Intellectuals, Culture and Public Policy in France

BookIntellectuals, Culture and Public Policy in France

Intellectuals, Culture and Public Policy in France

Approaches from the Left

Studies in Social and Political Thought, 19

2010

June 11th, 2010

£80.00

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French intellectuals have always defined themselves in political terms. They figure in common representation as oppositional figures set against State and government. But speaking truth to power is not the only way that intellectuals in France have brought their influence to bear upon political fields. Ahearne’s book explores a neglected dimension of French intellectuals’ practice. What happens when, instead of denouncing from without the worlds of government and public policy, French intellectuals become voluntarily, at least for a while, entangled within those worlds? After a historical and theoretical overview, the heart of the book is constituted by a series of case studies exploring policy domains in which strategies for shaping the broad ‘culture’ of France have been debated and developed. These comprise issues of laicity and secularization, reform of the educational curriculum, programmes of cultural ‘democratization’ and ‘democracy’, and public television programming. It explores the policy engagement of intellectuals such as Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, André Malraux, Cathérine Clément, Régis Debray, Francis Jeanson, Henri Wallon, Blandine Kriegel, and Edgar Morin. ‘An interesting and stimulating read … I shall be recommending elements of this book as higher-level reading for students taking undergraduate modules on 'Republican values' and the French education system and 'French Popular culture'. I am sure that many other colleagues elsewhere in British and US universities will want to do likewise.’ Hugh Dauncey, Newcastle University.

French intellectuals have always defined themselves in political terms. They figure in common representation as oppositional figures set against State and government. But speaking truth to power is not the only way that intellectuals in France have brought their influence to bear upon political fields. This book explores a neglected dimension of French intellectuals’ practice. What happens when, instead of denouncing from without the worlds of government and public policy, French intellectuals become voluntarily, at least for a while, entangled within those worlds? After a historical and theoretical overview, the heart of the book is constituted by a series of case studies exploring policy domains in which strategies for shaping the broad ‘culture’ of France have been debated and developed. These comprise issues of laicity and secularization, reform of the educational curriculum, programmes of cultural ‘democratization’ and ‘democracy’, and public television programming. Ahearne explores the policy engagement of intellectuals such as Pierre bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, André Malraux, Cathérine Clément, Régis Debray, Francis Jeanson, Henri Wallon, blandine Kriegel, and Edgar Morin.

An interesting and stimulating read … I shall be recommending elements of this book as higher-level reading for students taking undergraduate modules on ‘Republican values’ and the French education system, and on French popular culture. I am sure that many other colleagues elsewhere in British and US universities will want to do likewise.
Hugh Dauncey

The subtlety of this book lies in its perceptive analyses of those situations in which the intellectuals studied combine expertise and critical attention (…). The author maps out the basis for a renewed reflection on the place of the intellectual in contemporary societies which, more than ever, need public debates and figures who can animate them in a responsible (expert) and vivacious (critical) manner. Through this way of interrogating the past to respond to the challenges of the present, the author breathes refreshing new life into the history of intellectuals.
François Chaubet, Vingtième Siècle, Issue 110

Vingtième Siècle, Issue 110

Ahearne’s contribution to scholarship on this fascinating subject is a model of cross-disciplinary research […].The book is a learned and highly successful enterprise, and one that adds substantially to our understanding of the crucial but ambivalent role of intellectuals in the formation of French cultural policy, and sheds genuine light on the broader question of the meaning of the ‘public sphere’ in a largely privatised age.
Stephen Hopkins, Perspectives on European Politics and Society

Ahearne's book fills an important gap in recent studies of the always fascinating interface between the cultural and the political in modern France.
Keith Reader, Journal of Contemporary European Studies

... a timely and instructive text …, an excellent intervention into the ongoing development of cultural policy studies itself.

Dave O'Brien, Cultural Trends

Cultural Trends

Ahearne’s study is to be welcomed for the contributions it makes to our understanding of both French policy-making and of French intellectual history. In the domain of policy-making, Ahearne offers new insights into the frequent use made by successive French governments of public intellectuals to legitimise their actions. As regards intellectual history, he usefully illuminates some of the ways in which French intellectuals have sought to find practical applications for their theoretical ideas.

Jeremy F. Lane, Modern and Contemporary France

Modern and Contemporary France

This very valuable study adapts the critical apparatus of what can often appear to be the model driven preoccupations of social policy studies and uses it successfully to illuminate the role of the intellectual engaging with the public policy sphere. In so doing the book elucidates some of the most important cultural and social issues that are the focus of debate in contemporary France.
Gino Raymond, French Studies, vol 68, no 1

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About The Author

Jeremy Ahearne is Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick and author of Michel de Certeau: Interpretation and its Other (Polity Press, 1995) and French Cultural Policy Debates: A Reader (Routledge, 2002).