Originally published in 1968, this book set out to give a brief but complete account of the French Parliament as it had worked in practice since the advent of President de Gaulle. A number of different aspects are discussed, from the social background of the members to the debates on five sample bills, and from the strategy of pressure groups to the organisation and character of the Gaullist party (about which very little had been written). While the legal framework within which the new parliament works is comprehensively described, attention is mainly focused on a political situation transformed by the end of the Algerian war and by the speed of social change in France itself at the time.
Earlier books on the Fifth Republic naturally concentrated heavily on the spectacular crises of its early years and on the exceptional personality of its president. Remarkably little, therefore, had been written on the recent development of its institutions and politics in the peacetime conditions which France had enjoyed since 1962 for the first time for over twenty years.
There was a Gaullist myth that the new regime had reformed the system and, against the obstructive opposition of an Opposition which had learned nothing and forgotten nothing, had won the support of the French people for a strong democratic government on British lines. There was a corresponding Opposition myth that a ruler and party of authoritarian temper had consolidated their power by reducing parliamentary criticism to an impotent farce. Neither interpretation was wholly unfounded; neither does justice to the complex reality which this work tries to explain as fairly as possible.