement a flat tax on capital gains, also to placate the parasitic financial elites. As usual, the business press had the real news right away (e.g., this report from FT).

Macron gave the usual trickle-down logic to justify these tax cuts on the wealthy, and as always they failed to benefit the middle or lower classes, and only padded the ill-gotten gains of the elite class. No wonder his approval rating sits in the 20s now.

In the model of regime dynamics by Stephen Skowronek, Macron is clearly a disjunctive leader presiding over the end of an era for his dominant coalition. In his case, it is the finance-backed Socialist party that ushered in the neoliberal era in 1981. Like other Mediterranean nations, the neoliberal era in France has been dominated by the relatively more Left of the two major coalitions -- Mitterrand in France, Craxi in Italy, Gonzalez Marquez in Spain, Soares in Portugal, and Papandreou in Greece.

That pattern contrasts with the Anglo nations, whose nearly identical era of neoliberalism has been dominated by the relatively more Right of the two major coalitions -- Reagan in America, Thatcher in Britain, and Mulroney in Canada. (Australia is an exception, perhaps being too far outside the Atlantic sphere of influence: their neolib era has been dominated by the Left party beginning with Hawke.)

Historical regimes usually turn over by the sclerotic old dominant coalition becoming dethroned into opposition status, while the old opposition realigns itself to attain dominant status. And indeed, the egalitarian Midcentury was presided over by the opposite pattern of the neoliberal era -- the Med nations were governed by the relatively more Right party, and the Anglo-Atlantic nations by the more Left party.

That suggests that the nascent realignment out of the neoliberal era will come from the Right in the Med (and Straya), but from the Left in the Anglo-Atlantic. It's clear that left-wingers Bernie and Corbyn will realign the US and the UK during the 2020s, and the first Med nation has already begun realignment under right-winger Salvini in Italy.

With the current breakdown of order in France against the hated disjunctive Socialist Macron, it seems clear that the post-neoliberal era will be led by France's version of Salvini. As in Italy, the Right in France will have to realign itself in a nationalist populist direction, just as Salvini's party had to realign itself away from regional cultural separatism that would have favored the wealthy north. For most of the neoliberal era, it was Lega Nord ("League of the North"), then to attain real national power it recently dropped the regional separatism to become simply "La Lega" ("The League"), agreeing to a wealth transfer from Northerners to poorer Southerners via the "citizen's income" -- not the "Northerner's income".

Whether it's one of the Le Pen's under a rebranded Front National, or a fellow traveler, the populist Right in France will also have to shed its escapist and separatist fantasies of its earlier years, and promise prosperity for all of France, if it wants to seize national power and hold onto it as a dominant coalition instead of the occasional minority pressure group.

The right-wing character of the French realignment will be revealed once the revolts turn to the migrant question, and join Italy in curbing immigration.

I don't think either side of the Mediterranean-Atlantic divide will close the borders, though, during the post-neoliberal era. They resemble each other at the big-picture level -- including the Anglo-Atlantic nations whose egalitarian Midcentury featured the same closed borders as the Med, even though it was the relatively more Left party in control of the US and UK.

Likewise, the Bernie realignment shows little chance of restricting migration, suggesting that we are not going back to the closed-borders New Deal era, but rather to a new Lincolnian Gilded Age with Ellis Island-era open borders. An earlier post here from August detailed how the Bernie realignment will resemble the Lincoln era of robber barons, open borders, and soaring inequality, rather than the New Deal, on the analogy that the Reagan era has been a revival of the Jacksonian era, and that their successor regimes will be similar as well, taking place during the same phase of a long-term cycle.

Even the far-Left socialists are starting to become aware of how non-socialist the Bernie realignment will turn out to be. From a recent article in Jacobin:

Today’s Democratic Party, to their credit, appears far more committed to preserving civil rights than the late-nineteenth-century Republicans. But as the party consolidates its strength around the wealthy suburbs, the dangers of a Gilded Age–style class division persist. A political coalition led by affluent metropolitans, armed with pietistic certainty about their moral cause, but almost physically allergic to huge chunks of the working-class population: this was the Republican Party of 1884. It does not offer us a roadmap to the future.

If Bernie and Corbyn don't restrict immigration, then their counterparts in the Med probably will not either, despite being from the relatively more conservative side.

Even if immigration does not meaningfully decrease, and even if inequality continues to widen, at the very least we should expect a massive decline in militarism. That was the one silver lining of the robber baron-led fin-de-siecle. Both the Bernie-Corbyn Left and the Salvini-Le Pen Right want to wind down the West's over-extension in so many pointless wasteful military occupations all over the world. Hopefully they can start with putting an end to NATO.

Much further down the cycle, we will see this absence of militarism explode suddenly a la World War I, probably coinciding with another peak in the 50-year cycle of riot-level violence. That will usher in the next phase of egalitarianism, which most of us will probably not live to enjoy, but may at least see the beginnings of.


  1. what to do about the fertility rate?

  2. Related: populist right party in Spain makes in-roads for first time during neoliberal era.

    The dominant party of the era, the Socialists, are back in power but the leader Sanchez is pretty weak -- not quite Macron or Trump or May levels of weakness, but possibly a disjunctive end-of-era "leader".

    We'll have to see how populist the nationalist right becomes -- they're new on the scene, with the Vox party beginning in 2013 and winning their first upset elections just now in the regional Andalusian parliament.

    They've got to run hard on economic populism for all Spaniards, not just tax cuts. Re-industrialize the economy like they had during the egalitarian Midcentury. Nationalize the industries, at least in part, if need be, like they were back in the golden age.

    They have already taken the nationalist rather than regional separatist step -- putting them at odds with Catalan and Basque separatists.

    It's different from Italy, though, since the populist right hails from the poorer South, while the more Establishment left hails from the wealthier Northeast, where the separatists come from.

    We'll see if they can hash out an alliance of populism and nationalism, but it's a promising start.

  3. By this analysis, Ocasio-Cortez represents a more robust, outgoing form of globalism. She won't fix economic inequality, but will make society more outgoing(and the crime rate will begin rising under her term). society will be somewhat more similar to what it was in the 80s, instead of the past 20-25 years of cocooning.

  4. That has nothing to do with this analysis, and she'll have nothing to do with making society more outgoing vs. cocooning, which is an entirely separate dynamic system / cycle.


    Real recovery? Cocooning? or propaganda?


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