In the midst of its periodic convulsions, the word invariably goes out that France is in meltdown. What this means is never spelled out, but the sense is conveyed that the country that gave us DéscartesMontesquieu and Voltaire, is heading into Mad Max territory, where anything can happen and probably will.

In fact, what actually happens is that order is restored, deeply felt resentments are once more bottled up and life continues much as before. It is the French way.