The French Socialists in Power, 1981-1986

The French Socialists in Power, 1981-1986

The French Socialists in Power, 1981-1986

The French Socialists in Power, 1981-1986

Synopsis

Figures and Tables Abbreviations Preface Victory in 1981: The Long March of the Socialists, by Patrick McCarthy Economic Policy, by Volkmar Lauber Foreign and Security Policy, by Michael M. Harrison Education: Cultural Persistence and Institutional Change, by Michalina Vaughan Decentralization: A Revolutionary Reform, by Vivien A. Schmidt Labor and the Left in Power: Commissions, Omissions and Unintended Consequences, by George Ross Racial Politics: The Rise of the National Front, by Martin A. Schain The Communist Party: Out of the Frying Pan, by D.S.Bell and Byron Criddle The Parti Socialiste in 1986, by Patrick McCarthy Selected Bibliography Index About the Contributors

Excerpt

The years 1981 to 1986 mark an important period in French history because for the first time under the Fifth Republic the left was in power. How much of a revolution this was is open to question. It is argued in several chapters of this book that the Socialists frequently did not pursue policies fundamentally different from those of the right and also that their victory in 1981 was in some sense narrow and less epoch-making than the statistics and the rhetoric would indicate. Historians may well decide that 1981 brought no decisive or lasting shift in French life, and yet the fact that the left--or rather the non-Communist left-- was able to govern for five years is politically of enormous significance.

This book looks at the way the Socialists governed: their economic and foreign policies and the attempts they made to bring about social change. Although most of the issues of their five years are discussed at some point, choices have inevitably been made, and space has dictated a certain number of omissions. Thus chapters are devoted to education, decentralization and trade unions, which seemed the most important areas of social policy, whereas Robert Badinter's legal reforms, including the abolition of the death penalty, and Jack Lang's cultural innovations do not receive the attention they undoubtedly merit. The very interesting question of how the Socialists ran the state apparatus crops up in several chapters but it is not treated on its own.

Nor is this a book about French politics as a whole. If it were, the UDF-RPR right would not be treated with such unceremonious brevity. The Le Pen phenomenon receives a chapter because the Front national became prominent while the Socialists were in power even if the reasons for its rise are not always linked with their policies. The Communist Party receives a chapter because until 1984 it was a partner in government and because its decline is one factor in the Socialists' success. But the Socialist Party itself is the main object of study.

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