Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Memories of Michel Rocard

Former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who died on July 2 at age 85, will be remembered as a brilliant socialist analyst and forthright contrarian. 

(Photo: SIPA/Guillaume Souvant)
(Photo: Guillaume Souvant/SIPA) Former French Prime Minister and member of the Socialist Party Michel Rocard, on August 31, 2012 M ichel Rocard was one of the great “might have beens” of politics. To say this is to take nothing away from his accomplishments, which were real, but simply to underscore the fact that he never fulfilled his ambition to remake the French left from the top by assuming the presidency, of which he was deprived by his detested nemesis François Mitterrand. Of Mitterand, Rocard declared , “Le mépris profond que je porte à son absence d'éthique est compatible avec l'admiration totale que j'ai pour sa puissance tactique.” (“My deep contempt for his lack of ethics matches my total admiration for his tactical prowess.”) Of course, this might well be read as an apologia pro vita sua : “I failed tactically because I was too ethical to do what was needed.” If so, it would be a tragic verdict on his chosen métier , for which he expressed his contempt in other long-...

After Brexit: What Remains of the European Project?

The British have made up their minds. But what drove them to it?

AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File
AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File A European Union flag, right, and a Union Jack are displayed outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices in London, June 22, 2016. O n the night of June 23, I went to bed anxious about the results of Britain’s referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union. On the morning of June 24, upon learning of the British people’s decision to go, I became a European patriot. I discovered that I had an emotional attachment to the European Union that went beyond my reasons for thinking it on the whole, despite certain manifest shortcomings and failures, a good thing. I am well-versed in the critical literature that has grown up around the European project since its inception in the aftermath of World War II. I am aware of the EU’s ungainly, opaque, and often dysfunctional institutional structure . I recognize the force of chronic complaints that its decision-making structures suffer from both a “democratic deficit” and the undue influence...

Privilege, Passion, and Politics

The carnage in Orlando and hooliganism in Marseille prompt thoughts about reason versus the passions and the nature of the American Constitution.

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP Thousands hold candles in the air after a bell tolled for each of the victims, during a vigil Monday, June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, the day after an attack on a gay nightclub left dozens dead. I spent the weekend on Block Island, a pear-shaped residue of the Wisconsonian Laurentide glacier, which left these 10 square miles of terminal moraine behind when it retreated some 22,000 years ago. The Nature Conservancy counts the island among its “Last Great Places,” of which there are only 12 in the western hemisphere. Ulysses S. Grant stayed here, and he would probably still recognize the place, because 40 percent of the island is now set aside as conservation land, and affluent New Englanders have bought up and manicured much of the remainder in order to savor the tranquil rhythms of rural life without having to endure the inconveniences. Because my parents-in-law had the foresight to acquire an abandoned farm for a few thousand...

In French Politics, May Is the Cruelest Month

In France, May is the month of protest pageantry, but often the real action takes place offstage.

AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu
AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu People vote during a gathering on the Place de la Republique Sunday, April 3, 2016 in Paris. A few hundred protesters have been camping out, holding night-time demonstrations since last week at a symbolic rallying point on the Place de la Republique, to express anger at a proposed labor law that would extend the workweek and make layoffs easier. The social media-driven movement, called “Nuit Debout” or “Rise up at Night,” sprang from nationwide strikes and protests Thursday. T o the poet, April is the cruelest month, but if you’re a French politician, the month you dread most is likely to be May. The warm weather draws protesters into the streets. On May Day labor flexes its muscles by marching on the symbolic Place de la Bastille, while the Front National celebrates its cult of the nation at the foot of Joan of Arc’s gilded statue in the Place des Pyramides (although this year Marine Le Pen abandoned the traditional site to her father, whom she has...

Metamorphosis

Like Gregor Samsa, the GOP seems incapable of recognizing the change that has come over it.

Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP
Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP Donald Trump supporter Helen Graber proudly shows off her Reagan Library sweatshirt and her Trump button before the Republican presidential candidate's ally at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Washington, Saturday, May 7, 2016. W ho can forget the opening pages of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis , in which the traveling salesman Gregor Samsa awakens after turning into “ some sort of monstrous insect ”? No reader can fail to experience the uncanny dissonance of hilarity and terror that results from the grotesqueness of a man’s transformation into an insect, coupled with the utter banality of his subsequent response: He has overslept, he will be late for work, his boss will be angry, traveling by train is so unpleasant, it won’t be easy to maneuver his awkward new body out of bed, and so on. The observer of today’s political world feels rather like the reader of Metamorphosis . Grotesque things are happening everywhere, yet consciousness...

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