‘Napoleon and de Gaulle’ reviewed by Tony Barber in The Financial Times. Political

The reader needn’t go any further into Mr. Barber’s review of Patrice Gueniffey’s book  Napoleon & de Gaulle to realize the political propinquity between author and reviewer:

Rather, Gueniffey is lining up with those who fret that history is no longer the cement that holds together the French nation. Today’s school textbooks, he says, “are full of holes, entire aspects of history have disappeared, as have, even more certainly, those who made or incarnated history”. He bemoans the turn in the French education system towards the history of non-European civilisations, not to mention the penchant of French intellectuals for Marxism, sociology, psychoanalysis, structuralism and other fads that denigrate the historical role of individuals.

The last sentence presents the ‘Post-Moderns’, to use a catch-phrase,  as somehow still the ‘victors’ in French intellectual life, while the history of the rise of the ‘Liberals’, in French intellectual life, is the subject explored in these books  :

‘Political Philosophy 1: Rights- The Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns’ and its two successor volumes, published in France in 1984  

Ferry and Renaut’s ‘French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay in Antihumanism’ , published in France in 1985.

Intellectual History of Liberalism by Pierre Manent , published in France in 1987

The State And The Rule of Law by Blandine Kriegal ,published in France in 1989

New French Thought: Political Philosophy, Mark Lilla , Editor published in America in 1994

The phantom of ‘Post-Modernism’ whether in full dress, or in its constituent parts, still haunts the political/intellectual imaginations of  Neo-Liberal writers, historians out to cultivate the fiction of their  political/intellectual wisdom. In sum, the Post-Moderns were  a collection of intellectual charlatans. As his star faded in France Derrida…

The New York Times: The TYRANNY OF THE YALE CRITICS by Colin Campbell from February 9, 1986 

de Gaulle is then described , via a quote from ‘the leftwing theorist’ Régis Debray:

In physical appearance and character, de Gaulle formed a stark contrast to Napoleon. Exceptionally tall, aloof and filled with a sense of destiny, he was memorably described by Régis Debray, the leftwing theorist, as an “exasperating beanpole”. In his heyday, de Gaulle aroused more hatred than Napoleon did, especially on the right, elements of which never forgave him for repudiating the Vichy regime of 1940-44 and for giving up control of Algeria.


My remembrance of de Gaulle is watching this comic figure, to my a-historical American gaze, marching behind the parade of dignitaries, at John F. Kennedy’s State Funeral in November 1963. 

Political Observer 


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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