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New Left Review 11, September-October 2001


Peter Hallward on Dominique Lecourt, The Mediocracy: French Philosophy since the mid-1970s. Doleful tales of the ‘New Philosophers’ in France, and better news beyond them.

PETER HALLWARD

MYSTIFICATIONS OF PARIS

In the wake of liberation from Nazi occupation, the arena of French political philosophy was divided between the two approaches that could most plausibly claim a direct affiliation with the resistance to that occupation: Gaullist nationalism or republicanism on the one hand, and versions of Marxist internationalism on the other. For all their differences, these two approaches shared a sense of the political community as engaged in an active project, as grounded in a tradition of collective struggle whose historical roots could be traced back, in a more or less continuous genealogy, to the contested principles of 1789. Participation in such a project precluded any conventionally liberal notion of politics as the law-bound negotiation of competing interests, while an equally conventional conservatism, based on a more passive veneration of the state and the integrity of its traditions, was for the time being discredited by its collaboration with fascism.

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