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La France she is a-changing

I wonder what conclusions French voters will draw from this:

Down in the Pays Basque, the young natives are disconsolate. Immobiliers (estate agents) with sharp English marketing techniques are sprouting like radishes in the towns. In the markets, one hears three languages: Basque, French and English. And, astonishingly, in a nation so protective of its culture, some houses this summer had signs advertising them For Sale instead of À Vendre.

It was my French niece who saw them, out on her travels as a veterinary surgeon, and she came home to her small, rented house and dropped her handbag with an exasperated clunk on the table. What hope do we have of ever being able to afford a house, she said, when the Brits are paying crazy prices and we can’t compete? It’s just so depressing.

Partly this is a story about French economic decline. Economic decline often happens without you realising it. And then, suddenly, you do realise it. That factory you thought you had a safe job in for life gets abruptly closed, because the government has decided that the subsidies to keep it going are becoming too huge. You suddenly realise that private education for your kids is going to be forever beyond you, that where you live state education is actually getting worse, and that also you can not afford to move to where it is any good. Multiply little dramas like that by a million, and you have an entire country in economic decline. Thus, economic decline often impinges upon an electorate not in the form of rather meaningless statistics moaned about by journalists even as life goes on happily, but rather in the form of dramatic vignettes like this one, of vulgar English people invading the formerly idyllic French countryside.

Another French vignette of decline is of clever sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, who can not seem to get jobs worthy of their obvious talents and superior educations, unless they go to vulgar England. Even there, they will have to start out as waiters and waitresses, but at least they’ll have a chance of better things soon. In France, education is obviously far better than in vulgar England, but in vulgar England, for some reason probably involving evil America, more stuff is actually being done.

Another force which I think France is on the receiving end of here is the enormous difference that the internet, e-mail, etc., has made to the nature of life in the formerly deep countryside, of which France has a great deal, but England relatively little. (In Scotland it is different.) Simply, you can now do a lot more with your life when physically cut off from everything than you could twenty years ago. Did Engels say something about the “idiocy” of rural life? Some smug townie did. Well, now, country life is not nearly so idiotic as it was. Outsourcing is not just taking work from Europe to India, it is taking it from European cities jammed with commuters to European rural escape havens. The big thing they now sell in the countryside of places like France is not what the countryside grows, so much as how beautiful and nice it is to live in, provided you don’t have to scrabble about in the rural mud for a living. Thanks to email and the internet, organising the switch from suburb to country has also got a lot easier.

Or, to put it another way, the suburbs just got a lot bigger.

So, will France’s voters try to make the symptoms of economic decline and of the new super-suburbanisation illegal? Probably. Good luck with that, mes amis. You will need it. A smarter attitude would be to stop fretting about these changes and to start profiting from them, as many French people are already doing, of course, not least by selling their rural shacks for silly English money.

33 comments to La France she is a-changing

  • Before Samizdata went off air yesterday morning, there were three comments on this posting, which I now reproduce:

    countingcats said:

    will France’s voters try to make the symptoms of economic decline and of the new super-suburbanisation illegal

    Yes.

    Thus reinforcing decline.

    And the British are now on the same slope.

    Again.

    Michael Jennings said:

    This story may be true, but I don’t think it is the whole story.

    As a personal observation, I visit the French Basque country from time to time, and I actually don’t hear a lot of English spoken. I suspect that there are places in the region where it is heard, but I would have liked the author of this article to have actually referred to which towns rather than “the town”. I also know that there are lots of English people living in the south of Spain. Whenever I fly there the plane is full of people who appear to be from middle England, who get off the plane, hop an buses and go somewhere or other that I suspect is full of English people and feelss just like Essex or Sussex except for better weather. When I go into an actual Spanish town, I again don’t hear a lot of English, and the lifestyle does not appear to be greatly affected by all the English down the coast a bit.

    To me large portions of the south of France still look semi-abandoned. France urbanised late, and when it did a generation of young people left for Paris (and now probably for London). You then had an aging generation trying to maintain a rural lifestyle and a national government trying to prop up the idea of France as an agricultural nation. It may be that rural folk are now poor and can’t afford the housing, but the alternative to this was probably to be poorer, regardless of whether or not houses were affordable. It also might be that English visitors are restoring abandoned or semi-abandoned farmhouses that the locals simply couldn’t afford to resore themselves. Rural France had a higher population density a couple of generations ago than it did now, and a few hundred thousand English homebuyers are only having a tiny impact on this). The obvious solution to this now strikes me as building more houses. Let the British buy the quaint semi-ruined farmhouses and then charge them extortionate amounts of money for plumbing and building services, and build more modern, more functional and probably more comfortable houses for the French.

    If that can’t be done, then I blame people other than the British. Probably, I blame planning laws. (Planning laws are to blame for just about everything, I tend to believe).

    It might also be that the writer of the article has too much of a professional mindset. If she had gone and spoken to a plumber or an electrician rather than a vetinarian, the response may have been quite different.

    I may well buy the story of the decline of rural France, but I am not convinced by the “The English are to blame” part of the story.

    JoseAngel said:

    France’s economic decline and its loss of influence in the world are also becoming very evident in other parts of the world.

    In the past, there used to be many French language schools in Latin America, today, most of them are gone except for those that still receive some kind of subsidies or help from France’s cultural programs abroad.

    There’s, on the contrary, a proliferation of English learning schools, and kids are learning English as a second language in elementary schools, where they used to learn French or Latin many years ago.

    Universities across Latin-American require their students to pass TOEFL, TOEIC and other English language tests to make sure their students have the English speaking skills to compete in a global market.

    In Mexico, for example, students want to learn another language besides English, but not a European one, the choice for learning a third language is Chinese. When someone says he or she wants to learn French, most people: What for?

  • And my comment on the above three comments is that I for one would have been very sorry to see them vanish. All most interesting, particularly JoseAngel, who supplies facts which are totally new to me.

  • JoseAngel

    Thanks for the comment Brian.
    I am happy the site is back working.

    I have been reading the Samizdata blog for a while, a little less than a year or so, but I hardly ever post a comment. I really enjoy reading through the posts and comments.

    You see I am Mexican, but I lived in the United States for a while and I became fond of American culture, history and values, as much as a love Mexican history and culture. The United States is my second country but ideologically speaking, it is my first country.

    But when I learned to speak English, a whole new conception of the world opened in front of me. For libertarianism is quite a new concept in Latin America. Few writers do know or dare to speak about it, very few people understand the concept, scholars mostly, socialism and like ideologies thrive in our school systems and universities where teachers are still spreading socialist ideas and concepts to kids, politicians know nothing about ideologies either, much less about libertarianism, they do no need to, populism is OK for the poorly educated masses. I live in 2007, but in a country that is still discussing socialist ideologies of the last century, as if a hundred years of world history had not gone by, and as if the Soviet Union still existed and where anti-Americanism is deeply rooted and distorts the people’s ability to understand the world, it is so bad it hurts.

    I also like to read about the Anglo-sphere, although I feel a little out of it because I am Mexican, I still enjoy the articles and the posts, I read through them as if learning what the whole thing means.

    But when I post, I have to refer to what it’s closest to me, I have to relate to it one way or another, that’s why I give examples about Mexico and Latin America, because I believe I can speak with a bit more authority in those terms.

    I would like to start getting some books to learn more about the anglosphere and really get into it but I wouldn´t know where to start.

    Thanks.

  • JoseAngel

    And thank you. You are just the kind of person whose attention makes all this worth while. I’m sure Perry de Havilland, who has had a particularly dreadful last twenty four hours, feels the same.

    As for the “Anglosphere”, I would say that you are already a fully functioning member. Anglosphere is not, as I understand the term, about who you are descended from or what your DNA consists of, but about your participation in the culture of the Anglosphere, especially by using the language. Clearly, you are doing this big time.

    A great deal of (most of? almost all of?) the strength of the Anglosphere as a force in the world is precisely that it welcomes new members. Or so I would like to believe. Stories like yours tell me that this is indeed so.

    What I especially like about our USA branch is that it does this without expecting you to deny your non-Anglo past. Here in England we are still trying to get on top of that bit, but we are making good progress, in my opinion.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Trouble is, it’s not particularly obvious to me any more just what’s so much better about the UK’s economy, aside from property bubble wealth.

    OK, they have the barmy 35-hour week, but I work for a firm with a reputation for extremely anglo-saxon lunch-is-for-wimps behaviour, and it seems to spend much of its energy these days worrying about its carbon footprint, “engaging” with its spotty recent graduate joiners, and paying people to do charity work or to just stay at home (sorry, “work flexibly”) when they should be at clients.

    France, despite their government’s best efforts, retains a private sector ruthlessness that the UK has lost – you ever tried to exchange purchased goods in a French shop?

    I think we should get our crowing and farmhouses in while we can because I can’t see it lasting.

  • anon

    Well, I enjoyed Jose’s comments as I too am a ‘participant’ in the Anglosphere but am ethnically Chinese. What Jose said had a particular resonance for me – that of an outsider looking in and finding in the Anglophone world ideas that are culturally congenial but at the same time not denying – and indeed, leveraging – on my own specific cultural background.

  • France has the wrong kind of private sector ruthlessness.

    American’s get that it is all about making the customer happy.

    From the above anecdote the French believe it is all about getting the money and once you have it the customer be damned.

  • JeanE

    Jose,

    You might start with “The Anglosphere Challenge” or with “The History of the English Speaking People Since 1900″ if you are interested in books about the anglosphere. They are both available through Amazon.
    And I agree with Brian that you are not an outsider. If you are ideologically an American, you are a card carrying member of the Anglosphere, but you’re personal experience living in Mexico provides a perspective that those of us growing up in the US don’t have. Immigrants have always brought fresh ideas and perspectives to the US, sometimes seeing more clearly our strengths and also where we fall short of our own ideals. The ongoing effort to live up to the anglosphere ideals of personal liberty and personal responsiblity is a big part of what has made the US strong and prosperous.

  • Jose Angel,

    I can kind of relate to your impressions. I was born in France, though I’ve lived most of my life in the Anglosphere beginning in one of its most prominent Asian outpost–Singapore. My family would later settle in the U.S. after finding that France under Mitterand was not the place to be.

    I’ve been working for the past year on an architecture project in a wealthy suburb west of Mexico city. My business trips there revealed to me the extent to which Mexico is influenced by European cultural mores, preferences and tendencies. Even among the wealthy, there is no aspiration to imitate Americans but rather to behave like the modern upperclass European bourgeoisie. Whereas in the U.S. the French are as often ridiculed as they are admired for their luxury exports, in Mexico it seems the French can do no wrong. Frenchness is an advantage there.

    I’ve written a blog post about my observations on the urban character of Mexico city here:

    http://architectureandmorality.blogspot.com/2007/05/lessons-from-mexico-cities-and-social.html

  • Russ

    Hell, and if you live in Texas, we can do beer and bbq somewhere. The U.S. had a hard road trying to figure out how to let people assimilate without necessarily having to become culturally WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant) in the process… this is one of the things that I teach regularly in the community colleges where I work (in/around Dallas).

    But maybe you can help answer me a question: for a long time, I’ve suspected that language has a lot to do with collectivist thought in Latin America, simply because “la gente” is a singular vowel, with a plural collective meaning… whereas in English, “people” is fundamentally plural, and “the people” is a phrase that frequently makes no sense at all.

    Or, as a speaker whose Spanish is “poquito y enfermo,” am I misunderstanding?

  • Jose Angel,

    I can kind of relate to your impressions. I was born in France, though I’ve lived most of my life in the Anglosphere beginning in one of its most prominent Asian outpost–Singapore. My family would later settle in the U.S. after finding that France under Mitterand was not the place to be.

    I’ve been working for the past year on an architecture project in a wealthy suburb west of Mexico city. My business trips there revealed to me the extent to which Mexico is influenced by European cultural mores, preferences and tendencies. Even among the wealthy, there is no aspiration to imitate Americans but rather to behave like the modern upperclass European bourgeoisie. Whereas in the U.S. the French are as often ridiculed as they are admired for their luxury exports, in Mexico it seems the French can do no wrong. Frenchness is an advantage there.

    I’ve written a blog post about my observations on the urban character of Mexico city here:

    http://architectureandmorality.blogspot.com/2007/05/lessons-from-mexico-cities-and-social.html

  • Midwesterner

    I extend my enthusiastic welcome to JoseAngel and anon. My dad’s parents learned English as a second language when they immigrated. They embraced the language and the constitutional values totally. I don’t remember my them, but my dad said his parents were strongly against FDR’s programs. I am understanding now that what upset them is that FDR was destroying precisely what they came to this country to find. Economic and personal freedom, and opportunity to succeed and improve.

    Two and three generations later, our family still enjoys the holiday foods and traditions of the old country, but positively none of us want to recreate the old country over here. Anybody that comes here for our constitution and its principles of personal liberty and responsibility and who speaks our language is more ‘American’ than a huge share of those that are born here. I’ve noticed, and it may have always been this way, that the best Americans often speak with a foreign accent.

  • Jose Angel, you can read a good deal of “The Anglosphere Challenge” at http://www.anglospherechallenege.com — the commenters are correct, being part of the anglosphere has nothing to do with DNA, or even place of birth.

  • Jacob

    corbusier,
    Good comment, bad moniker.

  • Bill Peschel

    As a tipping point, France fell off the needle several decades ago. In the 1980s, Peter Mayle was writing about all the Brits coming down and buying houses in Provance. Why is it so different today?

  • With regards to the above article, I also have little story to share. Last summer my older brother rented out a cottage near Bordeaux and invited family members to stay there and visit the surrounding historic sites. While driving around the countryside in rental car, my mother would often get lost on the way to visit relatives or find obscure chateaux. She often found herself asking for directions (my father was obviously not driving…) Naturally, expecting local villagers to reply to her requests for directions in French. She was taken aback by the number of times the “villager” in question was British, giving it away by speaking French with a heavy English accent.

    Eight hundred years after Eleanor of Aquitaine and Southwest France has again become an outpost for English rule!

  • John Murdoch

    Books on the ‘Anglosphere’

    Let me suggest, for Jose Angel and others, that reading about events in English (or English-speaking) history might not be as valuable as reading about the English people. Many of the people I know who have come to embrace American (in my case) culture comment on the idiosyncracy that is America. Stuff just doesn’t make sense (e.g. the oft-told George Carlin line about how we “drive on parkways, and park on driveways”).

    But where we Gringos have our little oddities (do not worry about feet, yards, or even miles–consider that we survey land using units called rods and chains), we cannot even hope to compare to our cousins in England. They can be loud, boorish, and rowdy (think about English football fans) in one minute–and express the epitome of bravery and selfless generosity the next (e.g. the evacuation of Dunkirk at the onset of World War II).

    I am quite fond of a remarkable series of novels, written by Patrick O’Brian, that follow the adventures of a captain in the British Navy and his surgeon during the Napoleonic wars. The first title is named “Master and Commander”–buy it, read it, and gain a glimpse into the social structure of the English: the class distinctions, the class relationships, the conduct of gentlemen with ladies–and the conduct of “gentlemen” with barmaids; and, oh yeah, they sail ships around too. Through the course of twenty novels and twenty remarkable stories you will gain a lot of insight into the peculiarly Anglophone ability to cheerfully, knowingly, exist with maddening contradictions. O’Brian, born in Ireland, but living most of his days in the south of France, writes with insight and affection–and a brilliance you will not see elsewhere.

  • Millie Woods

    Brian, people don’t learn French today because it is no longer a language of access to knowledge not available in one’s native language which was the case for French in the past.
    My Russian father learned French in his native land because it was a language of access then. He emiigrated to the francophone part of North America, Quebec, and learned English as his third language .
    My father saw to it that all of his children spoke French and for three of us it has been good career wise. However, today unless you live in some part of francophonie, French as a world language is irrelevant. Nothing is happening in the French language world while the Anglosphere is a vast and overwhelming cornucopia.
    When you’re in a position to compare what the two offer as I am, it’s quite obvious why English is the choice for most people around the world who are contemplating acquiring a second language.

  • Millie Woods

    I hadn;t read Jose Angel’s and anon’s posts before writing my own but for their information the anglosphere is not at all limited or constrained by race and nationality.
    There are at least one hundred million members of the anglosphere from the Indian sub-continent. They are amongst India’s best and brightest. They produce a lot of literature in English – think Salman Rushdie.
    They are people like two of my young grandchildren who are French/English bilinguals and have been ever since they acquired language and would consider themselves both part of francophonie and the anglosphere.
    They are people like the African novelists who use English as their creative medium.
    The point is that the anglosphere includes all those users of the English world wide whether or not the language itself is their native tongue.

  • sloan

    Jose:

    Christopher Hitchens’ “An Anglosphere Future” in the Autumn 2007 http://www.city-journal.com.

    Also George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language.” You can google this, and there is a website where Orwell’s other writings can be down-loaded.

    Churchill considered an Anglosphere in the non-DNA style for the future; Colville mentions it in his wonderful “Fringes of Power” — Colville’s diaries as Churchill’s private secretary in WWll. It isn’t indexed.

    This is a great site. How did I miss it? Thanks for hosting it.

    S.

  • Sloan: this is indeed a great site.

  • JoseAngel

    I am overwhelmed by everyone´s comments and interest. I can only thank all of you.

    Anon, thanks for the comment.

    JeanE: Thanks for the comments, I am putting the
    “The Anglosphere Challenge” and “The History of the English Speaking People Since 1900” in my list of books to buy.

    Corbusier
    You are so right. Frenchness is an advantage here in Mexico, we even invite the French to come to celebrate the anniversary of the 5 de Mayo battle against the French army, even though the French invaded Mexico and tried to impose an emperor (Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico), they are looked upon with sympathy and interest and the country has put that in the past.

    Russ: Thanks for the comments. I am from Monterrey, which is in north east Mexico and I live very close to Texas, I love Texas of course, have family and many friends there. I sometimes visit San Antonio and I’ve been to Austin a couple of times but I’ve never been in Dallas. I’d be happy to do some beer and bbq anytime.
    In answer to your question: “La gente” means “people” and it is a noncount noun so we use it in singular form, but I believe your confusion arises from the fact that in English you do not use the article “the” before a plural or noncount noun when you use it in a universal or non specific statement as in for example: “Honey is sweet” or “birds fly” , but in Spanish we need to use the article “la, el, los, las” (all of these are simply “the”) so we say: “La miel es dulce” (Honey is sweet) or “Las aves vuelan” (birds fly), where the sentences would be incorrect without the “La” or “Los” articles. Also, it is important to remember that articles in spanish can be plural or singular and feminine or masculine. Hope that helps.

    Midwesterner: Thanks a lot for the kind words and for sharing your own experience and I truly agree to what you say but what I believe is that it is also my responsibility to take those american principles of personal liberty and responsibility to my country.

    James Bennett
    Thanks for the comment and I take note of the books as well.
    “The Anglosphere Challenge” at http://www.anglospherechallenege.com

    John Murdoch: Thanks for the comments. I take note of the suggested readings as well. Patrick O’Brian works.

    Sloan:
    Thanks, I appreciate your interest in my case and take note of the links and books you suggest.
    George Orwell has long been in my list of authors to read, I guess it is about time.

  • Orson

    Jose Angel-

    (Great thread, Brian. Glenn Reynolds of instapundit linked to this one, generating a lots of input here, too)

    A brand new Anglosphere book is “God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World” by US Council on Foreign Relations scholar Walter Russell Mead. He argues that the story of the rise of Europe on the modern period is wrong. It’s really the rise and dominance of Britain, followed by the US. The former’s only war lost was the American Revolution, after all.

    Jose-

    You ought to study the books and columns of the most pro-capitalist author on Latin America in the US, Andres Oppenheimer. Based out of Miami, Florida, he’s even a career model for you! Write about what you know best, to an audience most needing to know more about Latin America – like he has. (I believe he’s a bit old now, and no longer a field correspondent. In other words, WE (in the US) NEED YOU!

    Of Cuban origins, his books include “Castro’s Final Hour”, “Bordering on Chaos: Guerrillas, Stockbrokers, Politicians, and Mexico’s Road to Prosperity” and brand new “Saving the Americas: The Dangerous Decline of Latin America and What The U.S. Must Do.” Many of his books are also in Spanish.

    Lastly, a vital blog with informed discussion of the Anglosphere is http://www.chicagoboyz.net/

    -Orson in Colorado

  • James in Calgary

    Dear JoseAngel,

    For a thoughtful consideration of the Anglosphere and Hispanosphere, you would really enjoy Prof. Claudio Véliz’s book “The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America” Univ of California Press, 1994. Also, for a good companion to Mead’s God and Gold, consider Gelernter’s Americanism (on the roots of American exceptionalism), and Barone’s “Our First Revolution” for the inspiration that the Americans drew from the English “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.

    Best wishes and happy reading.

  • Roger Godby

    I teach English to college students in Japan. My university requires two years of foreign language study and offers German, French, and Chinese as well. Nearly all students choose to continue English from high school; however, German is effectively dead, except for students in a select few faculties (like medicine) that require their incoming students take English and German. As a free choice, almost nobody takes German. It also has a reputation as being hard.

    From my informal questioning of students, it seems French retains some appeal, especially with female students, because French means “elegance” and “fashion.”

    The popularity of Chinese has increased, but a common story I hear is that students assume Chinese will be easy, because it uses similar ideographs; then they experience the pronunciation and it suddenly becomes frightful.

  • Ben

    “…students assume Chinese will be easy, because it uses similar ideographs; then they experience the pronunciation and it suddenly becomes frightful.”

    Not to stray too far from the subject, but this made me chuckle – I took Chinese in high school; we were the only high school Chinese program in New York state outside of New York City. Perversely, it was an easy class because it’s such a brutal language to speak (nevermind write) for kids raised on English. 5 tones, thousands of ideograms – yikes. They could barely scratch the surface of the subject. Nevermind that they were teaching us Mandarin, when Cantonese would have been way more useful in NY.

  • JoseAngel

    -Orson in Colorado:
    Many thanks for the advice. Indeed Oppenheimer is one of my most favorite columns in the Reforma newspaper in Mexico; he is a brave author who has been wrongly characterized as far right by mainstream media throughout Latin America, usually for his pro American stances and his criticism of Cuba’s regime and populism in Latin America. He’s Argentinean though.
    I take note on your recommended readings and thank you for that as well.

    James in Calgary: Many thanks. I also take note of your recommended readings.

    I guess by now I do have a pretty sizeable amount of books to buy and read and from what I gather there will be many more so I’d better call the carpenter to expand my bookshelf soon.

    I also believe Millie Woods is right: “people don’t learn French today because it is no longer a language of access to knowledge not available in one’s native language which was the case for French in the past.”
    My father also learned French but had little use of it during his lifetime.
    But while other languages may be considered important to learn, English is a must and companies in Mexico, be them national or foreign, they require you to speak English, and the same is happening in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and the many other nations in Latin America.

    Academia was slow to follow in most Latin American nations with mostly state funded universities, because for a while, nationalistic and anti-American attitudes in these public universities blocked the advancement of the English Language, which they saw as part of a cultural invasion, but these same academics and functionaries had no problem with teaching French language in the past, in fact, there are still French professors in many of these Universities.

    French was important in the past because of what Millie Woods says, the need to access knowledge and I might add that there are also other reasons that might explain why learning French continued to be important in our societies for some time in past decades.
    When dictatorships and military juntas rampaged through Latin America and Spain and Portugal, many Latin American intellectuals, writers, painters and the like fled to France and got asylum there. Julio Cortazar from Argentina wrote entire works while living in France, Bennedetti from Uruguay, Pablo Neruda from Chile, etc.
    Then Paris and not Madrid became the hub of Latin American intellectual and ideological movements (mostly socialists) and learning French became a must for many young Latin Americans who wanted to be writers, painters, etc. and who dreamed of traveling to Paris where they expected to find the relations and connections and support to become successful writers or painters in the huge Latin American community of intellectuals living in Paris in those days.
    But the advancement of democracy and the globalization and the internet have quickly eroded this Paris-Latin America connection.

  • nick g.

    I remember an amusing incident in Beijing 20 years ago. I was in a lounge of my hotel, and I heard a Frenchman using his version of English whilst asking a doorman for some directions, and the Chinese man used his accented version of English when trying to comply, though it wasn’t clear that he understood the question! (Then again, maybe the doorman did understand, but was having fun with a foreigner.)
    I remember meeting a German about 10 years ago, who wondered why so few Australians spoke German, and I pointed out that there wasn’t much call for it around Australia. (I suppose French might be useful in the Society islands.)
    Still, the influx of Good British Stock into France will compensate for all those frenchies moving into London!

  • Millie Woods

    Just an added note on the anglosphere which might amuse the posters.
    Did you know that there is a scare theory circulating called linguistic imperialism. Of course it’s in the universities. As my compatriot the comedian Anna Russell is wont to say in her monologues – I’m not making this up you know.
    In fact, Oxford published the proceedings of a seminar, I believe in Malaysia. a few years back about this awesome threat.
    Yes global hegemony through the monopolistic forcing of all information into English looms – scarier even than global warming!

  • Paul Marks

    Corbusier mentions on his own blog how he dislikes some aspects of Mexico City – the lack of attention to detail, and the basic lack of trust between human beings. As can be seen by the walled off houses and places of business, and the people being so full of fear that they will not walk or even trust a taxi driver (for fear of abduction).

    Corbusier mentions that he likes how the Mexican elite “aggressively embrace contemporary design” rather than in certain parts of the United States where people adapt and develop traditional designs.

    I wonder it it has ever occured to Corbusier that those are the parts (sadly not nearly as much of the United States as was once the case) of the United States where people are not full of fear and can and walk and engage in civil interaction.

    There may be a connection.

    As has often been stated. A community is a compact between the living, the dead, and those yet to be born.

    Cultural traditions and practices evolve that cut across and partly unify “the rich” and “the poor”, and styles of building are part of those traditions and practices.

    This sense of style and taste, and more basically “what is fitting” – is better than any building code.

  • Russ Mitchell

    Jose: thanks. Please let me know when you’re this way — we can maybe sucker Corbusier in, too, and show some U.S. drinking pictures.

    PM: living in the same town as Corb., I don’t think this is quite true. Most of the social trust/distrust I’ve found has directly related to whether or not an area’s fallen off the economic map. Once an area has turned “zombie pit,” then social trust tends to vanish until gentrification recurs. I’ve seen this over and over again in VA, MD, and parts of Cali, too.

    Which brings about the disturbing possibility that high urban social trust is a middle-class value. Not sure I care for the ramifications of that one…

  • Arthur B.

    Unfortunately, in a democratic/statist society there is no real feedback between policies and results, therefore crisis only heighten the dominant ideology.

    The decline of France is palpable but is lived as the “final proof” that all the extreme-free-market-capitalism policies failed… “fortunately” the harder the crisis, the more voters will buy into keynesian, socialist and protectionist policies.

  • JoseAngel

    Paul Marks, Russ

    A good photograph of a city or a country is a snapshot of its society at a given moment in time, which is what Corbusier described in great detail.
    And I’d like to think that a good photograph is like a balance sheet of a company, it gives you a snapshot of the company at a given time, it tells you how the company looks right now, whether it is making a profit or not and it accurately pin points its losses and profits, but it, nevertheless, is only a snapshot of at one particular time, and it is not a movie, and it cannot tell you the history and circumstances that will explain why the company is in that situation and nor how will the picture change in the future.