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A Divided Republic
Nation, State and Citizenship in Contemporary France


  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107692879

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About the Authors
  • This book is an original and sophisticated historical interpretation of contemporary French political culture. Until now, there have been few attempts to understand the political consequences of the profound geopolitical, intellectual and economic changes that France has undergone since the 1970s. However, Emile Chabal's detailed study shows how passionate debates over citizenship, immigration, colonial memory, the reform of the state and the historiography of modern France have galvanised the French elite and created new spaces for discussion and disagreement. Many of these debates have coalesced around two political languages - republicanism and liberalism - both of which structure the historical imagination and the symbolic vocabulary of French political actors. The tension between these two political languages has become the central battleground of contemporary French politics. It is around these two poles that politicians, intellectuals and members of France's vast civil society have tried to negotiate the formidable challenges of ideological uncertainty and a renewed sense of global insecurity.

    • Proposes a new interpretation of contemporary French political culture, centred on the collision between republican and liberal languages of politics
    • Provides a succinct introduction to some of the most important debates in French politics since the late 1970s
    • Deals both with France's national politics and its relations with the outside world
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is an outstanding and groundbreaking book. It provides a powerful and persuasive account of the transformation of the modern French intellectual landscape, and the emergence of new patterns of republican and liberal thought. The analysis is rich, nuanced, and sophisticated, and Chabal provides us with the essential keys to understanding contemporary French political debates.' Sudhir Hazareesingh, University of Oxford

    'Emile Chabal demonstrates with great perspicacity how, since the end of the 1970s, a newly revived French republicanism came to prominence amidst the ruins of the grand ideologies of the 'Trente Glorieuses'. His analysis is compelling and he successfully steers clear of the tired confrontation between (neo-)liberal apologists and those nostalgic for a lost France of revolutionary passion.' Christophe Prochasson, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

    'After Marxism, what next? A Divided Republic is an outstanding integrative study that brightly illuminates both the republican and liberal turns of French political culture since the 1970s, with an impressive combination of political and intellectual history. As a guide to the territory, Emile Chabal is as insightful as he is informed, and has achieved the best available treatment of a complex set of developments.' Samuel Moyn, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Chabal's survey of contemporary French political culture is patient and heroically comprehensive … Students of French political thought will … remain in [his] debt for this careful and thorough work of reconstruction and analysis.' Arthur Goldhammer, The American Prospect

    '… there is no doubt that overall Chabal succeeds in showing that by studying the political languages of liberalism and republicanism it is possible to gain a clearer picture of what is at stake in contemporary French political debate than is visible through the lens of the traditional left-right divide. Rich in suggestive avenues for future research and sure to provoke lively debate among students and researchers working on contemporary French history, A Divided Republic makes a major contribution to its field.' Iain Stewart, European Review of History

    '… a detailed and well-researched examination of how the French political sphere and political language have changed in the past three decades following the Trente Glorieuses. More than just a political history, Emile Chabal brings together a multitude of sources to address how the French national narrative has changed since the 1980s … By focusing on the two political languages - neo-republicanism and liberalism - Chabal provides not only a thorough examination of contemporary French politics, but also a much-needed intervention into the role of immigration, colonialism, and minority politics in French national identity. More than well written, A Divided Republic is an important book.' Jean Beaman, H-France Review (

    '… this is a fine study. Emile Chabal's book provides a better analysis of how theoretical discussions have unfolded in recent French political debates than any other of which I am aware. I learned a great deal while reading it, and I believe that anyone interested in recent French politics and/or recent French political theory will find A Divided Republic engaging and enlightening.' K. Steven Vincent, The European Legacy

    'Emile Chabal's A Divided Republic: Nation, State and Citizenship in Contemporary France makes an important theoretical contribution to our understanding of contemporary French politics. … Even without its provocative hypothesis, A Divided Republic would be a useful primer on the intellectuals, ideas and political tides of post-1975 France, all the more so given that it is written in an exceptionally clear and accessible manner. When Chabal's important theoretical contribution is added into the equation, A Divided Republic becomes essential reading for scholars and teachers of contemporary French politics and ideology.' Jonah D. Levy, French History

    'This is a cogently argued and clearly written monograph that meets the highest standards of academic scholarship. It is a book that is demanding and rewarding in equal measure. … It will appeal particularly to those interested in the history of ideas, but will also prove stimulating for anyone with an informed interest in contemporary French politics, society, and civilization.' Raymond Kuhn, Contemporary French Civilization

    '…Chabal's book is extremely successful in making 'French politics appear a little less contradictory' … Chabal is especially great in explaining and contextualizing expressions such as le lien social, la fracture sociale, intégration, communautarisme, and other terms that have spread in recent years and that have a significantly different meaning in the Anglo-Saxon world. His book is a must-read for anyone interested in methodological questions pertaining to intellectual history, but also for anyone trying to make sense of some of the most salient political and intellectual questions haunting France today.' Camille Robcis, French Politics, Culture & Society

    'Chabal's book provides an excellent, accessible discussion of the sources and development of neo-republican thought in France today, as well as the emergence of a unique French version of liberalism … This book will be truly appreciated by readers with a good grounding in the intellectual life of postwar France.' D. Schwam-Baird, Choice

    'Emile Chabal's book provides a better analysis of how theoretical discussions have unfolded in recent French political debates than any other of which I am aware.' K. Steven Vincent, The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms

    'This is a beautifully written account that draws on an eclectic mix of sources including government reports, print and audiovisual media, popular essays and interviews with high-profile academics such as Jean Baubérot, Dominique Schnapper and Michel Wiewiorka. The portraits of these intellectual figures is particularly enlightening as is the focus on the role played by institutions such as the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in France's political and cultural life … a masterful study that is certain to cement its place as a landmark in the field of modern French history.' Timothy Peace, Modern and Contemporary France

    'Emile Chabal's incisive and insightful book is an important contribution to the study of contemporary French politics; above all, it is a brilliant combination of political and intellectual history. … This is an original and stimulating argument, and it very much deserves to be widely discussed and applied as a framework for examining French politics and the French polity.' James McDougall, Journal of Religion, Politics and Ideology

    'An excellent book which makes a major contribution to the study of French politics. … an important contribution and will be essential reading for students and scholars of French history and contemporary politics. It offers a very thorough treatment in English not just of (misguided and transgressive) Republicans such as Alain Finkelkraut and Regis Debray, or towering liberals such as Raymond Aron, but also forefronts lesser-known thinkers in the liberal tradition such as the political philosopher Pierre Rosanvallon and the economist Nicolas Baverez.' Alistair Cole, English Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107692879
    • length: 314 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: French politics after the deluge
    Part I. Writing the National Narrative in Contemporary France: The Return of Republicanism:
    1. Writing histories: two republican narratives
    2. From nouveaux philosophes to nouveaux réactionnaires: Marxism and the Republic
    3. La République en danger! The search for consensus and the rise of neo-republican politics
    4. Postcolonies I: integration, disintegration and citizenship
    5. The Republic, the Anglo-Saxon and the European project
    Part II. Liberal Critics of Contemporary France: Le Libéralisme Introuvable?:
    6. In the shadow of Raymond Aron: the 'liberal revival' of the 1980s
    7. Rewriting Jacobinism: François Furet, Pierre Rosanvallon and modern French history
    8. Postcolonies II: the politics of multiculturalism and colonial memory
    9. Whither the Trente Glorieuses? The language of crisis and the reform of the state
    10. Liberal politics in France: a story of failure?
    Conclusion: political consensus in twenty-first-century France

  • Author

    Emile Chabal, University of Edinburgh
    Emile Chabal was educated at the University of Cambridge, Rice University, Houston, Harvard University, Massachusetts and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris. He completed his PhD at Cambridge and his thesis was subsequently awarded the History Faculty's Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize, and Seeley Medal for the best dissertation across all periods. Immediately after completing his doctorate, Chabal took up a position as Departmental Lecturer in Modern European History in the Faculty of History and Balliol College, Oxford. He returned to Cambridge in 2012 as a Research Fellow in French Political History at St John's College. In 2013, he moved to the University of Edinburgh as a Chancellor's Fellow in History. his research has, for the most part, touched on three main areas: the transformation of French politics since the 1970s, Franco-British relations in the twentieth century and the legacy of postcolonialism in France. This has resulted in a number of publications on subjects ranging from the 'Anglo-Saxon' in modern French thought to contemporary French conceptions of the nation, the citizen and the secular. Chabal has also worked on political counter-narratives in France, including liberal reinterpretations of modern French history, theories of multiculturalism and the politics of postcolonialism. More recently, he has turned his attention to French neo-liberalism and anti-liberalism, and he has an ongoing project that looks at identity politics, clientelism and the history of inter-community relations in Montpellier since the end of the Algerian War. All of this research has sought to elaborate imaginative new frameworks for understanding contemporary political culture in France and Europe.

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