French politicians, journalists and intellectuals are concerned that “woke” theories from the United States on race, gender and post-colonialism pose a serious threat to France.
According to the New York Times last week, top intellectuals joined forces to fight “what they regard as contamination by the out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses and its attendant cancel culture.” The movement comes months after French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the theories.
The Times pointed to remarks made by Macron in October, which the news outlet summarized as calling “woke” ideology an “existential threat” that “fuels secessionism. Gnaws at national unity. Abets Islamism. Attacks France’s intellectual and cultural heritage.”
In his speech, the French president warned about separatism and the erosion of topics that the country once excelled in teaching as a result of the importation of American woke theories.
“And in so doing, we have left the intellectual debate to others, to those outside of the Republic by idolizing it, sometimes yielding to other academic traditions,” Macron warned. “I am thinking of Anglo-Saxon traditions based on a different history, which is not ours. And when I see certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States, with their problems, which I respect and which exist, but which are just added to ours, I say to myself that it is reasonable to make this choice. And so we must, very clearly, re-invest, on a massive scale, in the field of social sciences, history, understanding of civilizations by creating posts, by stepping up dialogue, academic and scientific debate in order not to allow the knowledge, the understanding of Islam as a religion, of the civilization it underpins and its contribution to our country and our continent to become ideological and exclusively political debates.”
Macron’s education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer echoed the president’s concerns during an interview in October, adding that “Islamo-leftism” was wreaking “havoc on the university.”
“No one has the right to cowardice anymore,” Blanquer said, according to a translation of his comments. “There is a fight to be waged against an intellectual matrix coming from American universities and intersectional theses, which want to essentialize communities and identities, at the antipodes of our republican model which, for its part, postulates equality between human beings, independently of their characteristics of origin, sex, religion. It is the breeding ground for a fragmentation of our society and a vision of the world which converges with the interests of the Islamists.”
“This reality has plagued a significant part of the French social sciences in particular, I challenge anyone to tell me the opposite,” he added. “Some do it consciously, others are useful idiots for this cause. But I don’t I never meant to say that all the universities and their presidents were accomplices: they are mostly its victims. This can also be seen in the media world, where a man like Edwy Plenel methodically deploys a strategy of conquering minds whose spring is collective self-hatred.”
The top educator argued that “these phenomena” need to be reversed, allowing for “the renewal of a republican consciousness, at the heart of French society and political life.”
Last year, Macron said France would not attempt the “false rewriting of history” by destroying statues and monuments as devastating riots raged throughout the United States.