An enigma still: Poujadism fifty years on

James G. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Few names resonate more loudly from the French Fourth Republic than that of Pierre Poujade, and few terms exude such a sulfurous odour as le poujadisme. Between 1953 and 1958, the Poujadists secured their place in modern French history, winning 52 seats in the National Assembly and inscribing a lasting entry in the lexicon of political protest. Taking as its starting point the fiftieth anniversary of Poujade’s movement held in its birthplace of Saint-Céré in July 2003, this article reassesses Poujadism fifty years on from its heyday. It considers Poujadism as the first important anti-globalisation movement in post-war France, a locus for the conflict between ‘stalemate’ traditionalism and socio-economic modernisation. It examines the trajectory of the Poujadists from anti-tax movement to political party, arguing the difficulty of defining Poujadism in classic political terms. In particular, the article takes issue with the perception of Poujadism as an extreme-right ideology and interprets it instead as a form of populist protest lacking a solid doctrinal core and opportunistic in its exploitation of political issues and allies. As such, it is argued, Poujadism represents a complex synthesis of both right-wing and left-wing values and discourses, as impervious to definition today as it was fifty years ago. The article considers the brief alliance of convenience between Poujade and Le Pen, and locates in Le Pen’s early Poujadist experience some of the methods and even some of the arguments used by the FN today. It concludes by discussing Poujade’s political activities after 1958, tracing his long-term conversion from violent opposition to the State under the Fourth Republic to co-operation under the Fifth. The author draws here on correspondence with Pierre Poujade up until his death in August 2003.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-56
Number of pages21
JournalFrench Politics, Culture and Society
Volume22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Keywords

  • Poujade
  • Poujadism
  • Fourth Republic
  • politics
  • extreme right
  • Le Pen

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