Julien Meimon

In the turbulent international context of the late 1950s, the French 5th Republic and its leaders orchestrated the end of the colonial system, i.e. all of its emblematic institutions: the French “Overseas” ministry and minister, the administrative corps of colonial functionaries and standard recruitment path (the École nationale de la France d’outre-mer) disappeared, setting the stage for a new, fairly complex system labeled “Coopération.” The ministry of the same name was to play a major role up until the end of the 20th century. This new system, which came about as a result of the breakup of the colonial empire, is closely related to the issue of development aid and relies essentially on civil servants having received their training in the colonial institutions and seeking for redeployment. This study analyzes the paradox of a “new policy” embodied by officials infused with a colonial culture, focusing on their reconversion in terms of deeds and discourse. This will point up one of the initial weaknesses of France’s African policy and one of the reasons that it has slowly crumbled.

The concept of "Thermidorian situation" finds itself in the tradition of the "authoritarian situation" (Guy Hermet) and "colonial situation" (Georges Balandier). It accounts for historical experiences of postrevolutionary regimes and their economic liberalization in the context of neo-liberal globalization. Developed from the Cambodian case, the Thermidorian comparative paradigm helps to interpret the economical and political liberalization processes in post-communist states and the establishment of their revolutionary elite into a dominating class. This interpretation does not refer to the normative and teleological terms of "transitology". Nevertheless, understanding the Thermidorian moment implies that it should not be reduced to a mere preservation of power, as an utilitarian reading of the events would imply. Indeed, it has to deal with autonomous social dynamics. Other types of post-revolutionary trajectories that are non-socialist, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, can serve as good examples of this phenomenon. The Thermidorian paradigm takes into account a plurality of relatively homogeneous trajectories that combine into a revolutionary event, a process of institutionalization and professionalization of the latter, and of a dynamic of integration into the capitalist world economy. This concept cannot stand for an explanation, but emphasizes the specificity of the regimes that stem from a revolution and that are confronted to their own reproduction within the context of the dismantling of the socialist camp and neoliberal globalization. "Thermidorisms" have their own historicity, notably the revolution they arose from. They also have their own political economy that cannot be reduced to the imposition of the neo-liberal model. Thermidorian moments are historical experiences subjected to contingency vagaries and social struggles. As such, they are "situations" (Jean-Paul Sartre) in which the reproduction of power and liberty of actors are simultaneously at stake.