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French Resistance: The French-American Culture Wars

Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    French Resistance
    Book Description:

    Consistently illuminating and often polemical, French Resistance focuses on recent transatlantic debates over critical theory, national identity, and multiculturalism. or Starting from well-publicized controversies such as the bicentennial of the French Revolution, the 1989 Affair of the Veil, or the more recent Sokal Affair, Jean-Philippe Mathy looks at how French and American national traditions have represented the other, and how different conceptions of liberalism, democratic pluralism, and republicanism figure in these representations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9075-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    The present study has its source in the final pages of a book I wrote a few years ago on French literary representations of American culture and society. In the epilogue, I suggested that the most recent developments in French-American intellectual relations involve both a rapprochement and a distancing on a number of issues regarding literary theory, postmodernism, and popular culture.¹ I also argued that there was a definite convergence between postanalytical American philosophy (especially in its neopragmatist forms) and French poststructuralism. In the early 1980s, Richard Rorty praised what he called the North Atlantic “post-philosophical culture” for questioning the...

  5. 1 French Theory in the United States: The Bicentennial and the Return of Rights-Liberalism
    (pp. 27-56)

    The Britons who “removed to America” in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took with them the most radical elements of the idea of Englishness. During the two centuries following the Puritans’ landing at Plymouth Rock, they never ceased to consider themselves full-fledged members of the English nation. As late as 1765, Daniel Dulany insisted that “the subjects of the British empire in Europe and America are the same” (Greenfeld, 649). It was precisely because one could not speak of Britons and Americans, but rather of the Europeans and Americans of Britain, that the denial of all the rights and privileges...

    (pp. 57-85)

    The passing of the postwar philosophies of suspicion from the French intellectual scene has taken transatlantic debates away from the uses of theory to diverging conceptions of liberalism, nationhood, and individual rights, especially in the wake of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. While the resistance to poststructuralism revealed the strength of the antitheoretical slant in Anglo-American thought, debates about the new developments associated with the “globalization” of cultures mobilized another side of the liberal tradition: the critique of French political and cultural centralization. As in the case of theory, this critique has roots in the history of the literary...

    (pp. 86-107)

    To fall back on la République means to preserve the gains of the progres-sivist tradition while withdrawing, however reluctantly, from the more radical positions that the demise of Stalinism and the exhaustion of social democratic labor movements have rendered untenable today. Many left-wing intellectuals are allergic to the postmodern ambience because of all that still keeps them within the orbit of the critical rationalism of the Enlightenment. They simply refuse to pack up and walk over to the camp of liberalism, radical individualism, and unadulterated free-market ideology. They see the defense of the republican ideal as the only way to...

  8. 4 Cultural Studies, Postcolonialism, and the French National Idea
    (pp. 108-133)

    The preceding chapter described how the rearticulation of the republican idea was wedded to the critique of liberalism in contemporary France. To shift the focus of the discussion from the Republic to the nation is to encounter issues of postcolonialism and multiculturalism. The national question is as central to the discussion of contemporary French culture as the issue of the republican legacy. In France, the rise of two political forces informed by rival culturalist ideologies, the National Front and radical Islamism,¹ in combination with the inability of the state to ensure the peaceful inclusion of immigrant communities, has led to...

  9. 5 Multiculturalism and Its Discontents
    (pp. 134-160)

    Postmodernist critics of the French national idea do not hold a monopoly on generalization and oversimplification. Some of the most vocal guardians of the republican faith in France today are guilty of the same, even though they paint a strictly inverted picture of the relationship between cultural pluralism and national identity. The notion of a radical incompatibility between a liberal-pluralist and a rationalist-universalist project of nation building, historically carried out in Britain and the United States on the one hand and in France on the other is not limited to Anglo-American scholarly literature and printed media. This view is shared...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-170)

    Of all the French critics of American differentialism, Emmanuel Todd is arguably the most radical, in the etymological sense of the word, since he roots what he calls the American obsession with difference in long-lasting anthropological structures going back to the traditional familial system of the English peasantry.¹ For Todd, the ideologies of cultural diversity, ethnic nationalism, and universalistic individualism that make up the current debate on multiculturalism are the product of unconscious “mental matrices that define a priori the perception of ethnic differences.” These cultural matrices are themselves rooted in transhistorical structured practices like kinship systems and rules of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-198)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-211)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)