Domestic Policy

Fifth Republic, 1969-1990
France 1959-1968
Domestic Policy
France 1959-1968
Intellectual Life

France 1959-1968

Economically, the post-war boom continued. Despite an influx of refugees from Algeria, composed of the white settlers and of Arabs who had collaborated with the French (the 'PIEDS NOIRES' or blackfeet), from France's other ex-colonies in Africa and Indochina, additional immigrant labour came to France as the French industrt required an expanding workforce.
The French government supported the formation of large enterprises (carmakers RENAULT, CITROEN, PEUGEOT), electronics (THOMSON), chemicals (RHONE-POULENC) etc.; large companies were believed capable to compete with US based multinational companies. France modernized her railroad system, developing the TGV (high-speed trains, on certain stretches surpassing a speed of 300 km per hour). Highways in France were built by private companies and usage was subjected to tolls, with the consequence that there are few exits (as compared to Germany, where Autobahn usage is free of charge). The highway cuts farming regions in two rather than opening up the area for industrial development.
In her energy policy, France, with hardly any coal deposits, and having lost the Algerian oil fields with Algerian independence in 1962, heavily invested in the development of her NUCLEAR INDUSTRY. France has more nuclear power stations than any other country in Europe. France also constructed the BARRAGE, a combination of dam and hydroelectric power station turning the energy of the tides into electricity (with a tidal amplitude of 8 to 9 meters, this taps into a significant energy source).

During the late 1950es and early 1960es, the French standard of living increased significantly, expressed in the numbers of households owning refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, cars. Intellectuals described the situation as CONSUMERISM, a never-satisfied desire for equipment making life more comfortable. Two small cars, the Citroen 2CV (the 'ugly duckling') and the Renault R4, became symbols of French industrial production. In 1963 paid vacation was extended to 4 weeks annually, and the French became passionate vacationers - CAMPING being one of the most popular English loanwords taken up by the French language.
Yet, in international comparison, French wages lagged behind those of other advanced industrial nations. Many French workers believed their standard of living had stagnated or even deteriorated over recent years. After the war, the French government had subsidized construction to meet the lack of housing affordable to those with a low income. Such housing complexes, poorly constructed and maintained, caused dissatisfaction. The BABY BOOM GENERATION was entering universities (hopelessly inadequate to deal with their numbers, as access to universities had been widened) and the labour market, the expectations of the young generation based more on advertisements and movies than on memories of the depradations during and immediately after the war.

France went through a process of modernization - the small stores of the past were replaced by SUPERMARKETS; shopping centers in the suburbs began to compete with the inner city as the economic center (they were ultimately to replace it). FAST FOOD (the so-called French Fries, which, by the way, originated in Belgium) emerged, challenging French bistros and restaurants. Many Frenchmen blamed US influence for this development (ANTI-AMERICANISM).

In 1968 students, protesting overcrowded universities, launched massive demonstrations (and soon demands went far beyond addressing the malaise at universities). Then workers joined in, and the government (fearing another revolution) quickly reacted, agreeing to restructure and make major concessions - Paris 1968.

France : The General Strike of 1968, from All about Anarchism
DOCUMENTS Le mouvement ouvrier francais et les immigres apres la seconde guerre mondiale. Quelques documents, posted by AHI
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.228-246
W. Scott Haine, The History of France, Greenwood Histories of Modern Nations, 2000, pp.172-191
Article : France, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1961 pp.282-285, 1962 pp.275-277, 1963 pp.388-391, 1964 pp.379-381, 1965 pp.373-375, 1966 pp.327-330, 1967 pp.353-357, 1968 pp.357-360, 1969 pp.353-356 [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1961 pp.279-285, 1962 pp.280-286, 1963 pp.258-264, 1964 pp.254-259, 1965 pp.284-288, 1967 pp.286-293, 1968 pp.279-285, 1969 pp.298-305 [G]
Article : France, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1961 pp.124-127 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on March 30th 2007

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