In many ways, the Fifth Republic alone synthesizes nearly a thousand years of French history. Logically, the biographer Philppe Valode has chosen to tell us in a recent and imposing book the history of the Fifth through that of the seven heads of state who led it, from its founder De Gaulle, to the current president Hollande.
Election of the president by universal suffrage, majority at 18, Veil law on abortion, abolition of the death penalty, 35 hours, five-year term or even marriage for all: more than half a century after its birth, the Fifth Republic appears as the republic of change. Sociologically, she sees the emergence of the middle class and, politically, a de facto two-party system, now threatened.
From the beginnings of Gaullian France to the present day, Philippe Valode looks back on the major projects, the delicate moments and the innovations desired by the seven presidents and their twenty prime ministers, from Michel Debré to Manuel Valls. Index, detailed biography of ministers and secretaries of state, boxes and documents complete this reference work.
In this kind of exercise where it is not easy to silence his preferences to evoke an institution and its various representatives, Philippe Valode has escaped the double pitfall of hagiography and partisan pamphlet. This perspective of the Fifth evokes with precision how this institution and the presidential function evolved, tailor-made for its founder. Since then, each president has tried to appropriate it according to the political context and his personality, with varying degrees of success. The desecration of the presidential function, begun under Giscard d'Estaing, is combined with the loss of confidence of the French in an executive power considered increasingly powerless. A sign of the times, the author also evokes at length (too much?) The private life of presidents. The history of the 5th is also and above all that of its presidents, and this very comprehensive work for all audiences will be a milestone.
The Fifth Republic, a story, by Philippe Valode. L'Archipel, October 2014.