‘The French Connection I & II’ featured one Gene Hackman chasing drugs traffickers. A former US Marine, he narrated another film about the training of his corps. (I have a, perhaps morbid interest in the the military craft!) So he seemed to know how to take out their boss when a moving target on a sailing vessel leaving Marseille harbour.
My own French connection comes from a wanton idea of resuscitating my French from under my new working languages English and Dutch by reading dirt-cheap pockets. Max Gallo of the Académie Française is for instance a grand narrator of French history, writes for instance about the French Revolution as if he had been there. More theoretical, Pierre Rosanvallon taught me its signal importance for the development of democracy. Professor at the venerable Collège de France, he is my source on its story, one which he caps with a book on populism. (Rosanvallon 2020)
In ‘The Poverty of Territorialism’ (2018) I avoid making this connection. The only covert reference is where I suggest that, like religion of which Karl Marx has said that it was opiate for the people, so with territorialism. (Faludi 2018: 49) But there is a link, in particular where I say that the production of democratic legitimacy through elections territory by territory is territorialism’s last line of defence. So, the territory concerned, or better to say the people of that territory are at the centre of attention. Broad-minded politicians may of course propose policies catering to more than the immediate interests of the electorate, but their future is by no means secure. The people’s immediate concerns and preferences getting preferential treatment seems more the rule. So when hearing about this new book I pricked my ears. Indeed, it makes clear that territorialism – not a concept Rosanvallon uses – is popularism’s twin.
He discusses the latter under five headings: A view of the people in terms of them and us; a theory of democracy amounting to the ‘cult of the referendum’; a modality of representation aiming at identifying a ‘natural leader’ personifying the people; a politics and philosophy of the economy of national protectionism; a regime of passions and emotions. It is clear that ‘them and us’, ‘personifying the people’; and above all ‘national protectionism’ all implying bordering the people’s property make for territorialism‘s being popularism’s twin.
Knowledgeable about developments worldwide, his book includes essays on popularism in Russia and the US where a Popularist Party mounted a presidential candidate, – not the one you think about – at around 1900. There is whole part also on popularism in South America. However, Rosanvallon’s focus remains – honit sois qui mal y pense – in this and other works is French democracy, which means he is less focused on France’s borders, indeed all national borders as limiting the scope of democratic governance. Trying to cull from his works, including this one recommendations for democratic representation beyond territorialism, you have your work cut out for you.
Rosanvallon, P. (2020) Le siècle du populisme: Histoire, théorie, critique, éditions du seuil; Paris.
Faludi, A. (2018) The Poverty of Territorialism, Elgar; Cheltenham.
text by Andreas Faludi, professor Emeritus of Spatial Planning, TU Delft.
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