21G.053 | Spring 2014 | Undergraduate

Understanding Contemporary French Politics


The table below includes the weekly readings, screenings, and facts covered in each class session. The following books are general reading to help prepare speeches, historical notes, and debates.

  • Forbes, Jill, and Michael Kelly, eds. French Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780198715016.
  • Brouard, Sylvain, Andrew Appleton, and Amy G. Mazur, eds. The French Fifth Republic at Fifty: Beyond Stereotypes. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. ISBN: 9780230221246.
  • Chafer, Tony, and Emmanuel Godin, eds. The End of the French Exception? Decline and Revival of the “French Model”. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. ISBN: 9780230220782.
  • Drake, Helen. Contemporary France. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. ISBN: 9780333792445.


The Settlement of the Fifth Republic (1958–1974)


Introduction. The Algerian War


The Battle of Algiers. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. Black and White, 121 min, 1966.


Malraux, André. Speech on the Transfer of Jean Moulin’s ashes to the Panthéon (PDF), 1964.

2 The Imperial Presidency


Charles de Gaulle, Discourse at Bayeux (1946) Translation in
Cogan, Charles G. Charles de Gaulle: A Brief Biography with Documents. Bedford / Saint Martin’s, 1995, pp. 183–5. ISBN: 9780312107901.

Debré, Michel. Speech to the Council of State (PDF), 1958.


The Majoritarian System

3 May 1968: A Moral Revolution?


Ross, Kristen. “The Police Conception of History.” Chapter 1 in May ‘68 and Its Afterlives. University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp. 19–25. ISBN: 9780226727998. [Preview with Google Books]

Constitutional Council. Freedom of Association Decision (PDF), 1971.


The Constitutional Domain

The Liberalization of the Regime (1974–1988)
4 A New Generation


Going Places. Directed by Bertrand Blier. Color, 150 min, 1974.

5 The Socialist Era


Mitterrand, François. Speech at Epinay (PDF), 1971.

CSA. Deliberation Relative to the Evaluation of the Respect of Political Pluralism in the Media (PDF), 2000.



6 The Liberal Turning Point and the Cohabitation


D’Estaing, Valéry Giscard. Speech at Verdun sur le Doubs (PDF), 1978.

Smith, Timothy. “The Misunderstood French Welfare State.” Chapter 1 in France in Crisis: Welfare, Inequality, and Globalization since 1980. Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 1–15. ISBN: 9780521605205. [Preview with Google Books]



The Times of Crises (1988–Present)
7 Revisiting France’s Past


The Last Mitterrand. Directed by Robert Guédiguian. Color, 116 min, 2005.

8 European Doubts


Schuman, Robert. Declaration on the ECSC (PDF), 1950.

Chirac, Jacques. Cochin Appeal (PDF), 1978.

France and the Euro. “The Time-Bomb at the Heart of Europe. Why France could become the Biggest Danger to Europe’s Single Currency.” The Economist, November, 2012.

9 Identities and the Nation


Scott, Joan W. “Sexuality.” Chapter 5 in The Politics of the Veil. Princeton University Press, 2007, pp. 151–74. ISBN: 9780691125435. [Preview with Google Books]

Are You The Future French President?
10 A New Political System?


The Conquest. Directed by Xavier Durringer. Color, 105 min, 2011.

11 Final Statement  No readings.
12 “Presidential Debate”  No readings.

Course Info

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Spring 2014
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