back to

e-flux conversations

Emmanuel Macron, the death spasm of a faltering system


In Le Monde Diplomatique, French philosopher Frédéric Lordon writes about the curious candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, who has emerged as the front-runner after the first round of the presidential election in France over the weekend. Lordon argues that Macron, the self-proclaimed “anti-system” candidate, in fact represents a desperate effort to rescue the faltering system of capitalist democracy. In the face of insurgencies from both the right and the left, the French elite have flocked to Macron, who promises to shore of the threatened status quo. Lordon’s piece, translated into English by David Broder and posted on Verso’s blog, was published before the first round of voting but is even more relevant now. Here’s an excerpt:

But the final torments of a dying era that does not want to die are best expressed in Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy. Indeed, it was certain that a moribund world that is still very determined not to give up anything would end up finding an appropriate candidate, the individual capable of all the ambivalences required by the special situation. That is, a candidate capable of speaking and saying nothing, saying nothing but constantly thinking about “it,” being at the same time utterly empty and dangerously charged with content …

But with Macron the void is not in contradiction with fullness of content, even if at the present moment when he does have to show something to the outside world, the void is greatly preferable. For the substance is the oligarchy’s: this is the fullness of a class’s project to persevere, in the very moment that everything condemns it, testimony to an era that has perceptibly reached its tipping point. In these conditions, for the oligarchic substance to maintain itself in the face of — and against — everything else, it needed an empty candidate, a candidate who said nothing, for what truly had to be said would be too obscene to present openly: the rich want to remain rich, and the powerful to remain powerful. That is this class’s only project, and that is its candidate Macron’s raison d’être. In this sense, he is the spasm of a system pushing back its own death. He is its final response, the only way of disguising a continuity that has become intolerable to the rest of society, beneath the fakest of semblances of discontinuity, wrapped up in the competitive modernity in use among the half-witted columnists.

Image of Emmanuel Macron via Sky News.