The French State in Question: Public law and political by H. S. Jones

By H. S. Jones

The French country in query areas the belief of the nation again on the middle of our figuring out of contemporary French background and political tradition, and demanding situations accredited perspectives of the 3rd Republic as a "weak" kingdom. At its center is an exam of a principal challenge in French politics of the belle epoque: should still the workers of the kingdom have the fitting to unionize, and to strike? The booklet examines this as an issue of highbrow background: it seeks to provide an explanation for why this was once such an intractable query, and does so through demonstrating the significance of criminal conception and the belief of the country in French political tradition.

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28 The French state in question sovereignty of the popular will. This is a point to which we shall return in the course of this book where we shall find leaders of 'Jacobin' Radicalism like Camille Pelletan criticized for their executive weakness in the face of the challenge from syndicats de fonctionnaires. The state theorists of the Jin de siecle consciously invoked the notion of the 'sovereignty of reason' developed by liberals like RoyerCollard. But otherwise they belonged to two different (though overlapping) traditions, not least in the sense that for most of the nineteenth century French liberals were critical of the administrative law tradition, which they associated with the absolutism of the ancien regime: the survival of the notion of administrative justice was famously denounced by Tocqueville, for whom ' l'intervention de l'administration dans la justice deprave les hommes et tend a les rendre tout a la fois revolutionnaires et serviles'.

48 In Germany, the Hegelian social theorist Lorenz von Stein worried that popular sovereignty meant the ' sovereignty of society' or ' the complete subjugation of the state to society'. 49 Similarly, the French doctrinaires, by distinguishing the citizenry from the people and le pays legal from le pays reel, conceived of politics as rational reflection about the public good, a good not reducible to private interests or private wills. Guizot's exposition of his doctrine of representation, with its emphatic reliance on Condorcet's concept of public reason, 50 brings out this point vividly: II existe, dans toute societe, une certaine somme d'idees justes.

It is worth devoting some attention to these arguments, for they help us to understand how jurists defined the essential qualities of their discipline. Boutmy had launched a cutting attack on the ethos and scholarly quality of the law faculties, and, in response, the more strictly institutional side of the jurists' argument included an interesting critique of the elitist character of Sciences po. The School owed its origins less to the need to train administrators than to the concern of men such as Boutmy, Vinet and Taine that French political failure (especially the disastrous decision to go to war in 1870) was due to the absence in France of a body of non-specialist but politically enlightened citizens capable of constituting an informed public opinion.

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