Thesis (Ph.D)


Seven contemporary French political thinkers

Abstract

This thesis focuses upon a significant body of contemporary French political thought which takes as its starting point a contention that both the monist and doctrinaire political precepts dating from the Revolution and the consequent Hegelian, Marxist and structuralist thinking linked to these precepts have become anachronistic and hence have little relevance in present-day France. The originality of this doctoral thesis lies in the analysis of the work of seven political thinkers. All of these thinkers, recognizing a break in the continuity of French political thought consequent upon the claim of François Furet that the "Revolution is complete", have sought to rationalize and reconcile the values of individualism, humanism and modernity in contemporary France. In contrast to the political thinkers of the Sartrean generation, whose work took little account of the actual practice of politics, in the seven thinkers seek to relate the philosophical problems inherent in considerations of individual and communal rights and values to the present-day political environment. Each of the seven has sought to rationalize a political situation, novel in France, of an acceptance of the concept of agreeing to differ on matters of substance and of a recognition that a modern democratic state is heteronomous and may contain a substantial range of incommensurable values . This amounts to an acceptance of agonistic value pluralism, that is, of the idea of political conflict which is constructive (by contrast with the destructive conflict of revolutionary-inspired doctrines) and which leads to the evolution of arguments broadly acceptable to a majority in situations in which there is a clash of values. Thus the practice of politics has become a succession of endeavours to arrive at optimum solutions to conflictual problems, rather than a search after chimerical, maxirnalist answers . Each of the seven has sought to rationalize a political situation, novel in France, of an acceptance of the concept of agreeing to differ on matters of substance and of a recognition that a modern democratic state is heteronomous and may contain a substantial range of incommensurable values. This amounts to an acceptance of agonistic value pluralism, that is, of the idea of political conflict which is constructive (by contrast with the destructive conflict of revolutionary-inspired doctrines) and which leads to the evolution of arguments broadly acceptable to a majority in situations in which there is a clash of values. Thus the practice of politics has become a succession of endeavours to arrive at optimum solutions to conflictual problems, rather than a search after chimerical, maxirnalist answers.

Attached files

Authors

Townsend, John

Dates

Year: 2001


© Townsend, John
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