French intellectuals lament loss of influence as populism surges, Financial Times, 21 April 2017
National Front has given voice to much of working class once represented by the left
Sipping a coffee at Le Rouge Limé café in central Paris, Michael Foessel, professor of philosophy at the École Polytechnique, harks back to a time when leftwing intellectuals really mattered.
Long gone are the days, he says, of Pierre Bourdieu leading strikes by railway workers, Michel Foucault shifting the debate on prison reforms, or Émile Zola and his plea for justice during the Dreyfus Affair.
“We are no longer the intellectual leaders of this country,” says the 42-year-old, wearing jeans and a tweed jacket. “In the media, it is the conservative voices that make a big impact. In politics, it is the technocrats.”
He is talking just ahead of an election that has been dominated by the rise of populist far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who, through a blend of nativism and economic nationalism, has given a voice to much of the disenfranchised working class once represented by the left.