Understanding Modern France

November 19, 2006

This is a cry of pain and anger. I came to France in 1973 to finish a PhD program at Michigan State University. I wanted to learn about France through a lived experience. I am now at the end of my research and my conclusions defy conventional wisdom about the French world I discovered. It is not the picture you can find on post cards of Paris the city of light or France the tourist capital of the world. The liberty, equality, fraternity slogan needs a radical update. It would be more fitting and truthful to say that France today is a country of privilege, corruption and impunity. My purpose is to retrace my experience of the events of the past 30 years of French History which have engendered an inexorable decline into decadence, and demoralization, and the coming into being of a society totally divided against itself.  How did this happen? What is it like to live and work in such a society? These are the themes I will address.

When I arrived in France on August 9, 1973 I had no idea what kind of society I was entering. My initial objective was to complete a research project and write a doctoral dissertation, the final step in a PhD program. From the campus at Michigan State University to Paris France was an exciting adventure, and for the first few months I was obsessed by the task at hand–attempting to unravel the eclectic thought of a French intellectual named Georges Sorel. My French was poor and the work was demanding as I discovered over the 8 month period which followed.


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November 19, 2006

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