The End of the French Exception?: Decline and Revival of the by Tony Chafer, Emmanuel Godin

By Tony Chafer, Emmanuel Godin

Analyzes the suggestion of the French exception and the ways that it has proficient either educational research and political statement on France this day. Adopting a comparative and interdisciplinary procedure it examines the resilience of the suggestion of French exceptionalism and evaluates its relevance in a altering family and worldwide context.

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Many of the ideas expressed in the ‘end of exception’ context were echoed in Bavarez’s sweeping critique of France’s inability to come to terms with the realities of globalisation, in which he argued that radical reforms (‘shock therapy’) were needed in the name of modernisation. His accusations against the political class on both Left and Right were seen by many as being an open invitation to his friend Nicolas Sarkozy to take the lead in advocating a more ‘libéral’ set of policies to lead France out of its inexorable decline.

Yet the signing of the Single European Act in 1986, which was to lead to the completion of the internal market by 1992, thus irreversibly opening up the French economy, was agreed upon by both Left and Right, and did not cause nearly as much opposition and debate as would the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s. Thus by the mid-1980s, it was clear that an unprecedented but broad political consensus had been reached by the mainstream parties over economic policy and the need to pursue the process of European integration, rather than sticking to the pursuit of ‘socialism in one country’ that some Socialist Party members (and a number of government ministers) had still believed was possible before March 1983.

Chafer (eds) 2005. The French Exception, pp. 30–44 (Oxford: Berghahn). See for example Cole 1998; Hewlett 1998 and the colloquium at the Bordeaux Institut d’Etudes Politiques in October 1998, ‘A la recherche de l’exception française’. Jacques Julliard confirmed that he and François Furet had ‘invented’ the expression specifically for the book, in an interview with the author, 15 June 2008. If the concept of a national identity crisis is not meaningful for some, it should be remembered that in France it was the State that created the nation, and inculcated a sense of national identity, which no doubt explains why it continues to have significance for a large number of well-known authors and commentators and indicates that it was (and arguably still is) a common preoccupation among French elites, if not for the ordinary citizen.

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