Press Review – April 29th 2014 – No Picketty craze in France; Euro-skeptics speak; and Ayad Allawi on the Iraqi elections

As the the craze over economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century sweeps the English-speaking world, Foreign Policy finds  that the same enthusiasm does not exist for his work in the scholar’s home country of France. The London School of Economics-trained economist, who helped in the founding of the Paris School of Economics, is up against what FP suggests is a collective cold-shoulder from the French elite toward the discipline of economics. According to FP, unlike the United States and other countries, where economists often hold very senior positions in the econonomic-policy-making hierarchy, in France this tends not to be the case as often, although Pickety once served as an economic adviser to presidential candidate Ségolène Roya and continues to have strong ties with the French Socialist Party. A number of scholars interviewed by FP suggested that economics was historically seen as a subversive discipline by French elites since the Napoleonic era, and economics only came to be taught as a separate discipline in French universities in 1968. Camille Landais, an LSE economics professor and a former Ph.D student of Picketty also distinguished the quality of the discussion on the book in the United States versus France:  “People brushed off his work, the depth of the data and his analysis…In the U.S., people actually wanted to discuss the material of his book, the data, the models, and the trends…. The quality of the debate was much higher.” The relative lack of interest in the book may also have another cause: While Americans have been becoming ever more aware of radical economic inequalities since the 2008 Financial Crisis – wealth inequality in the West is a key theme of Picketty’s book – in France, “a country that is struggling with a staggering public deficit, anemic growth, and labor legislation that badly needs reform, inequality simply may not have the same traction as a policy issue that it has in the United States. The French want to hear about growth, jobs, and a more competitive economy…”

Thomas Pickety. Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.
Thomas Pickety. Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.

In the lead-up to the 25 May 2014 European Parliamentary election, France’s Le Monde gets the views of seven prominent Euro-skeptic figures who will be participating in the election: “Ingouvernable, « merkiavélique », gaspilleuse : sept personnalités européennes, incarnant sept grands courants de l’euroscepticisme, adressent leurs reproches aux institutions de Bruxelles avant les élections du 25 mai.”

On the eve of the 30 April 2014 Iraqi parliamentary election, Germany’s Der Speigel interviews  former interim prime minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi, who hopes to oust the sitting prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. He talk about the increasing sectarianization of Iraq, rising levels of violence, and areas in which he would diverge from the current prime minister, who he views as being too influenced by religion and too close to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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