PLSC 4340: FRANCE
La belle France, ou dois-je dire vive la republique!
I. Let's start by comparing British and French politics.
A. France has been less stable politically than Britain.
B. Politics is more polarized, less consensual
C. We can speak of the Tradition of Modernity--opposite of Britain
D. France was slower to develop parliamentary democracy and capitalism.
1. Compare the revolutions of 1688 and 1789 (or 1776)
2. Look at the role of ideas in French politics, especially the prominence of Jacobinism, Bonapartism, and
II. The French Experience of Modernization and Political Development
A. Remember our questions
1. State-building (role of the French kings, absolutism, Cardinal Richelieu--1624-42)
2. Nation-building (1789 and the republican synthesis)
3. Extension of rights and the franchise
4. Crisis of participation and distribution
B. On the issue of state-building, note that France is split into
1. Three Frances (see map), ethnically and culturally different
2. Among the most important cleavages in society and politics
a. Town v. country or Paris v. the provinces
b. Church v. State
c. Royalists v. republicans
d. NOTE the absence of social class as a driving factor in French history
e. Also note the weakness or absence of liberalism as a political-economic philosophy
3. France went through MANY different types of regimes and constitutions
C. The Ancien Regime (Old Regime) of the absolutist monarchs (again the role of Richelieu)
1. Reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the "Sun King" (1643-1715)
2. Intense period of state-building
3. Venality of office and the Intendants
4. Colbertist tradition of centralized administration, intense mercantilism, (Jean-Baptiste Colbert was Louis's
chief advisor after 1661)
5. Note the power of the church--until 1661 Cardinal Mazarin was the power behind the throne
6. After Mazarin's death, Louis developed a highly personalized style of rule, with a court at Versailles where the nobility came to participate in a kind of cult of personality
7. Edict of Nantes (1598), issued by Henry IV, ended Wars of Religion,granted rights to French Protestants
(Huguenots). Edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, resulting in a mass exodus of Hugenots.
D. Ancien Regime comes to an end with the French Revolution--1789
1. Louis XVI is forced to call the parlement to raise taxes
2. First time the Estates General was called since 1614
3. Estates General becomes the National Assembly and issues the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
4. The monarchy is abolished in 1792 and the First Republic is created
5. Execution of the King and beginning of the Jacobin terror, with its
Committee of Public Safety, under Robespierre
6. Thermidor, then rule by the Directory or Consulate from 1795-99.
7. The 1790's were a period of great political upheaval and instability.
E. On the 18th Brumaire (revolutionary calendar date for 9 Nov, 1798, Coup d'Etat by General Napoleon Bonaparte, who will become Emperor in 1804)
We will talk about the nineteenth century in the next lecture.
Subject: Lecture 2 on France
A. The Napoleonic Period and the Aftermath of Revolution
1. Napoleon modernized the legal/administrative system, but not the society or economy
2. Note the revolutionary land settlement (peasants gain legal rights to their land)
3. Hence there is no rural exodus in France like we saw in Britain--the bulk of the French population
remains on the land, working in agriculture
4. This exacerbates the tension between Paris and the Provinces and delays the rationalization of
agriculture until after 1945--even today French farmers have more political clout than farmers in
any other advanced industrial democracy
5. Napoleon modernizes the Army, establishes the Ecole Polytechnique (X)--French are very advanced in
engineering and science, but unlike the English they cannot apply these techniques to industry
because of the structure of French capitalism
6. The French have strong "Malthusian" attitudes toward social and economic development--peasant households stop making babies (no law of primogeniture), in order to avoid further subdivision of land
7. Result is an early demographic transition in France, with falling birth rates, and a stagnant population--also
the Malthusian and anti-liberal attitudes make the French very suspicious of capitalism and market economies--basic structure of French capitalism is
a. the family farm
b. small family-run businesses
8. Class structure in 19th century France is very different than in England.
a. peasant freeholders
b. petty bourgeois (small business class)
c. small town elite (notables)
d. liberal or professional class
9. What is the effect of all this on politics?
a. Makes the French VERY conservative, but
b. With a radical republican elite, hence
c. politics is very volatile in the 19th and 20th centuries
10. Napoleon almost conquered Europe and
a. in the process he spread the republican ideals of the French Revolution to the four corners
of Europe, especially to
b. the German states--modern Germany was created BECAUSE of Napoleon, as was modern Italy
B. The Aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the stalemate society
1. Great political experimentation and volatility
a. The Bourbon Restoration, 1815-30 (Legitimist), return to power of the ROYALISTS
b. July Monarchy of Louis Philippe, 1830-48 (Orleanist), bourgeois, constitutional
monarchy--more favorable to business class and free markets
c. Revolutions of 1848 in Europe ushered in the Second Republic--a brief triumph for the
d. But the return to republic was shortlived, because in 1852 there was a coup d'etat by Louis
Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon). This established the Second Empire--a triumph for
2. So you can see that the 19th century was one long political struggle between royalists, bonapartists,
a. Who would win in the end and why?
b. What would be the implications of these political changes for the stalemate society?
C. The republican synthesis and the triumph of republicanism
1. Two events precipitated the triumph of republicanism
a. The French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870--French lost Alsace-Lorraine and
Bismarck established the Second Reich
b. The Paris Commune--in the words of Karl Marx it was the French working class which first
tore the veil of ignorance from the workers of Europe--but the Commune was brutally
suppressed by French troops, under the watchful eyes of the Prussian army.
2. The Third Republic was established in the aftermath of these events--it was a "republic by default," because
neither the royalists nor the bonapartists had enough strength to take the reigns of power.
a. Nevertheless, the Third Republic would last until 1940 (what happened then?).
b. A series of laws would lay the legal foundations for republican gov't in 1875.
3. What were the notable events of the Third Republic?
a. It did not break the stalemate society.
b. It was dominated by the notables (see above)
c. The notables were radicals
d. Socialists were still weak and a very small force, but they were led by a charismatic figure in
Jean-Jaures, assassinated at the beginning of WWI.
e. Conservatives were royalists and opposed to the republican principle of laicite (secularism)
f. After WWI we see a breakthrough for French fascists and communists
4. Boulanger affair, 1889. General Boulanger was an early French fascist, nationalist reactionary--elected
president in 1889. There was an ongoing struggle between the president and parliament (national
assembly) for control of power. Looked like Boulanger would lead a coup d'etat, but he lost his
nerve, fled to Belgium, and committed suicide.
5. Dreyfus Affair, began in 1894. Dreyfus--a French officer who happened to be Jewish was accused of treason, spying for the Germans. He was convicted on trumped up charges and sent to Devils Island. Why is this such an important event in French political history??
Note Emile Zola, J'accuse!
6. Revanchism and World War I, Treaty of Versailles
7. Mal du siècle, interwar period, and the rise of the theatre of the absurd, dadaism, cubism, surrealism
a. interwar period was a time of great artistic experimentation
b. but it was a time of political, economic, and social stalemate--note continuance of
Malthusian attitudes, pronatalist movement
c. French were unable to cope with fascism and communism
8. The Popular Front government under socialist leader, Leon Blum, held out hope that France could be
modernized politically and economically, but the Popular Front collapsed because of communist-led
9. France was politically paralyzed in the face of the rise of fascism in Europe and specifically Nazism
in Germany. War with Germany came in 1939, and theFrench army suffered a catastrophic defeat.
D. France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, and the fascist Vichy Regime was established by Marshall Pétain.
1. A very dark period in French historty
2. Many recriminations, purges, etc.
Le chagrin et la pitié
3. What of the Resistance?
4. Free French forces, led by General Charles de Gaulle, who was in exile in London during WWII.
5. de Gaulle would lead the French after Liberation
This gets us to the contemporary (post-1945) period.
Subject: Lecture 3, Fourth Republic France
I. Legacy of Vichy--Sorrow and the Pity
A. Defeat and Occupation
B. Imposition of a fascist regime
C. Tabula rasa effect and breaking of the stalemate society
D. Collaboration and resistance (see the works of Robert Paxton)
II. Founding of the Fourth Republic (1946-1958)
A. Note the important role of General de Gaulle and his officers in the Free French Forces.
B. Provisional or Tripartite government (Gaullists-Centrists and Socialists-Communists)
1. Which of these three groups would dominate the Fourth Republic--the Centrist forces of radicals,
socialists (SFIO), and liberal or Christian democrats (MRP)
2. What happened to the Gaullists and Communists in the 1950's?
C. Note the importance of economic planning (Colbertiste and Cartesian traditions)
1. Fourth Republic succeeded in breaking the stalemate society, with successful economic policies.
2. But the Fourth Republic was a political failure
3. Declining importance of religion in French politics.
D. What did the Fourth Republic look like in institutional terms?
1. A parliamentary regime
2. Dominated by political parties (regime des partis)
3. Rigged system of PR
4. Led to chronic governmental instability
5. The bureaucracy provided for stability in governance
6. This regime was opposed by de Gaulle and the Gaullists
III. Decline of the Fourth Republic
A. Crises of decolonization and Dien Bien Phu
1. French were reluctant to give up their empire
2. 1954 Geneva peace agreement, negotiated by Pierre Mendès-France
3. Suez crisis in 1956
4. The Algerian War and the "Day of the Jackal"
B. Attempted putsch by army officers in Algeria, Jan, 1958.
1. Algerie Française!
2. Enter the man on the white horse (General de Gaulle comes out of retirement to save the politicians)
3. Note the continuing Bonapartiste tradition
Subject: Lecture 4 on France
Remember that these outlines are designed to help you organize your
lecture notes. They are NOT a substitute for coming to class.
A. Note the ongoing impact of decolonization and the Algerian War--settled at Evian in 1962
B. Emergence of the Common Market, signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957--France is one of the six founding
members of the EEC.
C. General de Gaulle comes to power in 1958 with the idea of returning France to Great Power status
1. He sets out to build a strong presidential regime
2. Weaken the power of parliament and political parties
3. Build a French nuclear strike force (force de frappe)
D. Illegal constitutional amendment of 1962 allows for the direct election of the President of the Republic
1. Establishes a fully presidential regime
2. Reinforces the dual ballot electoral system
3. Further weakens parliament
4. Denounced by Francois Mitterrand as a "coup d'état permanent"
E. What were the goals of these institutional reforms?
1. A response to the crisis in Algeria
2. Modernization of French society and economy
3. Reduce the influence of parties
4. Strengthen the hand of the executive at the expense of the parliament
A. Bicameral (Chamber of Deputies and the Senate)
B. Rules for election of deputies
1. Shift from PR to a dual ballot system with a measure of FPTP
2. Majority wins on the first round and plurality on the second
3. Artificially creates a two-party or two-block system
4. A party needs to get 12.5 percent of the registeredvoters on the first round in order to go to the
5. This rule forces parties to cooperate (republican discipline)
6. Radically changes the behavior of politicians
7. Brief switch back to PR in 1986 legislative elections creates electoral space for the National Front,
which receives 33 seats in 1986, compared to 1 in 1988
C. Parliament is elected for 5-year terms (maximum)
1. Can be dissolved by the President, but only once a year
2. Note the importance of "le cumul," collecting offices, local, regional, and national
D. The Senate
1. Has some limited powers to veto or block laws
2. Representation is based on 96 departments with an electoral college of local officials
3. Overrepresents rural communes, making it a very conservative body
E. Powers of the parliament
1. Powers are delineated in the Constitution
2. It is NOT supreme, as in the UK
3. It is a deliberative body that passes legislation
4. National Assembly can override a Senate veto
5. "Government" sets the legislative agenda
6. President can force passage of a budget, if Parliament has failed to act after 60 days
A. The Government is composed of the Council of Ministers
1. President presides over the Council
2. Must cooperate with the Prime Minister
3. And the Cabinet
B. What is the relationship between President and Prime Minister
1. If they are of the same party, then the PM is the President's lieutenant
2. If they are of different parties, then they must find a way to cooperate through "cohabitation"
3. Governments can be overturned through a vote of no confidence
4. In which case the President would choose a new PM, or call for elections
5. Who is more powerful, the President or the PM??
C. The fact is that France has a dual executive (two-headed monster?)
D. Powers of the President are considerable
1. Elected directly by the people for a 7-year term
2. Most powers are spelled out in the Constitution
3. President is commander-in-chief
4. By convention, the President also sets the foreign
5. President appoints the PM
6. Can dissolve Parliament once a year
7. Has sweeping emergency powers under Article 16 of the
E. Note the importance of style and personality of the President
1. Very Gaullist institution
2. Supposed to be non-partisan (au dessus de la melee)
3. President can appeal directly to the people
4. Can use a referendum to consult the people, with Parliament's assent (note exception of 1962
amendment to the Constitution)
5. President is head of state as well as head of government (but must share power with PM in
a situation of cohabitation)
F. Each president has his own style
1. de Gaulle (1958-69), imperious
2. Pompidou (1969-73), affable but strong
3. Giscard (1974-81), aloof and aristocratic
4. Mitterrand (1981-95), opportunist, Machiavellian, but in tune with "la France profonde"
5. Chirac (1995-??), glad handing man of the people, not clear what his core principles are, partisan
G. French political system is a hybrid
1. Not clearly presidential or parliamentary--bit of both
2. Ministers cannot sit in the parliament
3. But there is no true separation of powers
4. Because the President has enormous powers to dominate the Parliament.