chapter  6
16 Pages


As was seen in Chapter 3, an obsession of French political culture was the need for unity: ‘Without unity we perish. How can we not feel this?’ insisted Michelet.2 True and durable unity required a unity of belief and values, Vordre moral: what Auguste Comte called the ‘unity of a common doctrine’.3 This seemed an essential part of ending the Revolution. Only the State could create such unity; indeed, it could not permit any other agency to do so. There was tension here with the liberal principles to which all regimes during this period, if in varying degrees, were committed. This tension distinguished France from its liberal neighbours, where the advance of liberalism during the century brought the dismantling of State regulation of belief and opinion, regarded as oppressive and archaic, as in religious qualification for public office and religious conformity in education. In France, on the contrary, the State tended to strengthen its role, a tendency associated not with archaism, but with progress. This has left durable traces, for example in State patronage and regulation of cultural life, which developed what has been called Tetat culturel\A and the educational treatment of ethnic minorities, whether Breton in the nineteenth century or Muslim Arab in the late twentieth. Cultural convergence has always been the ideal.5