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An Army of Shadows: Black Markets, Adaptation, and Social Transparency in Postwar France (Journal of Modern History, 88:1 March 2016)

The essay addresses the question of social transparency in postwar France as it emerged in two linked domains: the state theorization of the persistent black market and concept of the criminal that emerged from it; and the socio-medical treatment of
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  An Army of Shadows: Black Markets, Adaptation,and Social Transparency in Postwar France* Stefanos Geroulanos  New York University Few facets of French culture in the three decades following World War II are asstoried as the antagonism that beleaguered the relationship between state andsociety. Anxiety underlying this relationship confronted of  fi cials, intellectuals,andsocietyatlargewithaseverecon fl ictoverthetransparencyofsocialrelations:thestatewaspryingintosociety,pryingitopen,whileelementsofsociety,inturn,at times seemed noncompliant tothe point of threatening the stability of France asagovernableunit.Inthemidstofastrongwelfarestate,withhighregardandlegal protections for the individual and privacy, and with laws that even allowed for feedback from families and social organizations in the planning of everyday life, 1 sectorsofintellectuallife,politics,andsocietybentneverthelesstowardantistatist  paranoia, occasionally even the celebration of a stateless society, on the groundsof the state ’ s reach into everyday life. The tension has long been explained as aresult of a communism-driven intellectual scene that decried the republic and thestate as violent bourgeois shams  ð an approach mirrored in the 1950s anti-tax  poujadiste  movement  ’ s denunciation of machinations of the  “ corrupted brain ” andthe “ vampiretaxstate ” 2 againstthe “ little, ” “ free, ” trulyFrench Þ ;asaresultof the experience of Vichy and the heroization of the resistance; as a general West-ern phenomenon; or as the afterlife of a disappointed early postwar hope for asuperior political regime  ð a hope that returned at important moments, notably thelater1960s Þ .Suchexplanationsmistakeparticularpoliticalconstellationsforaset ofconcernsthat reached deepintothe tissue ofeveryday life; thisarticleproposesto address the mutual constitution of state and society, and the antagonism be-tween them, by focusing on the complex imagery of social transparency negoti-ated in this competition from 1944 to about 1968. *For their comments and criticisms, I am grateful to Herrick Chapman, Dan Edelstein,Mary Nolan, Miranda Spieler, and Larry Wolff, as well as the participants at the StanfordFrench Culture Workshop  ð April 2011 Þ , the group of French historians at the ColumbiaGlobal Center in Paris  ð April 2012 Þ , and the anonymous reviewers for this journal. 1 See,forexample,theOrdinanceofMarch3,1945,whichreplacedtheLoiGounodof 1942andmaintainedprovisionspromotingtheparticipationoffamiliesinthedevelopment of family law. 2 See the description and documentation on the movement  ’ s ideology in StanleyHoffmann et al.,  Le mouvement poujade  ð Paris, 1956 Þ , 220, 223. The Journal of Modern History  88 (March 2016): 60  –  95© 2016 by The University of Chicago. 0022-2801/2016/8801-0003$10.00All rights reserved. This content downloaded from on March 16, 2016 06:25:19 AMAll use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (  By social transparency I mean the following: society was  transparent   when itsmembers and organizations were  available  and  accessible  to detailing, gover-nance,andinterventionbystateinstitutions.  Available and accessible areopposedhere to  hidden from  or   evasive toward   policy implementation, policing, publichealth controls, security, educational conventions, taxation, and so on. To thestate,  “ society ”  was transparent when the state did not have to struggle against extensive distortions of its authority and planning, whensubjectsdidnotproduce ð or appear to produce Þ  grey areas, moral and economic subgroups that exceededand hence challenged the state ’ s purview, norms, and control. I do not mean anunrestrained  “ Orwellian ”  intrusion into citizens ’  innermost worlds, nor our con-temporary idea that the workings of state institutions need to be transparent to itscitizens  ð a notion shared in the United States and in much of Europe, but that inFrance largely postdates 1975, Watergate, and the  Gulag Archipelago Þ . 3 In post-war France, both of these concerns, especially the  fi rst, were lesser componentsof a broader understanding of social transparency.Transparency thus conceived was at stake across the intersection of gover-nanceand life, inthe negotiationofthe state ’ s purview of the everyday, inthe ob-stacles and resistance raised against its intervention, in the separation of powersand their respective scope, in the government  ’ s power over family, social, andethnicgroups,inthedistributionofinformation,inthe developmentofspheresof legitimate privacy, in the role and place of the police, in the possibility and pur- pose of planning, in the value of science for the improvement of governance andsociety, in the anxiety over intrusiveness, in the fantasies of anti-establishment resistance or escape. Such engagements, at once moral and political, sometimes planned and sometimes everyday, set up a fundamental negotiation of the  “ open-ness ”  of society to the state. With these engagements emerged a dual paranoia.To the state, individuals, families, and organizations seemed insuf  fi ciently acces-sible; they constructed spheres that were opaque to it and that it had to control better. But from the perspective of the governed, the state was demanding ex-cessive access into their lives. This elaborate, often very quotidian negotiation of the need for and limits of the state ’ s at least potential involvement in subjects ’ lives came parallel to, if not prior to, intellectual fears of state power and offers aricher, more complex picture of anxieties about the meaning of the state, of so-ciety, of planning for the future, and of antagonisms in the present.During the  trente glorieuses ,  “ transparency ”  was largely a philosophers ’  term;yet metaphors for and against a transparent society  —  metaphors of light, open 3 Foucault claimed as  “ self-evident  ”  the notion that   “  power is tolerable  only oncondition that it mask a substantial part of itself  . Its success is proportional to its abilityto hide its own mechanisms.  . . .  For it,  secrecy is not in the nature of an abuse; it isindispensable to its operation . ”  In doing so he was indeed articulating a position sharedquite widely  ð though at that point becoming dated Þ , a position crucial to the post-1968French universe, important even to the spark of French Maoism. See Michel Foucault,  History of Sexuality  ð  New York, 1978 Þ , 1:86, italics mine. Social Transparency in Postwar France  61 This content downloaded from on March 16, 2016 06:25:19 AMAll use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (  society, homogeneity, and reach, but also of obscurity, opacity, clandestinity, re-fusal of of  fi cial norms, resistance  —  were frequent if not constant actors ’  catego-ries in state/society relations. State/society relations often hinged precisely on theissue of transparency, notably in cases concerning the 1944  –  45 purge of collab-orators, the police, the 1940s black market, the anti-tax  poujadiste  movement,the government  ’ s relation to the army  ð especially in the context of Algeria Þ , thestatus of the French language, postwar urban planning, the social adaptation of children and adolescents, the university as a protected yet de fi ant space, the re-lation of   pieds-noirs  to  “ native-born ”  French, and, from the 1970s on, what hascome to be known as the  banlieue . 4 Eradicating the blind spots of French state power was a signi fi cant priority for agencies as varied as public health services,economic administration, education commissioners, the police, and the execu-tive. At the same time, actors as different as psychologists, ex- résistants ,  fi lm-makers, students, and even small-time traf  fi ckers considered ways of resistingefforts to make society available and transparent, practicing or imagining alter-natives to particular state rules they perceived as excessively normative  —  as op- pressive because of the norms these rules imposed. Politically engaged intellec-tuals in postwar France deemed social transparency a highly problematicillusion that enabled capitalism and the state to impose norms and homogeneitywhile distorting the richness of everyday life. 5 These intellectual concerns werecolored, even caused, by the forms and expressions of the social engagementswith the demand for transparency.In what follows, I  fi rst demonstrate the scope of the problem of   ð social Þ transparency by pointing to certain conceptual srcins and classical loci that  persisted into the twentieth century. I then present two particular cases in whichthe concern with social transparency became central to the imagined interac-tion of   “ state ”  and  “ society ”  for the present and near future:  ð i Þ  the state ’ s effort to police, comprehend, and eliminate the black market after the  libération ; and ð ii Þ  the state ’ s efforts to use behavioral psychology to handle children andadolescents deemed  “ maladapted ”  to school and society. I use material from theArchives Nationales  fi les of the police, the 1944  –  49 Ministry of Supply, and theagency for the medical supervision of schools, as well as newspapers, fi lms, andtreatises in criminology and child psychology, in order to examine these two 4 On planning in its relationship to norms, which will not be discussed here, see PaulRabinow,  FrenchModern:NormsandFormsoftheSocialEnvironment  ð Cambridge,MA,1989 Þ , introduction. 5 See Henri Lefebvre ’ s understanding of space as socially  “  produced, ”  Louis Althus-ser  ’ s notion of ideology as instituting repressive conditions, and Guy Debord ’ s idea of thespectacle as a fundamental distortion of modern life: Henri Lefebvre,  The Production of Space  ð London, 1992 Þ ; Louis Althusser,  “ Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, ”  in  Lenin and Philosophy  ð  New York, 1971 Þ ; Guy Debord,  Society of the Spectacle  ð  NewYork, 1995 Þ . This is the central subject of my forthcoming work,  The Matter withTransparency in Postwar France  ð Stanford, CA Þ . 62  Geroulanos This content downloaded from on March 16, 2016 06:25:19 AMAll use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (  forces in the state ’ s repeated and anxious identi fi cation of elements within so-ciety as establishing a clandestine or parallel society.Inbothcases,stateagenciesanddepartmentsattemptedtoopenup “ society ” to “ the state ’ s ”  direction and to control  —  alongside broad economic and publichealth matters  —  some quite private, even intimate aspects of citizens ’  lives. State projects aiming at a single economy for all inhabitants and an educational andsocial future for children depended precisely on the visibility and availability  ð asopposed to the opacity, hiddenness, or unavailability, whether real or imagined Þ of economic relations and the citizenry. Government agencies claimed that the black market and  “ maladapted ”  children needed to be brought into the open,managed, and normalized. State intervention in support of these goals met, cru-cially, with a reaction that invested in the very alternatives that appeared toundermine the unity and transparency of French society. These agencies ’  claimsthat social, economic, and moral transparency would be bene fi cial to all gener-ated suspicion and opposition: signi fi cantly, they allowed for the emergence andfetishization of certain  fi gures that, instead of representing asociality or danger,nowdenotedautonomyandexciting,morallyacceptableclandestinity.Twosuch fi gures were especially important:  ð i Þ  the gangster, re fi gured as a clandestinecounterhero who bears an ethic that is lacking in  “  proper  ”  society; and  ð ii Þ  themaladapted,potentiallyrebelliousadolescentwhostrugglesagainstunfairsocialand moral oppressiveness. Here,  “ negotiation of social transparency ”  sets up a particularly useful language for talking about the state ’ s involvement in everydaylife  —  indeed, a language that cuts across concerns with privacy, open society,economic  dirigisme , and state intervention. The above two examples show theconcurrent force and frigidity of state and society and illustrate how elaboratelyand precisely these depended on their mutual nontransparency. Well beyond thecon fi nes of conceptual debates in philosophy, such a negotiation is visible in theway in which the French, who had a well-supported right to privacy and amongthe highest legal and social protections in existence, nevertheless understood thestate to be too intimately engaged in their lives and imagined and practiced waysout of its grasp. 6 In attending to these social and normative  fi gurations andcontestations, the present essay pursues a conceptual and moral history in whichthe state ’ s effort to shape its subjects is woven together with subjects ’  claims to personal, familial, and institutional autonomy; state and nonstate assessments of  6 As James Whitman has argued, the French understanding of privacy since thenineteenth century concerned to a considerable degree the protection of a person ’ s dignity.James Q. Whitman,  “ The Two Western Cultures of Privacy, ”  Yale Law Journal   113, no. 6 ð April 2004 Þ : 1171  –  80. Citing the Ordinance of May 6, 1944,  Journal officiel   ð May 20,1944 Þ , 418, Whitman also notes that   “  protections for   ‘  privacy ’  were proclaimed by deGaulle ’ s government in exile shortly before D-Day, presumably in the effort to win over former collaborators ”  ð 1189  –  90 Þ . Such protections were not intended to clash with the purge. Social Transparency in Postwar France  63 This content downloaded from on March 16, 2016 06:25:19 AMAll use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (  such subjects ’ social roles; andsocial attitudestowardnorms of state control.Thevisibility of subjects, the openness of their lives to intervention and adjustment,andthelimitstoprivacybecameimportantintheattempttocultivate,protect,andsustain social cohesion and a uni fi ed future. The Scope of the Idea of Transparency: A Speedy Prehistory The concern with transparency is speci fi c neither to the postwar period nor toFrench culture. It is also not just an abstract or intellectual concern, but at least asmuch a vivid and multifaceted moral and social one ranging from everydaysenses and myths of community to the uses of language and from policing toeconomicorganization.Theeasiestindexfortracingarapidprehistorytoindicateits scope is, however, resolutely intellectual  —  theological, philosophical, linguis-tic. The purpose of this section is not to cover the history, but to familiarize thereader with traditional aspects of this concern. At least since Augustine, Chris-tian theology has held transparency of the self before God to be essential to any pureselfandanytruecommunityoffaith  ð ekkl  ē   sia Þ .Inamanneraccentuatedby post-ReformationCatholicintellectuals,confessionandcommunionhaveserved ð andstillserve Þ astechniquesforensuringthepurityofthiscommunity. 7 Besidescommunityitself,aproblematicoftransparencydatestotheEnlightenment,whentransparency became associated with questions of language ’ s role in the  “ na-tionalspirit, ”  promisesofalifeunmediatedbyinegalitarianandsuperstitiousdis-tortion, and problems of sovereignty over a population. 8 The quest for a clear,universal, rational language, initiated by Descartes and Leibniz as a foundationfortruephilosophy,furtherofferedtheFrenchalinguisticandnationalpretensetosocial and political superiority. Antoine de Rivarol ’ s 1784  Discours sur l  ’ univer- salité de la langue française  articulated the claim that French was inherently “ clearer  ”  —  it was capable of capturing the spirit of those who spoke it   —  andhence was fundamentally superior to other languages and generated a superior national community. Such linguistic nationalism would become a staple in thewritingsof MmedeStael,JulesMichelet,ErnestRenan,andothers,establishinga speci fi c purism as a part of French language, politics, and society that has per-sisted to this day. 9 Meanwhile, Rousseau famously presented transparency as a 7 See,e.g.,Augustine, Confessions ,trans.H.Chadwick ð Oxford,1992 Þ ,bk.10,chap.ii ð 2 Þ , 179. See also the discussion of luminousness and the transparency of the body inDante ’ s  Paradiso , canto XIV. 8 For the eighteenth-century srcins ofthe problem of transparency in France, see, e.g.,Michel Foucault  ’ s discussions of the  encyclopédiste  and physiocratic treatments of   “  pop-ulation ”  as not simply transparent to the sovereign ’ s action, in  Security, Territory, Popu-lation  ð  New York, 2009 Þ , 71, also 357. 9 See Célestin Bouglé and P. Gastinel, eds.,  Qu ’ est-ce que l  ’ esprit français?  ð Paris,1920 Þ , 4, 5, 12, 39, 51  –  52. 64  Geroulanos This content downloaded from on March 16, 2016 06:25:19 AMAll use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (
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