Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt

Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt

Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt

Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt

Excerpt

This is a book about modern democracies that happens to deal entirely with France. The resurgence of radicalism in the western world is a striking development. But only in France, among the modern democracies, have revolutionary groups triggered a general strike and come close to the seizure of power. When Alexis de Tocqueville wished to study the phenomenon of equality, he chose to do so in America. Equality was more evident in the America of Andrew Jackson than in the France of monarchical restorations, and its effects could be more readily examined. As a topic, modernization and revolt in Gaullist France is comparable in importance to democracy in Jacksonian America.

The point of departure for this study of modernization and revolt is the French uprising of May 1968, one of the most important political events of recent times. "Before" and "after" May 1968 is as current in everyday parlance in France as it is in social science literature. It is often argued that revolutionary upheavals take place only during the breakdown of feudal or traditional societies and in the early stages of modernization. But now there is widespread evidence of the fragility of liberal regimes during later phases of modernization. The May Revolt is an indication of deep tensions within those societies making the transition from an industrial to a scientific civilization, and poses with special urgency the problem of the integration of the intellectual class into the political system.

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