FRANCE STEADFAST AND CHANGING by Raymond Aron

FRANCE STEADFAST AND CHANGING

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This book is based on a series of lectures which Prof. Aron gave at Harvard University in 1957 concerning the present state of France. Since that time so many important events have taken place, that Prof. Aron has added several new essays which discuss the later events. In order to understand Prof. Aron's opinions and attitudes, however, one must have an idea of where he stands in his own country. By a large number of his countrymen, Aron is considered a ""defeatist"" and a ""partisan of abandon"", since he, along with the group around Mendes-France and the ultra-liberal newspaper L'Express want France to turn over Algeria to the FLN terrorists. Unfortunately, whenever the French government attempts to do so, and De Gaulle is very much like the leaders of the previous regime in that respect, it finds itself confronted with the position of several million Moslem and European Algerians and the French Army. Prof. Aron admits that he is somewhat bewildered by this situation, and when he tries to write about it for his foreign readers, he becomes rather apologetic, particularly about the phenomenon of French nationalism. And yet, there is a deep ambivalence even in this ""defeatist"", who, when he wants to, can quite capably defend the national interest in eloquent terms. Somewhere along the way, it seems, he has read Germaine Tillon's book on Algeria, and knows that there are very important reasons why France cannot drop its responsibilities and run. The professor himself is thus divided in his thinking. However, he is a socialist and has a higher regard for socialist theory than human values. His discussions on the economy of France seem to reflect his best statistical faculties. But when it comes to France itself, and the nation's spirit, he is at a total loss. For him France is less a nation and more a part of Europe. In fact, Aron is a strong partisan of the United States of Europe, wherein, he feels, France will find a place in the sun, commensurate with her means. A limited goal for so great a nation, but then the professor probably lacks what other Frenchmen like Soustelle have--imagination. Nevertheless, the stronger current in France propelled by the popular movement of May 13, 1958, and which even De Gaulle cannot seem to stifle, sees for France a greater national destiny, which men like Aron can only judge from a distance. From this point of view, Aron is indeed a ""defeatist"", for he would rather his country got smaller than larger.

Publisher: Harvard University Press