Melancholy Politics

Loss, Mourning, and Memory in Late Modern France

Paper or softback
Jean-Philippe Mathy
Published 31 Aug 2011
List Price £24.95



The current cultural climate in France is often described as one of “déclinisme” or “sinistrose,” a mixture of pessimism about the national future, nostalgia for the past, and a sinister sense of irreversible decline concerning the present. The notion of “democratic melancholia” has become widely popular, cropping up time and again in academic papers and newspaper articles. In Melancholy Politics, Jean-Philippe Mathy examines the development of this disenchanted mood in the works of prominent French philosophers, historians, and sociologists since the beginning of the 1980s. This period represents a significant turning point in French intellectual life, as the legacy of major postwar and sixties theorists such as Lévi-Strauss, Derrida, and Foucault was increasingly challenged by a younger generation of authors who repudiated both Marxism and structuralism. The book is not a classic intellectual or cultural history of post-1968 France, but rather a contribution to the understanding of the present—a collection of soundings into what remains largely a complex, ongoing process.

“[Mathy's] study provides highly readable and informative insight into contemporary waves in French thought and political culture.”

—Drew Flanagan, H-Net Reviews



Introduction: Loss, Mourning, Memory

1. Specters of the Sixties

2. French Postmodern

3. Le Débat, Year One: The Generation of 1980

4. The Return of the Prophet: Bourdieu, Zola, and the Dreyfusist Legacy

5. Desperately Seeking Marianne: The Uses of the Republic

6. Memory Wars

7. Old Wine, New Skins: Race, Laïcité, Frenchness