'When I look at France, I see greatness that has become hysteria'

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Belgian political thinker, historian and award-winning writer David Van Reybrouck believes that France has the most ossified political system in Western Europe, a “paternalistic republic invented by Charles de Gaulle as if he were presiding over a Sunday lunch” and in conflict with major societal trends. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux, one of a series presenting foreign commentators’ views on French society, Van Reybrouck says that in France “you can vote or demonstrate, but there’s not much in between”. He says the country would do well to look with interest - “rather than condescension” - at recent democratic innovations in smaller countries like Belgium, Ireland or Iceland.

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Mediapart: Why do you say that France has the most fossilised political system in the whole of Western Europe?