This article examines the 1994–1995 controversy surrounding President François Mitterrand’s past involvement with Vichy France through the concept of “the gray zone.” Differing from Primo Levi’s gray zone, it refers here to the language that emerged in France to account for the previously neglected complicity of bystanders and beneficiaries and the indirect facilitation of the injustices of the Vichy regime. The affair serves as a site for exploring the nuances and inflections of this concept of the gray zone—both in the way it was used to indict those accused of complicity with Vichy, and as a means for those, like Mitterrand, who defended themselves by using the language of grayness. Paying attention to these invocations of the gray zone at this historical conjuncture allows us to understand the logic and stakes of both the criticisms of Mitterrand and his responses to them, particularly in terms of contemporaneous understandings of republicanism and human rights.
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.
Belief in the possibility of a revolutionary transformation of French society sustained much of the political and cultural ferment in France in the quarter century following the end of World War II. Perry Anderson, in two articles published in the London Review of Books, argues that the decline of this faith has cast a pall over France, and he traces this decline in large part to the work of historians François Furet and Pierre Nora. It is argued here that Anderson neglects broader economic, societal, and cultural forces that combined to undermine belief in the transformative power of revolution and is therefore led to an unduly pessimistic interpretation of the cultural turn of the 1970s.
Michael Sutton, France and the Construction of Europe 1944–2007 (Oxford: Berghahn, 2007).
Tilo Schabert, How World Politics is Made: France and the Reunification of Germany, trans. John Tyler Tuttle (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009).
Frédéric Bozo, Mitterrand, the End of the Cold War and German Unification, trans. Susan Emanuel (Oxford: Berghahn, 2009).
Whitney Walton The Virtuous Marketplace: Women and Men, Money and Politics in Paris, 1830-1870 by Victoria E. Thompson
Catherine Bertho Lavenir Marketing Michelin: Advertising and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century France by Stephen L. Harp
Robert O. Paxton France: The Dark Years, 1940-44 by Julian Jackson
Marianne in Chains by Robert Gildea
Gérard Grunberg François Mitterrand: The Last French President by Ronald Tiersky
Martin A. Schain The Dignity of Working Men by Michèle Lamont
Public Attitudes Toward Immigration in the United States, France and Germany by Joel S. Fetzer
French Financial Diplomacy from 1995 to 2002
In the mid-1990s, a series of financial crises placed international financial stability and North-South dialogue once again very firmly on the agenda of economic diplomacy. These had long been pet topics for the French: back in the 1960s, President Charles de Gaulle had famously clamoured for the establishment of a new monetary order; the summitry set up, on French initiative, in 1975, had been largely focused on exchange rate stability and North-South relations; in the 1980s, President Mitterrand had made repeated appeals for a “new Bretton Woods.” One could therefore expect the French to contribute actively to debates on how best to reform the international financial architecture.
Joan W. Scott
Robert Nye’s elegant essay rightly puts the PaCS, and the debates about it, into a historical context of French natalism. At least since the late nineteenth century, reproduction has been the raison d’être of the married couple and the state has often made fertility synonymous with patriotism. From this has followed all manner of representations, many of them contradictory. Thus although it surely was the case, as Nye shows, that marriage was eroticized and marital love idealized, it was also the case that reproduction and sexual satisfaction were considered separate domains. French bourgeois culture, however idealized its family, has long been associated with the inevitability of extramarital affairs. One of the reasons French commentators found the Monica Lewinsky scandal ridiculous and symptomatic of what they define as American puritanism, was that it contrasted so sharply with their own customs and expectations. Mitterrand’s second family was hardly shocking from that perspective; and judging by films, novels and statistical findings, the desire of men and women can rarely be satisfied within the confines of marriage. Indeed one of the aims of the PaCS was to resolve the tension between laws based on a sentimental view of the family and social practices that had given the lie to these views. The abolition of the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children is an example of this; it recognizes that marriage is no longer enduring and that family arrangements have eroded the grounds on which “legitimacy” was once conferred.
Martinique and the French Presidential Election of 2007
In May 2007, Martinique did not follow the rest of France in endorsing Nicolas Sarkozy in his bid to become president. Along with the other overseas French states Guadeloupe and Réunion (but not Guyane), Martinique supported rather the Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal. Martinique thereby distanced itself from the rest of the République—as it had done in 1995—by backing a left-wing presidential candidate rather than the ultimately victorious right-wing one. 2007 represents the converse of 1981, when Martinique voted for the rightist candidate but France as a whole elected a leftist (François Mitterrand). Over time, being at electoral odds with the nation as a whole has become less troubling for Martinicans: independence, which most islanders oppose, is no longer seen at stake in presidential outcomes. On the other hand, Martinicans have become progressively resigned to their peripheral status within French presidential politics.
An Interview with Aimé Césaire
William F.S. Miles
Nineteen eighty-two marked a milestone in the history of Martinique and the career of Aimé Césaire. One year had passed since François Mitterrand's election as president and Césaire's declaration of a "moratorium" on challenging the island's status as a French département (state). Pro-independence violence still rocked the French West Indies. In this interview Césaire discusses the burdens of material dependency, dangers of in- and out-migration, centralizing legacies of France, opportunities afforded by Socialist governance, the need for decentralization, and the future of Martinican identity. The interview reveals Césaire's strategic flexibility within inviolate principles, his unique capacity to channel his people's psyche, his keen recognition of the relationship between nationalism and economics, and his sensitivity to micropolitics and intra-island differences.
K. Steven Vincent Victor Considérant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism by Jonathan Beecher
Thomas Kselman Educating the Faithful: Religion, Schooling, and Society in Nineteenth-Century France by Sarah A. Curtis
Hollis Clayson Impressionists and Politics: Art and Democracy in the Nineteenth Century by Philip Nord
Alice Bullard The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940 by Peter Zinoman
Michael Miller Cette vilaine affaire Stavisky. Histoire d’un scandale politique by Paul Jankowski, trans. Patrick Hersant
Philip Nord Les Orphelins de la République: Destinées des députés et sénateurs français (1940-1945) by Olivier Wieviorka
Daniel G. Cohen The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Western Europe, 1945–1965 by Pieter Lagrou
Warren Motte French Fiction in the Mitterrand Years: Memory, Narrative, Desire by Colin Davis and Elizabeth Fallaize
Christopher S. Thompson “Être Rugby”: Jeux du masculin et du féminin by Anne Saouter