With this issue, French Politics, Culture & Society celebrates its thirty-fifth year of publication and honors its co-founder, Stanley Hoffmann, who died two years ago at the age of eighty-six. When he and George Ross launched the journal in 1983, Stanley, as he was fondly called by his colleagues and graduate students, had long since become America’s pre-eminent observer of France and a distinguished authority on French history, European comparative politics, and American foreign policy. From the beginning, the journal reflected its founders’ broad vision of what it meant to study things French and to keep abreast of current affairs. Stanley’s capacious enthusiasms ran from literature and film to history, politics, and economics. He always thought about France in wider contexts—European, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and beyond. He took, as George Ross has called it, a “holistic” approach to studying France by looking for connections between realms of experience and by drawing on the tools of many disciplines. Stanley remains an inspiration for thinkers, writers, and teachers on both sides of the Atlantic, and is much missed by those who knew him, not least for the wisdom, insight, and wit he would have brought to this tumultuous moment in American and European politics.
As a tribute to Stanley, this issue features essays by five of his former colleagues and students. Each author acknowledges Stanley’s influence and explores some region of the vast scholarly domain he cared about. Peter Gourevitch’s essay would have spoken to him most intimately, because it investigates what we can learn from juxtaposing Stanley’s own experience surviving as a Jewish refugee child in Vichy France (in 1934 he and his mother moved to Paris from Vienna) with the experience of Peter Gourevitch’s grandparents, who as refugees first from Stalin’s Russia and then from Hitler’s Germany also found themselves trapped in Pétain’s France. Stories such as these echo all too loudly in Europe today, with its current debates over refugees and with America’s callous response.
Suzanne Berger takes Stanley’s work on the Vichy regime and on Pierre Poujade’s rightwing populism in the 1950s as touchstones for her own thinking about Marine Le Pen’s National Front and Donald Trump’s electoral victory. To understand today’s rightwing populist electoral revolts, she urges us—as did Stanley—to look beyond the economic dislocation and cultural disposition of aggrieved citizens to focus on the political failure of mainstream parties and interest groups to represent them.
Charles Maier pursues another of Stanley’s lifelong scholarly concerns—Europe’s postwar project of economic and political integration—by interrogating the claim, often made by Euroskeptics, that Europe lacks a “demos” (a sense of being a common people) strong enough to build an authentic political union. This view, Maier argues, overestimates how much “demos” mattered in building nations in the past and underestimates how much the practice of everyday politics—voting, supporting parties, fighting for policies—can over time nurture feelings of political belonging, even at a supranational European level.
Yet another of Stanley’s interests were French-American comparisons, illuminating in their own right but also useful to help the informed citizenries of both countries understand each other. Anne Sa’adah picks up this mantle by comparing how, over the past two decades, rightwing political innovators in France and the United States transformed the National Front and the Republican Party, respectively, making these parties the powerful, disruptive forces they have become. As she shows, Bruno Mégret and Newt Gingrich, figures no longer in the headlines, left legacies we are likely to live with for some time to come.
Finally, Sophie Meunier examines France’s role in the world, a subject Stanley returned to time and again over the course of his career. Meunier draws up a current balance sheet of France’s influence abroad as a political and economic player and as a model that others might follow. She finds that France’s standing has declined in many (though by no means all) areas, and she asks what prospects the current moment—Emmanuel Macron’s electoral victory in the face of Europe’s resurgent nationalism—might hold for a France still capable of renewal. Leadership matters, she reminds us, as did Stanley in his studies of Charles de Gaulle.
It is easy to see Stanley’s influence in these essays, as well as in the mission of the journal itself. We remain as committed as ever to its founding precepts—the multidisciplinary and holistic approach to understanding societies and polities; the eagerness to range ambitiously across topics, time periods, and points of view; and the appetite for debate. Stanley kept enlarging his intellectual territory, and the journal has done so as well, in recent years giving special attention, for example, to French colonial history and its postcolonial consequences; to French-speaking societies outside Europe; to issues of gender, sexuality, race, and religion that were only beginning to make their way into the center of French political debate when the journal begin; and to a widening range of cultural forms—music, graphic novels, television, social media—that play a role in French public life.
A sense of political and intellectual urgency also continues to energize the enterprise, just as it had at its founding. Stanley Hoffmann and George Ross created the journal a year-and-a-half after French voters had bucked the conservative tide of Reagan and Thatcher (and soon to come, Helmut Kohl) to elect François Mitterrand as the Fifth Republic’s first leftwing president. “French politics and society are rapidly changing,” Hoffmann and Ross wrote in their inaugural editorial, “as France undergoes one of the most extraordinary periods of reform attempted in any advanced industrial society since the immediate post-war years. … For those whose professions, avocations and passions lead them to observe France and the French, it has become more and more difficult to keep track.” The journal was designed to help readers understand these events, and it went on to do much more. It embraced a bifocal perspective, at one level publishing topical articles, reviews, and special issues pertinent to the latest developments in public life in France, Europe, and the wide francophone world. And at another level, it became an enviable place to publish deeply-researched articles—in history, the social sciences, and cultural analysis—that were to help shape to the multidisciplinary domain of French studies.
Pertinence and depth, immediacy and distance: these dimensions were there from the beginning, Stanley embodied them, and they have continued to define the journal’s aspirations. You can see these dimensions at play in this current issue, with its articles and reviews traversing two centuries, two continents, several disciplines, and speaking both to the immediate political moment—can Macron help salvage the European project?—and, in our dossier on “France, Algeria, and Wine,” to the long-term research agenda that Elizabeth Heath and Owen White offer scholars seeking to explore the economics of empire. We have just been through what may be the most soul-wrenching election season to date in the Fifth Republic. More turbulence is surely to come. The need to understand France, Europe, and their place in the wider world has rarely been greater. To address the need, this journal will continue to do its part.