The Divided Path: The German Influence on Social Reform in France after 1870

By Allan Mitchell | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
The Embarrassment of Choice

Competition with Germany had long been one of the primary motives of French social reform. That fact became especially obvious in the final years before 1914. Although those who lived at the time were without our informed hindsight, there is nothing distorting or anachronistic about describing their mentality as "prewar." Arguably ever since the first Moroccan crisis of 1905, and certainly after the second in 1911, the threat of a conflict with Germany came home again to France.1 If it would be hyperbolic to speak of panic, one can at least detect a foreboding that affected the conduct of public life. Just as the earliest social legislation of the Third Republic--such as the Loi Roussel in 1874--should be evaluated as the aftermath of a war with Germany, so the last enactments before the battle of the Marne may be viewed in anticipation of another.

The durable epithet that republican France had become a "stalemate society" has a manifest element of truth about it.2 Yet that clich deserves to be questioned both for its vagueness and its inflexibility. We should not, in the first place, accept a general hypothesis without identifying its major components. What were the specific issues that remained unresolved? What form did the deadlock take? And for what reasons? These are essential questions that merit more precise answers. Second, we might well boggle at the notion that France was utterly static. Although enfeebled, the French economy continued to grow erratically after 1870 and showed definite signs of revival at the turn of the century. True, in certain matters of social reform the French lagged behind some of their neighbors, particularly Germany; yet the communal, departmental, and national expenditures

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The Divided Path: The German Influence on Social Reform in France after 1870
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xv
  • Part One - Private Charity and Public Health 1
  • Chapter I - The Aegis of Liberalism 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Demographic Imperative 24
  • Chapter 3 - The German Model 44
  • Chapter 4 - The Sources of Social Reform 68
  • Part Two - The Intersections of Reform 95
  • Chapter 5 - Men and Women 97
  • Chapter 6 - Physicians and Patients 119
  • Chapter 7 - Paristans and Provincials 144
  • Chapter 8 - Managers and Workers 166
  • Part Three - National Crisis and Social Security 191
  • Chapter 9 - The Funding of Reform 193
  • Chapter 10 - The Dilemma of Mutual Societies 223
  • Chapter 11 - The Parable of Tuberculosis 252
  • Chapter 12 - The Embarrassment of Choice 276
  • Conclusion - Republic and Reich, 1870-1914 300
  • Notes 317
  • Bibliography 367
  • Index 385
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