«375 V I S I O N S OF A M E R I C A N M A N A G E M E N T IN P O S T - W A R FRANCE LUC BOLTANSKI Historical studies of Franco-American relations in ...»
For the image of the modern cadre to emerge in the post-war period as being "skilled in handling management techniques," it is paradoxically necessary to set aside "managerial movements" and turn our attention to those who seem more like their adversaries: Catholic or socialist government officials from the Resistance, newly salaried bosses of nationalized firms and the ensuing planners, economists, organizers, sociologists, psychologists, etc. At the service of the State, attached to defending the public domain, hostile towards the patronat and in general towards the private sector which they suspected of individualism and egotism, sensitive to "working class" problems, "exploitation" and "poverty," they were the main sources and company spokesmen of modernization of French society which they demanded for both progressive and nationalistic reasons: first, to block the road to "totalitarianism," that is to stop rising communism and to make any return to fascism impossible, and, second, to restore national power on the international scene, with respect to the United States in particular. Modernization of the economy and of society was mainly the expression of a will and political line which demanded, in order to be instituted, either the liquidation or the transformation of two potentially dangerous classes: the "red" one, or working class, and the "black" one, or traditional petty bourgeoisie, where the various forms of fascism found their most solid bases.
The American models could not have been diffused so extensively or so rapidly if the Marshall Plan administration had not decided on actions in the interests of this reformist avant-garde. The latter did not identify itself with any association or party, it was free of any formal organization or instruments of representation, it had neither emblem nor clear-cut contours, but its members were related to one another by a chain of personal contacts, in a network-like structure which prolonged the armed networks of the Resistance through peace and in the logical sequence of selective affinities. By reconstructing chains of cross references (in oral or written accounts), by going up the streams of interrelations, of ideological heritage, of political allegiance or alliance, two main characters can be found at the intersection of the different networks: on the one hand, Jean Monnet who orchestrated the productivity campaign ~6 and, on the other hand, Pierre Mend~s-France, whom the reformers saw, according to numerous accounts, ~7as the "only" politician capable of carrying out "modernization" and "democratization" of French society. Pierre Mendbs-France had close ties with Pierre Dreyfus, Georges Boris, Alfred Sauvy, and with the young progressive economists of the Plan, Hirsch, Marjolin, Ripert, Mass6, Dumontier, and above all Pierre Uri, along with Gabriel Ardant, who was commissioner of productivity, Frangois Block-Lain6 and the SEEF economists who created the instruments of national accounting, Claude Gruson (to whom Block-Lain6 entrusted creation of the SEEF) and his collaborator Simon Nora, with whom he had special ties since Nora was Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's "best friend" (according to various sources). Servan-Schreiber mobilized his family, his clientele and his paper around Pierre Mendbs-France: the history of L'Express, says Frangoise Giroud (see below), is "the history of a group of people who wanted with all their might to make France take off: the idea was to put Mendbs-France and his ideas in power, in action, for the best of France."
The strategic position of the Schreiber family in the progressive, modernistic avant-garde of the 1950s is due less to their directly political stands and actions than to their talent at grouping agents and groups previously quite separate, even socially opposed (top executives, intellectuals, bosses, etc.) and at appropriating the sometimes antagonistic values attached to such agents and groups. They thus contributed toward designing and imposing a relatively new type of culture.
The relevant characteristics dispersed among the members of the economic and political vanguard were highly concentrated among the Schreibers, who were undoubtedly predisposed - paradigmatically - to incarnate the values of the "new bourgeoisie." The family had only recently rose to bourgeois status, was of Jewish origin, and, as is often the case in Jewish families (and, to a lesser extent, in Protestant families), where the minority situation tends to maintain group cohesion by attenuating divisions between fractions, it included several overlapping social circles: journalists, businessmen, civil servants, politicians, and university scholars. The Jewish bourgeoisie, or what was left of it after the war, was quite present in the 1950s avant-garde.
Its members seem to have been ahead of their time, though this had nothing to do with the Jewish culture or religion as such (Jewish intellectuals found their political roots in republican universalism or radical- in the French sense or socialist inspiration). Their"lucidity" was the result of the collective exclusion that the practically unanimous anti-Semitism on the part of the dominant fractions of the French ruling class had imposed on them during the 1930s and the German Occupation. Anti-Semitism contributed towards driving them"left," away from Vichy, from the fascist illusion and corporatist utopia. It made them feel closer to Great Britain and the United States, where they sometimes took refuge. Nationalistic - often passionately - having for the most part fought in the Resistance, these survivors attained positions of power or symbolic authority in 1945 at an age when, in the previous generation, the young bourgeois entered society: they were predisposed to embody "youth" not only because they were young but also because the war had cut them off from their past, their roots, their class. The Liberation gave them a future by acknowledging their merits, rewarding them with military medals and scholarly titles. Against the "established bourgeoisie," against the "old values" and the "old families," whose decline had been somewhat accelerated by the fall of Vichy, they embodied the "new values" and could validly deny their belonging to the ruling class, with which they also had personal scores to settle.
Their difference was mainly expressed in "personal values" (intelligence, efficiency, competence, "professional" work - as opposed to amateurism) but also in a special life style, a combination of aggressive asceticism and American-style informalism: contempt for food and French "'gastronomy" (the well known "lunches" at L'Express magazine with sandwiches and airline-like lunch trays), for alcohol, for high society, for "bourgeois" mannerisms, for sexual hypocrisy, and for traditional eduction. They were also avant-garde feminists, and in particular, through Frangoise Giroud, the founders of the Family Planning Movement. What was meant by the term "new wave," coined by Franqoise Giroud in 1955 to designate L'Express readers ("the young people's paper"), was an original, informal, dynamic way of being bourgeois, a way of living which had not yet become an art of living, in conformity with the stereotyped images of the U.S. and a value system which was relatively original, at least for France: it was at the crossroads of the quality principles on which capitalist enterprise is based and the civil servant spirit, including the values of the entrepreneur, risking investments, along with the work ethic and good business administration as well as the virtues of an honest executive, a sense of "service," of "democracy," and collective responsibility (as opposed to profit-seeking for profit's sake and exclusive attachment to private interests).
The Second Alternative: From Corporatism to The New Deal The sort of fascination America exerted on the French avant-garde in the 1950s was but one with the criticism of the traditional right, of bosses intent on defending "caste interests" and "bourgeois elites" which had "failed to accomplish their missions. "18 The social image of the America of the 1950s, in the midst of the cold war and McCarthyism, was that of the New Deal, economic planning and the antifascist struggle.
It is impossible to understand the relationship that the French avant-garde entertained with the U.S. in the 1950s - particularly the former Resistance members without briefly reviewing the image of the U.S. in France in the 1930s, at the time when most of the avant-garde constituted their intellectual and political concepts of the social world and perceived the political significance of those images. At the end of the 1920s and in the 1930s, anti-Americanism grew in the French ruling class, especially among intellectuals, and critical studies, "theoretical" essays as well as travelers' accounts became increasingly numerous until the end of the decade. Most of the authors were not of Marxist, socialist or communist persuasion, since leftists were absorbed mainly by the evolution of Soviet Russia, and, through internationalism, were insensitive to arguments about growing American power being a threat to Europe and France. Even before the New Deal, they tended to view the development of American capitalism as "positive"; according to most observers during the period between the wars, it was characterized by economic concentration, mechanization, and mass production.
Anti-Americanism developed from the right, and to be precise, from the young right, Ordre Nouveau, the upholders of traditional Catholicism who, since the end of the nineteenth century, had associated "liberal Catholicism" with American Catholicism.19 Many of the most violent critics of American society were to become associated, a few years later, with fascist movements or become active supporters of Vichy (this was the case, for example, of Lucien Romier, 20 one of the most well-known critics of American "materialism," as well as Alfred Fabre-Luce, 21 Paul Morand, and Henri Massis).
For these critics, anti-Americanism was not founded merely on the diplomatic conflicts which opposed France to the U.S. after World War I, concerning, for instance, war reparations or disarmament. = Neither could it be reduced to nationalism, which is nevertheless what inspired the first criticism of "American imperialism" as "financial imperialism ''2~(different from, though in a way as "dangerous" as, military imperialism), and also the first debates on American investments in Europe, the latter having increased considerably between the two World Wars, especially in the electronic industry (with the implantation of ITT) and in the oil business. 24 More profoundly, anti-Americanism was aimed at what had become symbols of the U.S.: mass production, Taylorism, the assembly line, mass consumption multiplying uniform objects advertising - which"violated" consciences, in short, "mass society," and with it, at least implicitly, a form of society considered since the nineteenth century to be the archetype of democracy. The assembly line, for example, which travelers of the early 1920s hailed, had become, ten years later, no longer the symbol of efficiency and progress, but of American"materialism," of mass society, even a special form of collectivism which the most extremist critics, such as Alfred Fabre-Luce or Lucien Romier, considered a variety of Communist Bolshevism: "Neither Ford nor Lenin." These are some of the themes of personalism, which, particularly as interpreted by Ordre Nouveau, a3 are based on a series of oppositions between the "material" and the "spiritual," the "individual" and the "person," "public opinion" and "consciousness," etc. In contrast to the "standardized" man of American mass society (the term babettisation was used in the 1930s), writers of the Young Right (or of Social Catholicism) endorsed the peasant or artisan, the individual entrepreneur, the responsible company owner, holding a patrimony, uniting in one man both capital and labor, both manager and worker, in the worker's sense of the term.
Corporatism is not only opposed to Soviet Bolshevism but also to mass society, as personified by the United States. The rhetoric of the "alternative way" (troisibme voie) is not completely intelligible if it is not understood that it superposes references to political regimes (communism vs. liberal democracy), social classes (proletariat vs. plutocratic oligarchy), and national cultures (American materialism vs. Soviet materialism). In this system of oppositions, there is a homology between corporatism (or fascism), the middle class and "Europe" (anti-Americanism and the trend supporting the "European idea" develop in parallel, at least until the beginnings of World War II). These collective persons, of different sizes and natures, are characterized by identical properties and values: ancient roots in the land, spiritualism, refinement and culture, respect of the individual and richness of "personal" relations. Europe opposes its "civilization" to the "masses" in both East and West, to the "hordes." In certain respects, the "alternative" discourse constitutes a transformation of the binary schema (masses vs. elites) which, at least since the beginning of the nineteenth century, had dominated conservative thought.
Opposing the apocalyptic visions of America conveyed by the pre-fascist right is the often benign conception of the "modernists," whether reformist liberals or socialists. The former, such as Hyacinthe Dubreui126 or Emile Scheiber z7 considered automation and rational industrial engineering instruments of collective enrichment and, at least eventually, of worker emancipation. Like certain socialists - for instance George Boris or Robert Margolin 28 - they were passionately interested in the New Deal, though interpretations varied according to the political and social positions of the interpreters: for the liberals with close business ties (such as Emile Schreiber), the New Deal was supposed to reestablish the free enterprise system on a more sound basis; for the socialists, particularly interested in "code" policy, the New Deal could lead to an original form of socialism.