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Politico-philosophical profile of Jacques Bouveresse, close friend and colleague of Bourdieu, examining the relation of his large, idiosyncratic body of work to the French philosophical traditions it explicitly disavows. Can thinkers as divergent as Wittgenstein, Musil and Kraus be mobilized to provide a coherent and countervailing ‘Kakanian’ tradition?
Civilization: A Grammar
Cameos from the motley, tangled lives of history’s major spatial divisions are woven with reflections on the Americanization of French culture, revealing the grammar of hegemony—imprint, impress, imperium—behind the rise, rule and fall of civilizations.
The Centre Can Hold
How did Emmanuel Macron become President of France virtually overnight? What are the likely consequences of his rule? The long epoch of collusive alternation between Centre-Left and Centre-Right, and its abrupt ending; the realities of Le Pen’s Front National, and the riposte of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise. Has neo-liberalism finally arrived in force in Paris, and if so what are the implications for Europe?
Badiou and the French Tradition
How to locate an energizing philosophy of activity and production, and of fidelity to past revolutionary ruptures, in relation to the line that runs from Sartre, Althusser and Lacan to Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze? A critical interrogation of the return to philosophical tradition, from metaphysics to ethics, in Badiou’s major systematic works.
How and when did ambition cease to be a moral fault in the European mind and acquire the trappings of ambiguous virtue it possesses in modern times? The ardent hero of Stendhal’s novel of Restoration France as cynosure of the change, and its implications for the social order.
An Anthropological Turn?
Alongside the familiar pathways of French post-structuralist thought, Jacob Collins detects an alternative trajectory in the work of four thinkers whose allegiances span the political spectrum. The return to ethnographical concepts of social belonging—fraternity, family, faith—amid the multiple crises of the 1970s.
Roads to Renegacy
A philosophe engagé discusses the ‘wrong turn’ taken by so many erstwhile French Maoists, locating its sources within the landscape of 1970s militancy. The perils of politics as ambition, as fashion, as absolute—paving a mediatized path from 68 to Sarkozy.
1940 Survey of French Literature
Benjamin’s last, unpublished report on the literary situation in France. Critical reflections on the fiction, philosophy, memoirs and art criticism of the time—and on Paris, Surrealism and the logic of Hitlerism—moving constantly from the realm of letters to a world at war.
The Communist Hypothesis
Why does the spectre of May 68 still haunt French discourse? Alain Badiou on the country’s longue durée sequences of restoration and revolt, and the place of Sarkozy’s presidency within them. Lessons in political courage from Plato and Corneille, and a call to reassert the Manifesto’s founding wager.
Under New Management
Dispatches from France during Sarkozy’s first hundred days. In the Elysée, echoes of a Giscardian ‘change of style’; among the Socialists, a programmatic disarray compounding a long heritage of desertions; in the streets, immigration raids, counter-demonstrations, and hints of an embattled everyday resistance.
The Adventure of French Philosophy
French philosophy from the 1940s to the 1990s viewed as a third exceptional moment in the history of the discipline, after classical Greece and enlightenment Germany. Alain Badiou takes four coordinates for a tour de force of terse analysis: the antecedents of this moment, the enterprises it launched, the links it forged with literature, and the relations it developed with psychoanalysis.
On the Attack
The founder of the single most successful movement against neoliberal globalization, and architect of the World Social Forum, discusses the French origins and international growth of ATTAC. Its connexions with Le Monde diplomatique and vision of the battles against financial markets and privatization to come.
A Farmers' International?
The demolisher of McDonald’s explains his personal background, the history of the Peasants’ Confederation in France, and the international objectives of Via Campesina. Struggles in the countryside of the Massif Central or Karnataka as spear-points in the anti-globalization movement.
Government by Appearances
Louis XIV’s passion for dancing, and its metamorphoses, at the beginnings of a society of the spectacle. Peter Wollen looks at the birth of ballet as a projection of state power, and the bonding of elites that court entertainment bequeathed to modern democracies.
Presentation of Blanqui
The lifetime of Auguste Blanqui (1805–81) coincides with the rise and fall of the secret society as an effective harbinger of socialism. Auguste Blanqui was the son of a low rank imperial official; his first recorded political involvement was in 1827 when he was wounded on the barricades; . . . read more
The PCF and its History
The socialist revolution in France cannot be a repetition of the May events, any more than the 1917 Revolution (February and October) was a repetition of 1905. The May events were a tremendous explosion, in which (through tracts, meetings, newspapers and even sometimes through the distorted accounts in . . . read more
Contentious Commitments: French Intellectuals and Politics
As Sunil Khilnani observes, in a characteristic turn of phrase, the marxisant intellectual culture of France after the Liberation ‘came to play a fundamental role in the entire afflatus of Western progressive thought’. Nettled by the Anglophone fashion for French modes in the 1960s and 70s, which invariably . . . read more
'La Querelle des Femmes' in the Late Twentieth Century
Although this essay is about feminist challenges to certain ideas of universal citizenship, it was provoked by anger: the intense anger being expressed by some Parisian intellectuals and journalists from across the political spectrum about American politics in general and American feminism in particular. And also my own . . . read more
Neo-Liberal Reform and Popular Rebellion
Tenacious and combative strikes in the public services, millions of demonstrators on the streets, broad support from public opinion: last December’s events in France were a lot more than a strike, indeed it is no exaggeration to call them an uprising by the working, producing, caring, teaching population. . . . read more
France: la fracture sociale
Successive French prime ministers have, in the wake of their electoral triumphs, used buzz words to describe the political visions which justify their installation in power. In 1969, Chaban-Delmas spoke of a ‘new society’. In 1981, Mitterrand’s first prime minister, Pierre Mauroy, proposed a ‘platform for change’. The . . . read more
'C'est la lutte initiale': Steps in the Realignment of the French Left
In the last two years, a string of elections and the Maastricht referendum have confirmed the rapid realignment of forces on the French Left. The Socialist Party has been brutally expelled from government, at the end of a decade that saw it tarnished and compromised by office and . . . read more
The Phenomenon of the Great Fear
Georges Lefebvre wrote his historical study of the Great Fear during the French Revolution in 1932, and its publication in English is belated but welcome. Its subject was a problem which Lefebvre felt had never been explained; yet he regarded it as one of ‘the most important episodes . . . read more
The Left in France
In 1958, the coalition of Gaullists and spokesmen for Algérie française routed the French labour movement without serious effort. This defeat, which has strongly stepped up what political scientists call ‘depoliticization’, gave free scope to Gaullist initiatives for quite some time. The elimination of the Algerian problem, which . . . read more
Condition of the Novel (France)
Since I have not written a novel for 16 years, my interest in this discussion, though lively, has been dispassionate; it is this which encourages me to try to give a detached impression of what has happened. As you know, when a meeting of this kind is a . . . read more
Tribute to Camus
only six months ago, only yesterday, one asked: “What will he do?” Provisionally torn by contradictions which must be respected, he had chosen silence. But he was one of those rare beings for whom one may well wait, because they choose slowly and remain faithful to their . . . read more
Condition of the Novel (France)
There have been a number of very interesting speeches here. But I must express my astonishment at hearing the majority of Soviet writers expressing the same sharp criticism of modern literary pursuits as are made in Western bourgeois society. Here, as in the West, we are blamed for . . . read more
Introduction to Special Issue on France May 1968
The May Revolution in France was foreseen by nobody. It burst upon the world without warning. It did not fit any pre-conceived pattern. At first glance France seemed the capitalist country least likely to be shaken by social upheaval. Unlike Britain it was not in the throes of . . . read more
Lessons of May
The revolutionary wave of May 1968 constitutes an immense reservoir of social experience. The inventory of this experience is as yet far from complete. What characterized that wave was precisely the irruption onto the historical stage of the creative energy of the masses, multiplying forms of action, initiatives . . . read more
'The Poetry of the Past': Marx and the French Revolution
Like so many German intellectuals of his generation, Marx was literally fascinated by the French Revolution: in his eyes it was quite simply the Revolution par excellence or, more precisely, ‘the most colossal revolution that history has ever known’. We know that in 1844 he was intending to . . . read more
What Is the Historical Past?
Albert Soboul’s work on the Parisian Sans-Culottes in the Year Two of the French Revolution begins with the victory of the Montagnards over the Girondins, a bloodless political triumph despite the fact that it was won with the support of the armed people of Paris: ‘On 2 June . . . read more
Observations on a New History of Modern France
It is first of all as an historian, but secondly as an attentive and involved witness, that I have read Theodore Zeldin’s new book France 1848–1945. As a budding parliamentary journalist, I had personal experience of three French Parliaments, from 1919 to 1924. The last Chamber of Deputies . . . read more
How the French Left Learned to Love the Bomb
The election of a Socialist, François Mitterrand, as President of the French Republic on 10 May 1981 aroused hopes in a European left that by the end of the seventies had to console itself as best it could. Mitterrand himself was, indeed, a Fourth Republic war-horse, a patriotic . . . read more
Representations of Difference: The Varieties of French Feminism
As so many other theories originating in Paris in the postwar years, ‘French feminism’ enjoys a high profile in the international marketplace of ideas. Psychoanalytic and linguistic theories, celebrations of ‘difference’, the conjunction of the sexual and the symbolic, essentialism presented in the terms of poststructuralism, all appear . . . read more
The Tragedy of the French Left
In 1981 the French Left came to power for the first time in decades. Here was a Left which had never made peace with the consumer capitalism of the postwar period. The Communists, lesser partners in the new governing coalition, remained committed to the socialist transformation of France. . . . read more
The history of Communism in the developed economies of the west has been the history of revolutionary parties in countries without insurrectionary prospects. Such countries may be, and at various times in our century have been, involved in revolutionary activities arising out of the international contradictions of capitalism . . . read more
The Pompidou Regime
The eventual consequences of the May—June revolt are perhaps only now starting to become visible in France. The months since the great explosion have been marked by swift changes in both the economy and polity of French capitalism: the monetary crisis of November last year, the April referendum . . . read more
The Way Forward
Votes, as Marx and Engels used to say, give the right to govern, they do not give the power to do so. Conversely, to win votes, or to win by votes, the opposition must already have shown that it is capable of taking and exercising power in a . . . read more
Strategy and Revolution in France 1968
Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the 18th century, storm swiftly from success to success; their dramatic effects outdo each other; men and things seem set in sparkling brilliance; ecstasy is the everyday spirit; but they are short lived; soon they have obtained their zenith, and a long crapulent . . . read more
A Modest Contribution to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Tenth Anniversary
It has been Holy Unity week. The official ceremonies organized around the tenth anniversary of May ’68 brought together everyone in this country with a name, a status or a decoration and saturated every medium of communication. From left to right, yesterday’s enemies and tomorrow’s friends, the best . . . read more
This is an intellectual’s book about intellectuals. Caute is a historian of concepts and he finds it difficult to accept that political leaders may at times act in response to motivations that are not entirely the result of intellectual choice. In reading his account of the Parti Communiste . . . read more
The Lessons of French Planning
Two-and-a-half years ago in The New Statesman, I attempted to answer the question: Is French planning a miracle or a myth? At that time comparatively little was known in this country about the details or achievements of the French planning experiment—for the very good reason that planning was . . . read more
The Last Quarter of an Hour
Peace, it seems, is coming in Algeria. But with it, one may fear, a frightful showdown between the French civilian and military extremists and the French government—which, in turn, may make the actual implementation of peace more difficult. And it isn’t even a clear showdown, with clean lines . . . read more
Instructions for an Uprising
An insurrection in Paris today, based on old models, has no chance of success. In 1830 popular enthusiasm alone could overthrow a power surprised and terrified by an armed uprising: an unthinkable event which went far beyond any of its predictions. This could work once. The government then . . . read more
What Must Change in the Party
The defeat of the Union of the Left has seriously confused the popular masses and filled many Communists with profound disquiet. A ‘workerist’—or more precisely sectarian—faction is openly rejoicing at the break with the Socialist Party, presenting it as a victory over the social-democratic danger. But the majority . . . read more
On the Twenty-Second Congress of the French Communist Party
I should like to thank the Sorbonne Philosophy Circle of the Union of Communist Students for inviting me to participate in this discussion. I was left free to choose my own subject. I felt that in France today, not only for Communists but also for all who want . . . read more