Michel Debré and the various manifestations of french liberalism (1936-1945)


Presses de Sciences Po (P.F.N.S.P.) | « Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire »
2012/4 N° 116 | pages 81 à 95
ISSN 0294-1759
ISBN 9782724632507

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Pour citer cet article :
Version française : Jérôme Perrier, « Michel Debré et les avatars du libéralisme français (1936-1945) »,
Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire 2012/4 (N° 116), p. 81-95.
DOI 10.3917/vin.116.0081

Michel Debré: A Liberal Intellectual? Jérôme Perrier’s examination of the personal archives of the author of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and of the journal Debré kept in the 1930s, reveals an avid reader of philosophy and political science, and a man attached to individual freedoms who also believed in the necessity of a strong state to defend those freedoms.

It may seem surprising, not to say iconoclastic, to conduct a study of Michel Debré’s liberalism. Frankly, the man is not reputed to have been either an intellectual or a liberal. Yet he was, in his own way, both.

As a high-ranking official turned politician, Michel Debré attached great importance throughout his life to ideas as the necessary prelude to any political action. Significantly, in his view, one of the most crippling shortcomings of a public figure or a government was always the absence of a doctrine. Believing that “nothing great is done if one does not try to understand the reasons,” he regarded ideas like a precious painting for guiding public action…

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