Date of Award

1-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lois Oppenheim

Committee Member

Kathleen Loysen

Committee Member

Pascale LaFountain

Subject(s)

François Mitterrand (1916-1996), François Hollande, Socialism--France, France--Politics and government

Abstract

Scholars appear not to agree on the definition of socialism. Indeed, the term is often misused and misunderstood. This may be due to the fact that socialism is an evolving phenomenon that changes with the times. In addition, socialism isn’t solely limited to the political forum; for example, the theory also extends to the economic and environmental arenas as well.

The objective of this thesis will not be to arrive at a definitive definition of socialism. Rather, the practice of socialism in France, from its roots in the French Revolution to today, will be the focus of this analysis. More specifically, this study will demonstrate how historical events influenced the practice of socialism in France since the 18th Century. For example, socialism carried political undertones during the French Revolution while it was framed more by economics during the Industrial Revolution.

In investigating the practice of French socialism, this study will explore the presidencies of two modem Socialist presidents: François Mitterrand and François Hollande. We will look at how these presidents exercised their socialist principles both in the economic and social arenas. Each of the two presidents did away with the traditional socialist practice of strict government control of businesses in order to allow France to play an active role in the world economy. Yet, they both held tme to bedrock socialist principles of equality by supporting equal rights for homosexuals and for women. Our research will extend as well to why Mitterrand was a success with voters while Hollande has struggled in the polls, despite the fact that both essentially endorsed the same principles. Mitterrand’s political expertise would appear to explain why, in part, he was more popular with his constituents.

Finally, we will examine modem socialist trends in France and abroad. By comparing socialism in France with its practice in other countries it becomes clear that France is at the forefront of modem socialist political, economic, and environmental thought. It also becomes evident that France has returned to endorsing utopian socialist principles as opposed to those that might be considered more revolutionary. This thesis will conclude with a probe into Hollande’s political future, which remains bleak according to recently-conducted polls.

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