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.
Perspectives on a Protean Concept
“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!
The Language and Politics of Race in the Late Third Republic
Jennifer Anne Boittin
This article uses notes generated by France's surveillance of African and Afro-Caribbean migrants during the interwar years to analyze the use black men made of racial terms such as nègre and mulâtre. Although developed before the twentieth century, such racial language was infused with new political, social and cultural meaning after World War I. Workers and intellectuals, often at odds with each other, developed a race consciousness that was both a means of uniting in response to colonialism and a reaction against those within their communities who did not appear anti-imperial enough in their politics. Arguing that racial language expressed the nuances and range of black men's political and ideological stances with respect to the French Empire, this article traces the meanings granted to race and the important role in cultivating their significance played by members of organizations such as the Union des Travailleurs Nègres.
From Consolidation to Collapse?
The presidential and legislative elections of 2007 are widely seen to have marked the end of the Far Right as a major political force in France. How could this occur only five years after Le Pen's qualification for the presidential run-off, and with his party seemingly in the ascendant? This article discusses recent fluctuations in Far Right electoral performance in France. It focuses largely on the presidential elections of 2002 and 2007, re-examining the (supposed) upswell of Far Right support in 2002 and its (supposed) subsidence in 2007. Both elections require nuanced interpretation. Both confounded poll predictions, which in 2007 failed to measure the effect of Sarkozy's hard-right campaign and, crucially, the extent to which the border between “mainstream Right” and “Far Right” had shifted since 2002. This allowed Sarkozy to drain part of Le Pen's electorate, and raises questions over the wider impact of Le Pen and the FN on the political agenda in France.
The evolution of French culture from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century is described as a succession of three "cultural configurations": humanist (or literary/philosophical), scientific/organic, and industrial. The transformation of the culture is linked to changes in the educational system in response to France's altered place in the global order after 1945. French attitudes toward, and internal critiques of, the shifting cultural hegemony are examined as both causes and consequences of these evolving configurations.
In France, the 21 April 2002 presidential election result has renewed interest in the electoral cleavage between women and men, who cast their votes very differently to qualify candidates for the second round of the election. Among women voters, Lionel Jospin (the Socialist leader) came in second behind Jacques Chirac, with Jean-Marie Le Pen (leader of the Front national) being eliminated from the contest; among men, Le Pen came out on top followed by Chirac. On the basis of a major quantitative election survey conducted in France in 2002 by the Centre de Recherches Politiques de Sciences Po, this article undertakes to understand why fewer women than men vote for the extreme Right. Sociologically, Le Pen made his lowest scores among two groups of women that contrast in numerous aspects: young, highly educated professional women, and older, retired, widowed women. Strong ideological logics lie behind this contrasted sociology of female anti-Lepenism, rationales that are generation-specific, but gender-specific as well: feminism and Catholicism "process" male and female identity differently. (This research was first published in French in Bruno Cautrès and Nonna Mayer, eds., Le Nouveau Désordre électoral (2004), 207-28.)
The Conseil National des Femmes Françaises (1901-1939)
Focusing on the history of the Conseil national des femmes françaises, composed mainly of Jewish and Protestant women, this article shows how women's philanthropies played an important role in defining the scope and the type of welfare policies concerning mothers and children in France in the first half of the twentieth century. Their version of laïcité raises also several questions: did the religious question recede behind the social question? What role did the different religious distinctions continue to play in shaping welfare measures during the Third Republic? What was their role in defining the meaning of laïcité for social policies at this time? This paper shows that the main French social policy of allocations familiales, adopted in 1932, is the product of intense tensions between Church familialism and state maternalism. Catholic familialism promoted the home as the center of women's activity, lobbied against women's professional work, and refused any intervention of the state in family affairs. State maternalism, promoted primarily by religious minorities and some nonreligious feminists, wanted state intervention in protecting mothers and children. These deeply convinced republicans sought to change family laws and improve family morals. If these Protestant and Jewish philanthropies succeeded in defining the mainstream of laïcité during the first thirty years of the Third Republic, they failed to have a bigger impact on social legislation when the big leap to a national family allowance system was established in 1932.
Its Consequences for Secularism
All too often, the question of Muslim minorities in Europe and America is discussedsolely in socioeconomic terms or with a simplistic focus on the Islamicreligion and its purported incompatibility with democracy. This article focusesinstead on the secularism of Western host societies as a major factor in the integrationof Muslim minorities. It compares French and American secularismand argues that while French-style secularism has contributed to present tensionsbetween French Muslims and the French state, American secularism hasfacilitated the integration of Muslims in the United States—even after 9/11.
The Name Taboo, the Number Taboo
In 2005, black people in France decided to create a national organization: the CRAN. The country had lived for decades on the myth of human rights and equality, and as a result, minorities were invisible, and were expected to remain so. Therefore, the two most important goals of the CRAN have been: to give a name, to give a figure. The taboo of the name was broken when black people decided to stand up for what they are, to call themselves "black," however unusual this might sound in French public discourse; the taboo of the figure was also broken when the CRAN decided to launch the issue of ethnic statistics in France. Until then, blacks would not exist as such in this country, and racial discrimination would remain ignored for the most part. But since this campaign was launched, ethnic statistics have become an important issue. The debate is still going on.
The French Socialist Party has maintained a deeply ambivalent relationship with political radicalism. Throughout its long history, political radicalism has been experienced both as an internal political contest (hence as a form of intra-party struggle for influence) and as a relationship within (and beyond) the broader party system. This article identifies three levels of analysis as heuristics to facilitate a study of the French Socialist Party over the long term. From the perspective of the party as a whole, the party evolves according to its own eco-system, and is shaped by deeply embedded cultural and political traits. A different level of analysis frames the question of political radicalism organizationally, in terms of relations within and beyond the party. Finally, one can also understand the party's relationship with political radicalism instrumentally and strategically, in terms of electoral alliances. Though there is a tension between these three approaches, each contributes to understanding why the French Socialist Party is sometimes considered a European exception.