Glenn Reynolds points to a good article in the IHT about the growing concern among French thinkers that their country's influence in the EU and the world is in decline. As it happens there's a similar article [subscription required] in the most recent edition of Business Week titled "The Real War is France vs. France" which lends perspective.
First, anti-American screeds continue to enjoy pride of place alongide the emerging declinist genre on France's best-seller lists:
Take alook at the non-fiction best-sellers on display at the giant Fnac Champs-Elysees store. On one side, violent attacks on America, either becuase it's an overbearing colosus -- as political scientist Pascal Boniface argues in his La France contre L'Empire (France against the Empire -- guess which one) -- or because it's a decadent, collapsing giant, as in Emmanuel Todd's Apres l'Empire (After the Empire).
But you'll find that the anti-anti Americans are out in force, too. Bernard-Henry Levy, Andre Glucksmann, and Jean-Francois Revel, among others see anti-Americanism as the default mode among French intellectuals, one that can often slide seamlessly into anti-captialism and anti-Semitism. These critics may not be fans of every US policy, but they reserve their most withering judgements for posturing French public figures.
Second, the BW article contains the results of a poll which suggests that concern about France's decline is not limited to France's intellecutal establishment:
'The only really popular theme [on the book best-seller list] is America,' says a Fnac saleswoman. "That and whether France is declining."
In a way, it's the same theme: power and the lack of it. American diplomatic and military stridency underscore the relative powerlessness of France. Thus the French pine for the days when Charles de Gualle could flamboyantly pull France and its nuclear-tipped missles out of NATO, while at the same time, according to recent polls, some 72% see their nation in decline. 'For the first time in the history of our country, people are wondering whether we are still capable of great things,' says Michael Crepu, head of the monthly Revue des Deux Mondes.