Historian Herrick Chapman explores how the French, in reconstructing their country after World War II, sought to combine a top-down modernization drive with a rejuvenation of democracy. Just what form this new France should take remained the burning question at the central of political combat until the end of the Algerian war. Chapman argues that by the 1960s France’s “long reconstruction” had institutionalized a deep tension between technocratic and democratic governance that would become an enduring feature of the new Fifth Republic. This tension also made the country vulnerable to the kind of street-level rebellion that exploded in May 1968.
Herrick Chapman is Associate Professor of History and French Studies at New York University. He is the longtime editor of the interdisciplinary journal French Politics, Culture & Society. His other books include State Capitalism and Working-Class Radicalism in the French Aircraft Industry (1991, in French translation 2011) and European Society in Upheaval: Social History Since 1700 (1992). He has also edited several books, including Race in France: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Difference (2004).
This lecture is sponsored by the Maison Francaised d'Oxford and the European Commission.