Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More on DeGaulle and France

My colleague, Dr. Will Morrisey, comments on the ’Washington Post’ piece by Jim Hoagland on DeGaulle, France and the EU which Dr. Schramm posted below.

Morrisey writes: This is a pretty good piece, although Hoagland doesn’t really `get’ de Gaulle.

The real "big idea" of Gaullism was neither meritocracy nor European integration. It was to save French republicanism from the inability of parliamentarism to defend the country. In order to do that, de Gaulle argued, France needed a much stronger executive branch than it had in any of the previous four republics--without, however, moving into Bonapartism or monarchism. Hence the constitutional amendment referendum to establish national elections for the presidency of the republic.

The `meritocracy’ was intended to strengthen that more basic principle of strengthening the executive branch.

As for Europe, de Gaulle want "the Europe of the fatherlands" and not a bureaucratic entity centered in Brussels. He did want France and Germany to dominate the confederation--with the Brits joining only if they severed their special relationship with the Americans and with their commonwealth nations, a move de Gaulle did not expect them to undertake anytime soon! At any rate, he wanted a `political’ Europe, not a bureaucratized Europe.

The other big idea, which Hoagland doesn’t mention, was "participation"--an attempt to settle several problems, including the labor-capital tensions of modern industrialism and the socio-political tendency of the French to oscillate between civic passivity/indifference and rebellion (the "France is bored" syndrome). He was looking for ways to devolve some of the political responsibilities that he had centralized. One step was the 1969 referendum on Senate reform, which he lost--retiring, as promised, immediately thereafter. He said of Pompidou’s administration, "This is not what I wanted," meaning, this is not a regime moving toward greater "participation" of the French in civic life.

Discussions - 2 Comments

France is bored?

France is bored?!

I’m bored. Yawn. Who cares about europe anyway. I’d rather talk about getting me a girlfriend.

Will, thanks for the mis au point; Mickey thanks for sharing it. Dan Mahoney, in his book on De Gaulle, De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur, and Modern Democracy, has - no surprise - very good/insightful treatments of all the foregoing. Perhaps most relevant/interesting is Mahoney’s excavation and exposition of De Gaulle’s idea of a Europe of patries (a phrase he didn’t coin, by the way). Dan also has a good treatment of De Gaulle "constitutionalism" in and for the French context (which Will correctly summarized).
Hope all’s well out in the Great MidWest.
BTW (I almost forgot!): Will has a fine (written earlier than Mahoney’s) book on De Gaulle, too!!! I’d - enigmatically - say that Will’s book’s framework is more Straussian than Dan’s. Both are well worth purchasing.

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