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Sartre: Intellectual of the Twentieth Century

David Drake

There is little doubt that Sartre would have a strong claim to the title of greatest French intellectual of the twentieth century, but what exactly does “intellectual” mean in relation to Sartre? It is beyond both the compass and purpose of this paper to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the debate around the definition and role of “the intellectual.” I will simply dip a toe into these troubled waters by focusing on two dimensions of the term intellectual, namely what I call a socio-professional definition and a political definition.

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Can French Studies Exist Today?

George Ross

“French studies” were much easier to do thirty years ago when French Politics, Culture & Society was founded. France then seemed, and largely was, synonymous with Paris, which appeared knowable. It also seemed possible to scan French intellectual and cultural life across disciplines, in part because the Parisian French media loudly announced where the action was. French politics also looked distinctive internationally and French leaders projected themselves around the planet. It was understandable that FPCS would have holistic goals and attempt to cover as much of what was happening as possible while eagerly embracing inter-disciplinarity. Since then there have been massive changes, however. France's intellectual, cultural, social, and political biographies have been decentralized, Europeanized, globalized, and internationalized. French academic disciplines, like those in other countries, have been subdivided, often in difficult-to-follow ways. France itself, in the 1980s a formerly colonial great power that still spoke stridently in world affairs, is now a medium-sized member of the EU under very great economic and social strains. It is vastly harder to do holistic “French studies” now. All the more reason to try!

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The 'Anti-Existentialist Offensive': The French Communist Party against Sartre (1944-1948)

David Drake

This article considers Sartre's relations with the French Communist Party (PCF) in the years immediately following the Liberation when the PCF considered that, of all the prominent French intellectuals, it was Sartre who posed the greatest threat. This article opens by situating the PCF within the French political landscape immediately after the Liberation and addressing its attitudes towards intellectuals. It then examines the main themes of the attacks launched by the PCF, between 1944 and the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) in 1948, on both Sartre and existentialism and the reasons for these attacks. It concludes by noting the differences between the PCF and Sartre on three specific political issues during this period.

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Observations on the Semantic Trajectory of Pluralism in Scholarly Discourse

A Study of Two Argumentative Tropes

Jean Terrier

Abstract

This article offers a history of pluralism as a term in scholarly discourse. It presents the existing research on the question and offers a contribution on the basis of an inclusive approach that is not limited to one discipline (philosophy or political science) or to one linguistic area. In particular, it references the rich German debate and the important French intellectual developments. Moreover, it considers not only the proponents but also the adversaries of pluralism. There are two recurring elements in the debates on political pluralism. One is the existence, even among the critics of pluralism, of a recognition of plurality at some level. The other is the advocacy, even by authors who strongly emphasize conflict and dissent, of some necessary unity.

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André Siegfried and the Complexities of French Anti-Americanism

Sean Kennedy

Though it is generally agreed that André Siegfried (1875-1959) was one of the most enduring and influential French commentators on the United States between the 1920s and the 1950s, scholars do not agree on the extent to which he should be considered anti-American. This article concludes that while Siegfried found the American social model to be profoundly unsettling, and that his views of the country's population were consistently informed by racist assumptions, he also evinced some admiration for its economic dynamism and regarded it as a necessary if problematic partner. Moreover, for much of his career many American commentators regarded Siegfried as a perceptive and fair-minded observer of their country, though by the 1950s his racist views drew increasing criticism. Siegfried's career thus illustrates the complexities of French intellectual anti-Americanism.

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Aimé Césaire as Poet, Rebel, Statesman

William F.S. Miles

On 17 April 2008, at the age of ninety-four, the foremost Black French intellectual-cum-politician of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries passed away. Born in the northwestern fishing village of Basse Pointe on the southeastern Caribbean island of Martinique on 26 June 1913, Aimé Césaire rose from humble beginnings to become a giant in the annals of colonial and postcolonial francophone literature. As the holder of several elected offices, from city mayor of the capital of Martinique to representative in the National Assembly of France, he was also a significant political actor. He was largely responsible for the legislation that, following World War II, elevated four of France’s “Old Colonies” in the West Indies and Indian Ocean into full French states (départements). A dozen years later he founded a political party that would struggle to roll back the very assimilating, deculturalizing processes that statehood (départementalisation) unleashed.

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The Gallic Singularity

The Medieval and Early Modern Origins

Tracy Adams

Abstract

The popular narrative that the French relationship between the sexes is more emotionally rewarding than its American counterpart has entered into scholarly discourse over the past decades. Promoted by several well-known French feminist scholars, the narrative locates the particularity of the French relationship in its paradoxical structure: women are both equal and not equal to men. Sexual difference lies in the particular, which is subordinate to the universal value of equality. The narrative was most recently revived in the anti-#MeToo manifesto published in Le Monde in January 2018. This article surveys the narrative's history, beginning with French feudal law and tracing it through some of its later iterations to highlight how it has long offered French women a way of performing femininity while exercising power. The emotional investment in this narrative explains why it continues to be accepted among at least some French intellectuals, whereas it is generally rejected by American feminists.

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Book Reviews

Rosalind Williams Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London by Sharon Marcus

Robert Aldrich Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Métissage by Françoise Vergès

Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa 1895-1960 by Owen White

Michael Miller The Construction of Memory in Interwar France by Daniel J. Sherman

Christian Delacampagne Émigré New York: French Intellectuals in Wartime Manhattan, 1940-1944 by Jeffrey Mehlman

Robert L. Frost Retour sur la condition ouvrière: enquête aux usines Peugeot de Sochaux-Montbéliard by Stéphane Beaud and Michel Pialoux

Christopher K. Ansell Comprendre les évolutions électorales: la théorie des réalignements revisitée by Pierre Martin

Michel Devigne and David Mulhmann Paris, ville invisible by Bruno Latour and Émilie Hermant

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“Our Actions Never Cease to Haunt Us”

Frantz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Violence of the Algerian War

Emma Kuby

This article considers two famous works published in France during the Algerian War and forever after interpretively linked: Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth and Jean-Paul Sartre's Preface to Fanon's book. It argues that yoking together the two texts has distorted key features of each, in particular as they relate to the multiform problem of violence. To overcome a misreading of Fanon's position by Sartre, the analysis presented here uses the under-examined clinical case studies in the final chapter of Wretched to emphasize Fanon's acknowledgment of violence as a source of trauma, not only a means by which trauma is transcended. It then attempts to explain Sartre's reinterpretation of Fanon's message in light of ongoing postwar debates within the French intellectual Left about the revolutionary potential of violence in metropolitan France.

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Alsace-Lorraine and Africa

French Discussions of French and German Politics, Culture, and Colonialism in the Deliberations of the Union for Truth, 1905–1913

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

This article explores the ways in which French intellectuals understood the changing and intersecting relationships between France and Germany, France and Alsace-Lorraine, and France and Africa during the early twentieth-century expansion of the French empire. The body of the text analyzes the interdisciplinary discussions of Paul Desjardins, Charles Gide, and their academic and activist colleagues at the Union pour la vérité (Union for Truth) and its Libres entretiens (Open Conversations) in the immediate aftermath of the First and Second Moroccan Crises. Focusing on the Union's 1905–1906 and 1912–1913 debates over the issues of nationalism, internationalism, imperialism, and colonization provides a new understanding of the relationship between French national identity and French imperial identity. The conclusion explains how and why this group of largely progressive French political analysts simultaneously rejected German expansion into France and justified French expansion across the African continent.