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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .


Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and Fascism in France
Michael Winock

(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998) Distributed by Cambridge University Press.
351pp. Index. Hb.: 35.00 (US $55.00); ISBN 08047 3286 8



Michel Winock's collection of essays on the three inter-related themes of nationalism, anti-Semitism and fascism was first published in French by Editions du Seuil in 1990. The work is guided by two notions of nationalism: the 'open,' optimistic vision of 'patriots,' and the 'closed,' threatened world of 'nationalists,' whose appeal is based on a pessimistic assessment of decadence and threatened identity. Covering a wide range of ground, Winock shows how the 'open nationalism,' originating in the Enlightenment and the Revolution of 1789, held sway in France for much of the nineteenth century before the emergence of Boulangism in the 1880s, and the subsequent anti-Dreyfus movement. The main body of analysis, however, concentrates on the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, weaving between different historical periods and personalities in its treatment of the three core themes.

From the outset, one sees an overlap between strands of 'open' and 'closed' nationalism, and Winock acknowledges that 'it would be wrong to imagine a watertight partition.' (p.6) Indeed, through the rich historical material that follows, he explores, often implicitly though, what he calls the 'passageways, convergences, even compromises' between the two. (p.6) At the same time, this is a highly opinionated work. As contemporary France undergoes a series of economic and social crises, there exists, in Winock's view, a real danger to democracy from 'eloquent orators of political oversimplification and the prophets of doom.'(p.25) General de Gaulle is portrayed as the last great nationalist (in the 'open' sense of the term), and the somewhat abrupt end to the book makes little effort to hide the author's views: 'The heroic age is over. And so we are disenchanted.' (p.316)

Given the rise of nationalist movements over the last decade not just in France, but across many parts of Europe, this translation is a timely exposure of a work which deserves an international audience. Indeed, with so much academic attention currently focused on Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Front National, Winock's historical perspective provides important reference points as well as a more widely applicable conceptual framework.


Jonathan Lipkin,
University of Oxford




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