While rich Parisians may not miss the presence of the middle class, they do need people to bus tables, trim shrubbery, watch babies, and change bedpans. Immigrants—not native French workers—do most of these jobs. Why this should be so is an economic controversy. Perhaps migrants will do certain tasks that French people will not—at least not at the prevailing wage. Perhaps employers don’t relish paying €10 an hour to a native Frenchman who, ten years earlier, was making €20 in his old position and has resentments to match. Perhaps the current situation is an example of the economic law named after the eighteenth-century French economist Jean-Baptiste Say: a huge supply of menial labor from the developing world has created its own demand.
Upwardly mobile urbanites, observes Guilluy, call Paris “the land of possibilities,” the “ideapolis.” One is reminded of Richard Florida and other extollers of the “Creative Class.” The good fortune of Creative Class members appears (to them) to have nothing to do with any kind of capitalist struggle. Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them.
That may sound somewhat familiar, and the article makes the connections, but the focus is on France and its unique situation.
One line struck me: "French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency."
I hear an echo of another famous delusion current a century ago: elan, "offensive á l'outrance." I hope the consequences of this delusion are not so deadly.
Both the new and old attitude seem essentially religious, both with the volk as the god. "We are too pious and good for bad things to happen to us." Of course "common decency" can be made into an extremely low bar.
I work in one of those elite groups: an international collaboration at a world-class university: knowledge-based and cosmopolitan. The folks here are smart and honest, and by and large extremely nice people. "Nice" is not the same as "good," but from inside the bubble it is easy to make that mistake.