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France Is Dying

Can a place face an existential threat?
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(Photo: Guenter Albers/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Guenter Albers/Shutterstock)

Places, most importantly nation-states, are a fiction. How can something made up die? The geographic fiction of France:

A number of works have described the explosion of unifications in the late nineteenth century—Germany, Italy, even post-bellum America—but Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France may be the first book to explore the unification of France. Well into the nineteenth century, no more than ten percent of the population spoke what we think of as French. Before the birth of the French nation state, there was no “France,” per say, but rather territory vaguely controlled by the “French” government; even the absolutism of Louis XIV loses its certitude when faced with Robb’s magnificent deconstruction of the creation of France. To assuage any semantic quibbles before the substance of the review, you will forgive this reviewer the use of the term “France” to mean the territory of the country currently known by that name.

The Discovery of France is the greatest book about geography ever written. Statists "discover" a nation that doesn't exist. Who needs the Sun King when you got the metric system? You will forgive this blogger the use of the term "place" to mean the territory currently known by its residents, however transient they may be. When the prodigal daughter leaves the delineated space, community death surely follows. France, the fiction, is dying:

Perhaps the clearest sign yet of the attention surrounding the issue is the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the “Exile of Human Capital” headed by Luc Chatel, who belongs to the opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. The commission, established in April and backed by the French National Assembly, is charged with investigating the scale of expatriation of French persons and enterprises. It is also tasked with suggesting long-term measures that could reverse such trends, if they are found to be significant. However, any potential solutions will first have to confront many of the fears over French emigration brought up by the reams of newspapers columns and piles of reports on the subject. The diagnoses offered by many of these sources appear just as dire as the scale of the issue that they suggest, falling into a morose introspection of the state of affairs in France. Some articles entertain the notion that France is no longer capable of producing enough well-paying and stimulating employment opportunities for its youth because of a stagnating economic model that has (depending on political affiliation) either been too deeply entrenched in leftist-thought or has shifted too far to the right. Others lament a rigid hierarchy in France that only guarantees success for well-connected graduates emerging from Les Grandes Écoles (top-tier French universities) and not for the larger number of French graduates in the population. And a third category of complaints criticizes a culture that doesn’t pay enough attention to work and professional success, nor compensates it appropriately, forcing France’s most ambitious to leave for greener pastures. All of these hypotheses find a commonality in their evocation of déclinisme, the pejorative title for the increasingly pervasive idea that the French nation has entered a long stage of diminishing importance and capability on the world stage, and is now consigned to the rank of older nations that no longer play a primary role in world affairs. The loss of French talent to other countries plays appropriately into this narrative, and regardless of the veracity of such a theory, the linkage of the two ideas has certainly influenced a number of those who write about the issue.

Emphasis added. Je t'aime déclinisme. C'est Rust Belt Chic. I love the smell of human capital exile in the morning. The "exile of human capital" is an oxymoron. No place can exile human capital. However, places can try to restrict the "exile" of human capital, such as East Berlin did. C'est Theatre Bizarre.

France feels shame. France feels déclinisme. France laments emigration. The Volk leaving hurts. What's wrong with "nous"? Nous is a fiction.