Martine Aubry: a New Spring for World Leadership

by Roz Foster

In 2012, Martine Aubry may become the first présidente (female president) of France.  In 2000, Aubry pushed through the 35-hour workweek along with universal health care for France.  She’s been mayor of Lille since 2001 and the leader of the French Socialist party (the first woman in the role) since 2008.  She is currently a candidate in her party’s primary (which will be held October 9, 2011) for the upcoming 2012 French presidential election.  On July 26 of this year, she revealed a key facet of her proposed presidency.  Publishing an article in Le Monde,“Un nouveau printemps pour la culture,” or, “A new cultural spring,“ she detailed that under her leadership, the state would support young artists and those called to culturally-oriented vocations by nourishing their education and careers with a 30% to 50% increase to France’s cultural budget.  The proposal might be perceived as impractical in these times of world economic crisis and, as such, Aubry’s push for it seems, on the surface, strategically cryptic, even reckless.

So, why encourage young people to pursue a creative vocation at the state’s expense in the midst of the worst economic crisis to hit the world since 1929?   In Aubry’s late July proposal, she writes, “Creation and culture are not a luxury in times of crisis.  Instead, they offer the keys for our exit from it.”  What Aubry sees—that other world leaders seem blind to during periods of turmoil and economic contraction—is that artists are the foundation of cultural innovation and renewal.  They provide a crucial communications channel between the underclasses and the ruling classes, a channel, which, in an economic crisis above all, must remain open.  Artists break down outmoded ideologies and dated infrastructures.  They introduce pioneering solutions for modern problems.  They provide a cathartic, frank and highly practical outlet for expressing the suffering of the impoverished and unemployed, messages designed to inform the ruling classes.  This bridge of communication between the rich or powerful and the poor or powerless is essential today when the gap between them continues to widen.  When the bridge is broken, the socially, economically, culturally and politically marginalized must find other ways to communicate with the more integrated and influential echelons.  If unheard, the discussion tends to manifest as civil unrest.  We saw this happen in Britain this August; in Grenoble, France, last year; in Paris in 2005; in Los Angeles in 1992; and, of course, we’re seeing this in the Arab Spring.

Visual, literary and performing artists show us how to understand the chaos and crises of our present so that we can find real and lasting solutions.  Far from foolhardy, Martine Aubry possesses a practical and penetrating understanding of how national neglect of creative expression leads to fractured communications between disparate communities, isolating them from one another, and breeding broken societies.  Her influence on the international community would be a boon to us all, especially to us here in The United States, where most are blind to the link between the decline of Arts and the decline of our national unity and stability.


Aubry, Martine.  “Un nouveau printemps pour la culture.”  Le Monde.   Paris: July 26, 2011:


  1. Roz- Great post here! Yes! Yes! And Yes! I had no idea about Aubry’s agenda, and am so grateful for her fighting for the cause. Most people tend to forget that the arts have a very real role in society, especially, most crucially, in times of upheaval. All the most celebrated works of art were wrought during historical moments of crises. Richard Florida has dedicated his life to championing the arts here in the U.S. and has written several books on “The Creative Class” studying cities that support artists and innovators to prove how this demographic builds communities and generates sustainability.

    My students brought up an excellent point yesterday during our last discussion of Marx’s “Wage-Labour.” One of them argued that Marx urges the workers to rise up, but, really, she stated, the scholars and intellects, our creative innovators, are the ones to lead change. We take that for granted most of the time, so I’m very glad to hear a politician hasn’t overlooked or denied this critical truth, but instead is going out of her way to support us.

    I’m passionately interested about how we can make a case for the arts. So, I welcome your ideas and dialogue.Thanks for enlightening us.

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