Cover image for Modern French politics : analysing conflict and consensus since 1945
Modern French politics : analysing conflict and consensus since 1945
Hewlett, Nick.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. : Polity Press ; Malden, Mass. : Blackwell, [1998]

Physical Description:
xii, 251 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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JN2594 .H49 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book is an accessible, original and thought-provoking examination of contemporary French politics. The author clearly explains the most important party political, ideological and electoral developments since the Second World War, focusing on the 1980s and 1990s in particular. He takes care to explain changes within a clear theoretical framework which enhances the reader's understanding of observable trends.

When Francois Mitterrand was elected President of the Republic in 1981 a new, radical era began in French politics. But within the space of a few years the Socialist-Communist government felt obliged to change tack and abandon many of its more adventurous policies. Hewlett's central question is whether one should talk of "consensus" politics under Mitterrand or even the end of conflict and revolt, for which France had been so famous. He looks at the modern political history of France in comparison with other countries, including Britain, Sweden and Germany. He also considers the significance of various "modernizing" aspects of modern France, including Gaullism, May 1968 and the role of intellectuals. Finally, Modern French Politics relates the examination of change in France to more general theories of change in late capitalism.

This informative and refreshing book is scholarly but does not mystify. It presents an original way of examining party-political, institutional and electoral developments, and will be essential reading for undergraduate and graduate students of French politics and European Studies.

Author Notes

Nick Hewlett is Chair of the Centre for European Research at Oxford Brookes University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Hewlett (Oxford Brookes Univ., U.K.) presents an examination of contemporary French politics in the post-1945 period with a focus on the 1980s and '90s. The volume joins an abundant literature dealing with French society and politics that has grown exponentially during the period in question. A major theme that weaves throughout the discussion is the issue of modernity and its effect on political conflict and representative institutions. The book is organized around nine chapters that highlight defined periods in the political history of postwar France. Some comparative elements are introduced, and the author discusses the notion of "exceptionalism" as applied to the French development experience. The final chapter theorizes on ways of understanding developmental change in France. Three appendixes contain information on constitutions, electoral results, and leadership. A select bibliography of English and French sources is included. The book is indexed by subject and author. Recommended for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and practitioners. V. McHale; Case Western Reserve University

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Part I Introduction
Part II A History of Conflict and Revolt
France and modernity
Domestic conflict and international relations
Political ideology and political parties
The polarization of the labour movement and the patronat
Republicanism and manifestations of a more moderate history
An exceptional history?
Part III Political Exceptionalism, 1945-1981
Consensus politics in Western Europe since 1945
French politics in the post-war era
The persistence of radicalism and the absence of Fordist compromise
Part IV The End of Exceptionalism?
The 1980s and 1990s
The decline of overt conflict
Explaining consensus: the 1980s as a moment of tripartite harmony
Consensus beyond tripartism
Part V Social Democracy and the Left
The history of social democracy
The nature of the left in France
Characterizing the Socialist Party
A crisis of social democracy?
Part VI The Paradoxes of Gaullist Modernization
Authoritarian aspects of de Gaulle's rule
The progress of political stability and democracy
De Gaulle's foreign policy and the uses of grandeur
De Gaulle and the economy: modernization from above
The unevenness of socio-economic change
Part VII The Historical Significance of May 1968
.R?gis Debray and Gilles Lipovestsky: the ruse of reason
The results of May
The spirit of May and the Socialist years
Locating May historically
Part VIII The Waning of Intellectual Commitment
The place of intellectuals in post-war political life
The decline of the left intellectual
The re-emergence of liberal political thought
Part IX Conclusions
The end of history
Fordism and post-Fordism: the regulation school
Theorizing change