2 February 2024

Book. It was in 2005 that the word “province” disappears from political language, shortly after the rejection of the referendum on the European Constitution, an election which directly opposed 84 departments to Paris. The “province” then becomes the “territories”, THE “local”, the “field”, or “in the region”. The word has become too evocative of an abandonment of which the capital is gradually feeling the guilt”writes Jérôme Batout, economist and philosopher, in Revenge of the Provincea small essay telling the terrible story of this “dropping”the abandonment of the province by Paris from the 1980s. Before the capital was in turn overtaken by downgrading. “Provincialized”in short.

“At the turn of the 1980s, Paris betrayed the province and played globalization against it”, analyzes Jérôme Batout. Shedding its territorial roots, the capital is betting on luxury, tourism and the tertiary sector, against the industry and the agricultural world that have fed it and made it rich for several centuries.

But Paris is not a port, unlike London or New York, the author reminds us. Its destiny is linked to its hinterland, economically, but also demographically. However, in the post-war period, as American power emerged, Paris chose to push industry, which was too uncompetitive, outside the city’s borders to make room for new, more profitable activities. And to specialize the territory: business in Paris, industry and agriculture in the provinces.

“Paris chooses the rich”

This “geographic secession” allow the effects of globalization to be concentrated far from the capital. From the 1990s, the factories in the provinces no longer fed the profits of the large groups whose headquarters grew in La Défense. In barely ten years, the “solidarity of destiny” that existed between Paris and the provinces is broken.

Paris abandons the rest of the territory, relocating jobs, reducing train lines and public services. The “yellow vests” and then the Covid-19 pandemic make the consequences of this drop brutally visible. The capital is becoming aware of the effects of the destruction of its industrial fabric on its own sovereignty. “He had to miss China for six months for Paris to remember the province”sums up the essay.

However, describes Jérôme Batout, it silently took charge from the 2000s. In Lyon, Troyes, Bordeaux, Lille, Grenoble, but also in Valenciennes and overseas, elected officials sought to avert fate based on the same triptych: a strong fabric of local SMEs, the establishment of large foreign companies, and the quest for European funds. A renaissance that the creation of the major regions in 2016 has just completed.

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