A Degrowth reading of the French vote for the far right: the symbol of the failure of a model of civilisation?

In view of the fact that a still-too-large percentage of the population has decided to vote for the Far Right represented by Marine Le Pen, we must examine the underlying reasons for the failure of our societal models.

Unfortunately, this result is not an isolated case in the European political landscape. The Far Right is gaining popularity with a population in « crisis ». Throughout Europe, the populist discourses bloom carrying the voices of an easy contestation, with its usual culprits, vis a vis the political and media elites, the oligarchs, the banks, the neo-liberal globalization or Europe, immigrants, foreign countries, Islam, the Labour Party, welfare recipients, the poor.

However, in recent years, this Far Left discourse has been wrongly abandoned by many of the European left parties converted to social democracy and neo-liberalism. Thus leaving an avenue for its recuperation and debasement by the Far Right parties. In parallel, the moderate Right parties have contributed to create fantasized fears helped build fantasized, to divide societies but also to de-demonize the hateful and nauseous speeches. The example of the law-and-order Sarkozism in power in France for the last ten years, with his hate speeches against the foreigners, the immigrants and the most disadvantaged, portrayed as parasites assisted by our societies is perhaps the most blatant example.

How did our societies; so rich materially, so “advanced” economically, the model of which is so coveted, manage to rich that point? We represent 20% of the world population appropriating 87% of all the natural resources on the planet thanks to the exploitation of 80% of the rest of the world population. Furthermore, our consumption level, so envied, cannot be generalised since we consume, even the poorest of us, at least the equivalent of 2, 3 or 4, 5 earths…

« All those on the Left, who refuse to address the question of equity without growth, show that socialism for them is only the continuation by other means of a mode of social interactions and lifestyle of the capitalist civilisation and of the middle-class consumption model. »
Andre Gorz

A degrowthist reading of this phenomenon leads us to take a close look at the roots of this idea of material wealth and its corollaries. This means questioning the foundations of Western societies: the religion of the economy, growth, productivism, consumerism, capitalism, materialism but also the imagination associated with it: an imagination constructed and maintained by its best tools: the media and advertising.

A society of frustrated petit-bourgeois? The role played by advertising

Let’s recognise that the vote for the Far Right is an indicator of great suffering. But isn’t this suffering a fantasy before being linked to social causes? Indeed the most disadvantaged, these victims of globalization and neo-liberalism, when they vote, vote instead for the Left. In France, it is not a class vote, as pointed out in Liberation editorial: « this urban or rural France, often so proud of the portal or the wall which ornate and protect her property? This France where, last Sunday, we have seen the emergence of a rural National Front to add to that of the suburbs, which had supplanted the NF of the beautiful quarters – the three continue to persist.  »

« A must-have car in a medical desert »

We knew about the vote for the Far Right in the beautiful districts, built on classic extreme Right ideology. The difficult neighborhoods endorsed it as well. This vote is down. Finally a new class issued from this new urban or rural France rallied behind: « The great cultural desert areas, where only the vilest TV continuously broadcasts the fantastical image of a country under threat ». This France who « toils », while « we see people in the cities live with benefits « , which are « paid for by us”. The France of the urban sprawl, the end of public services and convenience stores, where the car is mandatory, and which bears the full brunt of rising fuel prices. This France that feels « abandoned », this France, where the number of immigrants is inversely proportional to the National Front vote, this France, where « insecurity exists only on TV », this France where one « votes to protect what we have « , where one  » votes preemptively to prevent degradation « .

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.

 This France, the imagination of which is shaped by advertising, which sells the illusion of happiness. Happiness acquired through the « always-more » and especially the lifestyle of « the individual house, the lawn, and the car » erected as model.

This same France, that often works « always more », to earn « always more », and then consume « always more »; thus missing the point altogether. This France frustrated not to be as rich as the richest, when there is always richer than oneself. This France who denies its working-class origins and is afraid of being overtaken by those « from below », the immigrants, even if she will never belong to those above … which is what she is made to believe …

This France so frustrated by not achieving the promised happiness despite the fact that she has always obeyed all the demands of capitalism.

This vote is a symptom of the failure of consumption as a means of emancipation.

An anthropological crisis!  Towards the decolonization of our imaginaries … and an open relocalisation!

What is most paradoxical in this France who feels « abandoned » and « toils » away, is that she has the good fortune to be situated in strategic areas for our future. While, for these peoples, « cities » are the « symbols of a successful globalisation » – which further reinforces their sense of frustration – the city finds itself in an energy and environmental dead end. Therefore, we will not get out of the deadlock of this development model, urban sprawls and depopulation of the countryside without a decolonisation of our imaginations. It’s not through a rebound in the purchasing power and growth that we will come out of this societal nonsense. It is time to realise that this model frustrates more and more people, it destroys the solidarities and local links, and makes us increasingly dependent on oil prices that will always go up.

The challenge is not to give a new flat-screen TV to compensate for the inbuilt frustrations, even less to erect boundaries to protect its new portal. The challenge is to restore meaning to our production and consumption. The challenge is primarily to step aside to reposition at the heart of our societal projects all that really gives happiness; such as voluntary simplicity, conviviality, sharing, solidarity, culture. The challenge is to free ourselves from the vicious circles of growth.

An infinite growth in a finite world is not only impossible; it is above all absurd. We have reached the limits of growth from a cultural standpoint. A civilization has never been so rich materially and culturally destitute at the same time!

In addition, about the sense of insecurity: A society in fear? Diverting attention to the wrong issues?

Part played by the Medias:

Since September 11, 2001, we have witnessed a succession of waves of security frenzy: before the 2002 elections, Sarkozy’s accession to the Ministry of the Interior, and more recently, the rightwing shift in the discourse of Gueant / Hortefeux and others. The angst-generating productions, obligingly reported by the media, are responsible for creating unfounded fantasies and fears … that serve the desperate strategy of the Right to stay in power. Unfortunately, history has always shown this kind of divisive strategy works only fleetingly, at best, and always ends up turning against democracy…

French Degrowth Movement

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