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France's New Deal

France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era

Philip Nord
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 474
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  • Book Info
    France's New Deal
    Book Description:

    France's New Dealis an in-depth and important look at the remaking of the French state after World War II, a time when the nation was endowed with brand-new institutions for managing its economy and culture. Yet, as Philip Nord reveals, the significant process of state rebuilding did not begin at the Liberation. Rather, it got started earlier, in the waning years of the Third Republic and under the Vichy regime. Tracking the nation's evolution from the 1930s through the postwar years, Nord describes how a variety of political actors--socialists, Christian democrats, technocrats, and Gaullists--had a hand in the construction of modern France.

    Nord examines the French development of economic planning and a cradle-to-grave social security system; and he explores the nationalization of radio, the creation of a national cinema, and the funding of regional theaters. Nord shows that many of the policymakers of the Liberation era had also served under the Vichy regime, and that a number of postwar institutions and policies were actually holdovers from the Vichy era--minus the authoritarianism and racism of those years. From this perspective, the French state after the war was neither entirely new nor purely social-democratic in inspiration. The state's complex political pedigree appealed to a range of constituencies and made possible the building of a wide base of support that remained in place for decades to come.

    A nuanced perspective on the French state's postwar origins,France's New Dealchronicles how one modern nation came into being.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3496-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction. Postwar Stories
    (pp. 1-16)

    France’s Fourth Republic (1946–1958) has an unhappy reputation, and it is not hard to see why.¹ High hopes for a new constitutional order at the Liberation were disappointed. General Charles de Gaulle, who presided over France’s postwar Provisional Government, wanted a break with the parliamentary ways of the old Third Republic, favoring instead the creation of a strong, presidentialist regime. The parties of the Left, however, the Socialists and Communists, suspected the general of authoritarian designs and maneuvered to stymie his plans with a double consequence. First, the constitutional overhaul dreamed of by so many résistants never took place....


    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 19-24)

      The word “liberalism” does not have strong positive connotations in French public discourse. It is associated with the individualist, freemarketeering ways of the Thatcher/Reagan years, with an Anglo-Saxon model that celebrates the growth-creating potential of unbridled entrepreneurship. No, the French have a model of their own, a third way between the savage capitalism of the English-speaking peoples and the command economies of the now defunct East bloc.

      The state stands front and center in the French model. It is the owner of a vast nationalized sector. It invests. It plans. The plan, however, is not a diktat but a blueprint...

    • Chapter 1 The Crisis of the Thirties
      (pp. 25-87)

      Depression-era France seems to have little to recommend it. There was to be sure the bright spot of the Popular Front, but the Blum experiment did not last long, and its successes were partial at best. It is rather France’s failures that stand out. The Third Republic, to all appearances, proved incapable of generating an effective response to the critical challenges of the day: at home, a deepening economic slump that sharpened class tensions; abroad, the rise of an aggressive Germany intent upon a radical revision of the international order. But the idea of French paralysis, or “immobilism” as it...

    • Chapter 2 The War Years
      (pp. 88-144)

      Laissez-faire liberalism came under fire in the thirties from both Left and Right: from a Popular Front that built up the state in the name of social justice and democratic brotherhood, from a Daladier administration that cobbled together an interventionism of its own in the name of national discipline and war preparedness. The war years were in critical respects a continuation of this struggle. The Republic’s old political elite, burdened by the responsibility of defeat, was sidelined. Social democracy gravitated to the Resistance. And the Daladier-era technocrats aligned themselves with Pétain’s National Revolution.

      This is, of course, too schematic a...

    • Chapter 3 The Liberation Moment
      (pp. 145-214)

      The Liberation was a moment of dramatic transformation. The state took over large chunks of the national economy. The nationalization drive got off to an uncertain start in 1944 but then accelerated in the years following. By the time it petered out in the late forties, a full million workers now found employment in France’s much-expanded public sector. What was perhaps most remarkable about the process was how consensual it was, drawing support not just from the Left but from the christian-democratic MRP and General de Gaulle himself. But then again, all had signed on to the nationalization clauses of...


    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 217-220)

      No state in Europe devotes a greater proportion of its resources to the promotion of the arts than France. The construction ofl’état culturel, as it has sometimes been called, took place in stages, and it is easy enough to identify, looking backward, critical moments in the process: the first Mitterrand presidency, which set aside an unprecedented 1 percent of the nation’s budget for cultural affairs; André Malraux’s groundbreaking tenure from 1959 to 1969 as France’s first minister of culture; the Popular Front government of Léon Blum, which elevated state intervention in the arts, hitherto a hit-or-miss affair, into a...

    • Chapter 4 Art and Commerce in the Interwar Decades
      (pp. 221-253)

      France experienced a theater renaissance in the interwar decades, and Jacques Copeau was its acknowledged trailblazer. The four Parisbased directors known as the Cartel—Charles Dullin, Louis Jouvet, Gaston Baty, and Georges Pitoëff—carried Copeau’s project forward, reworking it, making it their own. And a generation of younger, Copeau-trained acolytes relayed the master’s promise of a new theater from the capital to the provinces, via itinerant troupes, both amateur and professional. Copeau and his emulators, different as they were in certain respects, shared a common set of dislikes, first and foremost for the boulevard theater. The typical boulevard play titillated...

    • Chapter 5 Culture in Wartime
      (pp. 254-310)

      The culture wars of the thirties did not let up under Vichy, although now the terms of struggle had altered. The state intervened in all domains. It could not act, of course, with a free hand, hemmed in as it was by the Occupier’s own designs. There was also the urgent need to placate an entertainment-hungry public in an era of shortage and hardship. But Vichy sought to fi nd a path of its own, weighing in where it felt able, positioning itself as the guardian of a national culture of quality beset on all sides by foreigners and moneymen,...

    • Chapter 6 The Culture State
      (pp. 311-359)

      The urge to make a clean break with the past was powerful and pervasive at the Liberation. The lax public mores of the Third Republic had led France to defeat. Vichy had plunged the nation into a degrading moral squalor. Now was the time for a thoroughgoing purge, both spiritual and literal, that would restore the nation to itself. It remains to be seen, however, whether France got the new start the men and women of the Resistance hankered for with such a purifying zeal.

      In the cultural domain, as elsewhere, the question does not admit of a simple yes-or-no...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 360-384)

    In April 1955,L’Expresspublished a list of best-selling books, not the fi rst of its kind in France, but the fi rst compiled since the decade of the fi fties had begun.¹ In order of popularity, the top eight titles ran as follows: Giovanni Guareschi,Le Petit Monde de don Camillo(Italian, 1948; French, 1952); Pierre Clostermann,Le Grand Cirque(1948); Victor Kravchenko,J’ai choisi la liberté(English, 1946; French, 1947); Arthur Koestler,Le Zéro et l’infini(1947); Vercors, Le Silence de la mer (1942); Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince (1943); Albert Camus,La Peste(1947); Roger Frison-Roche,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 365-434)
  10. Index
    (pp. 435-457)