Politico Intellectuals in France are not just experts in their particular fields, such as literature, art, philosophy and history. They also speak in universal terms, and are expected to provide moral guidance about general social and political issues. By Sudhir Hazareesingh
'Today’s Left Bank is but a pale shadow of this eminent past. Fashion
outlets have replaced high theoretical endeavor in
Saint-Germain-des-Près. In fact, with very rare exceptions, such as
Thomas Piketty’s book on capitalism, Paris has ceased to be a major center of innovation in the humanities and social sciences.
'The dominant characteristics of contemporary French intellectual
production are its superficial, derivative qualities (typified by
figures such as Bernard-Henri Lévy)
and its starkly pessimistic state of mind. The pamphlets which top the
best-selling non-fiction charts in France nowadays are not works
offering the promise of a new dawn, but nostalgic appeals to lost
traditions of heroism, such as Stéphane Hessel’s “Indignez Vous!” (2010), and Islamophobic and self-pitying tirades echoing the message of Marine Le Pen’s Front National about the destruction of French identity.
'Two recent examples are Alain Finkielkraut’s “L’Identité Malheureuse” (2013) and Eric Zemmour’s “Le Suicide Français”
(2014), both suffused with images of degeneration and death. The most
recent work in this morbid vein is Michel Houellebecq’s “Soumission”
(2015), a dystopic novel which features the election of an Islamist to
the French presidency, against the backdrop of a general disintegration
of Enlightenment values in French society.'