Conservative French nationalists had successfully labeled antimilitarism as antinationalist in the two decades preceding World War I. Because some of the more vocal antimilitarists were also involved in anarchist and radical Marxist organizations, historians largely have accepted this antinationalist label while also arguing that French nationalism had lost its connections to the French Revolution and become a more extremist, protofascist movement. A closer look at mainstream antimilitarist arguments, however, reveals the continued existence of the republican nationalism that had dominated the nineteenth century and shows that antimilitarists did not reject their nation. Instead, antimilitarists sought to protect the Republic, which they saw as synonymous with the nation, against an increasingly conservative, anti-Republic military and conservative nationalists, whom antimilitarists saw as a danger to a republican France.
“All history is contemporary history,” observed Benedetto Croce. Work on the French Revolution has often proven his insight.* In today’s globalizing climate, it is worth examining French revolutionary historians’ uneven embrace of the current historiographic trend toward transnational approaches. On one hand, scholarship has been comparatively slow to take this turn for several reasons, notably the persistent belief in the centrality of the nation. The revolutionaries themselves built claims of French exceptionalism into their construction of universalism, and historians have inherited the strong sense that the Revolution held particular power and played an integral role in constructing French national identity.
The most common perception of France found these days in the American media is that of an arrogant country, whose international gesticulations are the last hurrah masking its inevitable decline into oblivion. The French have not yet come to terms with their lengthy collapse, which started with the devastation of World War I, continued with the humiliation of their defeat in 1940 and was furthered by the loss of their colonial empire. This would explain their support, still to this day, for a Gaullist policy made up of power incantations, in contrast to real power—or lack thereof. Of course, this characterization is meant as much as an insult as an objective statement of fact. What few of these American commentators comprehend, however, is how much this image of a nation blinded by self-confidence is erroneous. On the contrary, the French have excelled at self-flagellation for a long time, rightly or wrongly. Whether one calls it “malaise” or decline, French commentators are the first to confess that France is free-falling—whether vis-à-vis the US, its European partners, or its own aspirations.
scholarship devoted to French periodicals, the intertwined history of French and English publications has received little attention. 3 Yet it was the English who took the lead in the establishment and development of the illustrated press. In this brief essay
Autopsy of an Ambition
The French carbon tax was to become in 2010 the centerpiece of the country's new climate change mitigation strategy. After a heated public debate, the Constitutional Council, France's higher constitutional law body, censored the executive's proposal, which in turn, in the aftermath of a severe electoral defeat, announced the indefinite postponement of the carbon tax. This article tries to make sense of this important sequence in French contemporary public life by reviewing its different facets: environmental economics, political economy, constitutional law, and finally politics.
A Generation in the Making
In the spring of 2000, the Financial Times eagerly predicted that the world would be piloted by a new global generation of managers who, having been educated at business schools, share similar ideas and values.1 To this generation belong managers in start-up companies that provide goods and services online. These e-managers work with and on the Internet, which reaches worldwide instantly and redefines our concepts of time and place. Since emanagers have the whole world as their “playground,” they are likely to replace traditional nation-based feelings of belonging with new values and identities. French magazines went even further than the Financial Times, stating that since e-managers speak English and have adopted the American way of doing business, they would eventually Americanize French society.2 Or, rather, e-managers would turn France into a society that mirrored the stereotypes of American society that have been prevalent in France.
Frédéric Martel, The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France since 1968, trans. Jane Marie Todd (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); Le Rose et le noir: les homosexuels en France depuis 1968, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged (Paris: Seuil, 2000).
Florence Tamagne, Histoire de l’homosexualité en Europe: Berlin, Londres, Paris 1919-1939 (Paris: Seuil, 2000).
Carolyn J. Dean, The Frail Social Body: Pornography, Homosexuality, and Other Fantasies in Interwar France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
Daniel Borrillo, Eric Fassin, and Marcela Iacub, eds., Au-delà du PaCS: l’expertise familiale à l’épreuve de l’homosexualité, (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 1999).
Louis-Georges Tin and Geneviève Pastre, eds., Homosexualités: expression/répression, (Paris: Stock, 2000).
Why do the French appear as incorrigible anti-Americans? Why is France singled out as a bastion of systematic opposition to US policies? Anti-Americanism can be defined as an unfavorable predisposition towards the United States, which leads individuals to interpret American actions through pre-existing views and negative stereotypes, irrespectively of the facts. It is based on a belief that there is something fundamentally wrong at the essence of what is America. This unfavorable predisposition manifests itself in beliefs, attitudes and rhetoric, which may or may not affect political behavior. Is France, according to this definition, anti-American? It is difficult in practice to distinguish between genuine anti-Americanism (disposition) and genuine criticism of the United States (opinion). It is partly because of this definitional ambiguity that France appears more anti-American than its European partners. While it is not clear that the French have a stronger negative predisposition against the US, they do have stronger opinions about America for at least three main reasons: the deep reservoir of anti-American arguments accumulated over the centuries; the simultaneous coexistence of a variety of types of anti-Americanism; and the costless ways in which anti-Americanism has been used for political benefit. This article explores each of these three features in turn, before discussing briefly the consequences of French anti-Americanism on world politics.
Perspectives on a Protean Concept
This introductory article reflects on the new momentum that political radicalism has taken on in France. The ebb and flow of radical aspiration featured regularly in French politics under the Fourth and early Fifth Republics, before the failure of the "Socialist experiment" in the early 1980s brought about a paradigm shift. In the wake of this failure and with the "end of ideology" supposedly in sight, political leaders and parties tempered their appeals to radical solutions and conspired, not least through recurrent power-sharing, to vacate mainstream political discourse of much of its former radicalism. Since the presidential election of 2007, however, there has been a marked return to promises of radical change as the common currency of political discourse across the full left-right spectrum in France. This article introduces a special issue of French Politics, Culture & Society that brings together scholars from France, Britain, and Canada to discuss some of the meanings, expressions, and prospects of political radicalism in France today.
Reflections on a Trope in Eighteenth-Century Historiography
This article attempts to explain the appeal of "terror" in the French Revolution by examining the history of the concept of terror. It focuses on historiographical representations of sovereign powers, whether monarchs or nations, as "terrors" of their enemies. It argues that the term typically connoted majesty, glory, justice and hence legitimacy. Moreover, historiographical depictions of past rulers and nations frequently emphasized the transiency of terror as an attribute of power; they dramatized decline in formulations such as "once terrible." For the revolutionaries, terror therefore provided a means of legitimation, but one that always had to be guarded and reinforced.