During his first year in office, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined a series of proposals for reforming European institutions; now he is launching a campaign to shake up the European Parliament election in 2019. Through it all, he has adhered to a coherent philosophy of how politics in the twenty-first century should work.
Until the terrorist attack at a market in southern France on March 23, French President Emmanuel Macron had been planning to launch a new European-level political campaign. Though the official rollout has now been postponed, Macron’s latest project remains central to his presidency and to his conception of power.
Macron’s “La Grande Marche pour l’Europe” will mimic the program that toppled France’s dominant political parties and transformed his La République En Marche ! movement into a political force in 2017. Over the course of six weeks, he will dispatch ten ministers and 200 parliamentarians to survey the French people’s views on Europe and European issues. The results will then be considered in developing a platform that can beat populist and Euroskeptic parties in the 2019 European Parliament election.
Macron has persuaded all other EU member states (with the exception of Hungary and the United Kingdom) to conduct similar public consultations, which he hopes will lay the groundwork for the EU-level reforms he proposed in major speeches in Athens and at the Sorbonne last year.
To understand the full scope of Macron’s ambitions, we should consider the principles that underpin his worldview and guide his approach to politics. Few are better acquainted with Macron’s thinking than French historian and philosopher François Dosse. Dosse not only taught Macron at Sciences Po in the late 1990s, but also introduced him to his intellectual mentor, French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, for whom Macron worked as a research assistant for two years.
Dosse recently published a book about Macron and Ricoeur titled Le Philosophe et le President. A few weeks ago, I met with him in his Paris apartment to discuss his latest work, and he explained Macron’s approach to European reform as a combination of two fundamental Ricoeurian concepts.
The first is “consensus dissensuel.” This may sound like a highfalutin version of “having one’s cake and eating it.” But, according to Dosse, it is really about drawing strength from the opposition between two conflicting viewpoints, unlike a Hegelian approach, which seeks synthesis between two poles. Macron’s embrace of the Ricoeurian model is evident in his frequent use of the phrase “en même temps” (“at the same…