France’s liberation era, 1944-47: A social and economic settlement?

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In popular memory and in textbooks, the Liberation (1944-47) was a founding moment for France’s economy and social order. The first post-war governments launched a nationwide social security system and nationalised utilities, transport, and financial and industrial firms. Economic modernisation was driven by Monnet-style planning and by high-powered civil servants from the new École Nationale d’Administration, assisted by new tools such as INSEE (the national statistical institute) and INED (the demographic institute). To this list could be added economic and social democratisation. Article 1 of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic declared that ‘the law guarantees to women equal rights to men in all domains’. Articles 22 to 39 proclaimed a range of new rights, including a worker’s right to strike and to join (or not join) a union (Article 30), and even to ‘participate, though the intermediary of his delegates, in the collective determination of working conditions and the management of enterprises’ (Article 31); this last provision found practical expression in the establishment of comités d’entreprise in large and medium-sized firms. Contemporary protagonists from the Communists to de Gaulle viewed this as an era of bold beginnings. Even 40 years later, as governments began to sell off nationalised firms or struggled to bring social security costs under control, the image of the Liberation as a founding moment was shared both by neo-liberals who sought to reform or dismantle the post-1944 settlement and by those on the Left who struggled to preserve it.




Chapman, H. (2007). France’s liberation era, 1944-47: A social and economic settlement? In The Uncertain Foundation: France at the Liberation 1944-47 (pp. 103–120). Palgrave Macmillan.

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