Ancient and/or Modern

by Theodore Dalrymple (November 2012)

An article in the French leftish-liberal newspaper, Le Monde, for 15 September, drew attention with evident unease or even mild disapproval to the results of a poll conducted in France by the fine arts magazine, Beaux Arts. To the question of whether it is more important to safeguard the treasures of the past or to promote creativity, the respondents replied by a very large majority that the former is the more important. The article implied that, pace the advertisement, forty million Frenchman can be wrong.

But I think the main concern of the author of the article is what might be called that of cultural psychology. For the author, the poll (the actual figures of which she does not give) indicates that the French are now a backward looking people, with no confidence in the future and not much ability to create one either. They are living the dream of a past than cannot be recaptured.

That modernism in France was and is more than a merely aesthetic mistake, but was and is motivated by a mean-spirited, envious, ideological levelling impulse, is something that the article in Le Monde makes clear:

It promotes the process of gentrification, chasing the least well-off classes from the city centres when real estate prices rise with the growth of tourism.

To comment on this essay, please click here.


If you have enjoyed this article and want to read more by Theodore Dalrymple, please click here.