François Ascher

Society Evolves — So Does Politics Publication date : March 8, 2007

Based on his analyses of trends in contemporary society, François Ascher examines the French political crisis.
Why do political structures and practices seem so ineffectual, so far removed from reality? Why is there such a chasm between the problems of individuals and the political response to those problems?
François Ascher argues that the explanation is clear: the most striking features of contemporary society are knowledge and increased communication and exchanges; in this context, the French political system, constantly swinging between outmoded centralism and laissez-faire, is no longer adapted. Paradoxically, this development of society does not call for the decline of politics. Instead, it will require the strengthening of local, national and supranational authorities in order to: guarantee new individual rights, ensure the development of markets that have known success, promote wide-ranging social justice, and defend territorial interests while promoting international solidarity.
Structural reforms are necessary, argues Ascher. Their content, however, remains open to discussion until an agreement can be reached.

Rather than recommending a list of reforms to serve as a miraculous panacea, Ascher proposes one central argument: the more society evolves toward freedom and individualism, the greater must be the role played by politics and public authorities. What can be done to overcome the present crisis and to re-establish a social contract in harmony with the times? By making politics take into account the real nature of society, he replies.
A number of major issues (individual rights, representation, social justice, public intervention in economic affairs, territorial defence) are examined here in light of social demands, of current political responses and their limits, and of existing options.

François Ascher teaches at the Institut Français d’Urbanisme. He is the author of Métapolis.