“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!
It is argued that the concept of “French studies” originally embodied in this journal was born of a unique constellation of social, cultural, and political forces characteristic of the middle years of the Cold War. The unity of the field defined by that moment was subsequently challenged by tensions inherent in the shift to a more transnational comparative perspective. A return to a ”reflective equilibrium” between the local and the global anchored in an emphasis on language and culture is advocated.
With FPCS embarking on its fourth decade of publishing work on the study of France and the francophone world, the journal invited scholars in several disciplines to write short essays on where they thought the field of French Studies should head in the future. This essay introduces the resulting dossier on “French Studies and Its Futures.” It situates the project in the current context in which the field is thriving intellectually but struggling with menacing institutional pressures. It goes on to describe the particular formulation of French Studies that the journal came to represent in its early years in the 1980s, how it evolved since, and what that experience suggests about how scholars can respond creatively to the challenges and opportunities the future may hold for the field.
The 2007 presidential elections have been the most important in France since 1981 because they provoked ruptures in the way the state and the French political system function. These ruptures, which this essay explores, include: the structural advantage the Right now has over the Left in national elections; the extension of the president's power and role in the regime; the transformation of the French political parties system into bipartism; and, finally, evolution inside the two major French parties due not only to the personality, ideas and choices of their respective candidates but also to the growing role of the president in the regime and its effects.
In Charles Cogan’s article, “The Iraq Crisis and France: Heaven-Sent Opportunity or Problem from Hell?”, French Politics, Culture & Society 22, 3 (Fall 2004), it was stated on page 126 that on 21 December 2002 the French Chief of Staff visited the Pentagon.
The staff of French Politics, Culture & Society is pleased to congratulate STÉPHANE GERSON, Associate Professor of French Studies, New York University, on winning the fifth Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies (2003-2005) awarded by the Association for French Cultural Studies.
Remembering the PCF and CGT
Philippe Herzog and Jean-Louis Moynot were members of the top leaderships of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), respectively. Each participated in and lived through the dramatic years from the 1960s through the 1980s when both organizations first supported Union de la Gauche and then turned away from it, eventually precipitating both into decline in ways that would transform eventually the French political and trade union left. The strategic shifts underlying these deep and significant changes were traumatic for those who lived through them. Herzog and Moynot have recently published memoirs detailing their experiences of this period and their political lives thereafter. Both books, in different ways, give us new and important understandings of what happened during a critical moment of change in French politics.
With this issue the journal enters exciting new territory. As we announced to readers earlier this year, French Politics and Society now adds Culture to its name to signal our ambition to broaden the multidisciplinary reach of the journal. We encourage anthropologists, sociologists, and historians to see FPCS as a place to present their work to a remarkably diverse readership that spans the globe. We also welcome contributions from specialists exploring connections between French society and cultural expression of all sorts, including film, the visual arts, literature, and popular culture.
Helena Rosenblatt A Virtue of Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748–1830 by Aurelian Craiutu
Michael S. Smith Les Batailles de l'impôt: Consentement et résistances de 1789 à nos jours by Nicolas Delalande
Daniel Lee Nazi Labour Camps in Paris: Austerlitz, Lévitan, Bassano, July 1943–August 1944 by Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Sarah Gensburger
Jessica Wardhaugh Defending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage under Vichy by Elizabeth Campbell Karlsgodt
Damien Mahiet Music and the Elusive Revolution: Cultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968–1981 by Eric Drott
Terri E. Givens Inside the Radical Right: The Development of Anti-Immigrant Parties in Western Europe by David Art