Alain Finkielkraut, a former philosophy professor, is one of France’s reigning public intellectuals. As I’ve noted before, France is a nation where philosophers get a significant amount of TV air time and other cultural attention.
The NYT has a story on Finkielkraut’s pronounced critique of Islam in France (“Once Hopeful for Harmony, a Philosopher Voices Discord in France“):
The national audience for Mr. Finkielkraut’s themes, returned to obsessively and buttressed by a seamless web of references, is now larger than ever in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2015.
Before and after the attacks, those themes have not varied: Much of Islam is radically incompatible with French culture and society; Muslim immigrants represent a threat; French schools are crumbling under a mistaken multicultural outreach; the inherited corpus of French culture is in danger; and anti-Semitism is on the rise again, this time by way of Islam…
He has caught a national mood, bridging unease over relations with the country’s Muslim minority with a nascent renewal of national pride after the November attacks…
His last substantial book, “The Unhappy Identity,” was a best seller in France — a compact lament over declining standards in schools, the pernicious effects of multiculturalism, the oppression of women under Islam and France’s self-alienation from its own heritage.
The book’s protest over neighborhoods where “the French feel they have become strangers on their own turf” under the weight of Muslim immigration led critics to put him in the camp of the far-right National Front…
Of the way that ‘noticing things’ is immediately, and reactionarily, labeled ‘racist’ and/or ‘xenophobic’ by mainstream culture and the Left:
“Until recently, France was successful in integrating its immigrants — that was even its pride,” he said. “Today, it is disintegrating in front of our eyes.” The French model of integration “doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “Where one could have hoped for a certain harmony, it is hatred that prevails.”
“Today, when some, like me, speak of the problem of Islam, we are denounced as the successors of Maurras and Barrès,” said Mr. Finkielkraut, naming two influential far-right thinkers of pre-World War II France. “There is a refusal to think about this era on its own terms.”
Note: Finkielkraut is not a man of the Right. Oddly enough, he is a man of the Left:
His father was a Jewish leather craftsman, an immigrant from Poland who survived deportation to Auschwitz after being rounded up by the French police in 1942. Born in Paris in 1949, Mr. Finkielkraut attended the prestigious Lycée Henri-IV school, demonstrated with other leftist students during the May 1968 uprising, went on to teach French literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and from 1989 taught philosophy at the École Polytechnique, from which he is now retired.
His wife, the lawyer Sylvie Topaloff, has been quoted as lamenting the friends they have lost over her husband’s political views. Yet his ideas carry just enough of an old tradition of left-leaning nationalism in France — exemplified by one of his favorite authors, Charles Péguy — for him to be acceptable to the law-and-order faction in the ruling Socialist Party.
In France, there is a not inconsequential Alt-Left that fuses identitarianism with a standard socialist economic agenda.
Will we ever see a viable Alt-Left emerge here in the U.S.?
Perhaps it will only happen if/when a third political party moves the Overton Window to the right, as the National Front has, in recent decades, done in France.