Law and Politics in Interwar France

Pierre Laroque's Search for a Democratic Corporatism

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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Pierre Laroque, the architect of French social security, emerged during the 1930s as an advocate for the corporatist management of industrial relations. Laroque's corporatist views were an outgrowth of his educational background and his experiences as a young civil servant. A member of the Conseil d'État, he came under the influence of the main doctrines of French public law. During the first half of the twentieth century, legal thinkers such as Léon Duguit and Maurice Hauriou elaborated theoretical justifications for the growing interventionism of the state. As a student of the law, Pierre Laroque became concerned with maintaining the balance between the necessity of state intervention and the preservation of individual and collective rights, thus explaining his interest in administrative decentralization. By the mid-1930s, after being assigned to the Conseil National Économique, he became interested in industrial conflict and applied a similar approach to the issue of collective bargaining. Impressed by the social achievements of Fascist Italy, Laroque advocated the corporatist management of industrial relations, an objective that he promoted in a succession of political and intellectual forums associated with the nonconformist movement. A new collective bargaining mechanism would bring together the state, business, and labor in order to mediate and resolve industrial disputes. Unlike the Fascists, however, this form of corporatism did not break with democratic or republican principles; rather, it was a decentralized administrative structure that compensated for the weaknesses of the collective bargaining process while providing a new forum for the cultivation of social solidarity.

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