chapter  3
17 Pages

The French dilemma: Postnational republicanism against economic liberalism

The public role of the French intellectual was formed during the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the nineteenth century. Emile Zola’s article ‘J’accuse’ remains the paradigmatic exemplar of the public role of the intellectual in France. The intellectual is a custodian of truth and justice. He or she belongs to the enlightened elite at the heart of the community. He or she is the warden of the nation’s political conscience. His or her task is to combat false beliefs and resist the seduction of public opinion. Reflection on the correct course of the world and critique of dominant grievances are incumbent upon him (Levy 1987: 19). He or she should publicly espouse the results of his or her reflections, conclusions and values. In his or her role, he or she significantly influences the fate of his country in crucial phases of history (Ory and Sirinelli 1986/1992). Nonetheless, the cross-party advocacy of truth and justice has, since the Dreyfus Affair, remained a disputed intellectual mission that continues to provoke critical reactions (Benda 1927).