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Part I
The sources of French security policy
The past two decades have witnessed the ‘pervasive rise of culture’ in the
practice of international history. ‘Culturalist’ approaches have broadened
and deepened our understanding of the nature of international politics and
the sources of policy making. A central feature of the ‘cultural turn’ is a focus
on the social imagination of policy actors.1 This book contributes to this
literature with an analysis of the role of contending conceptions of national
security in the making of foreign and defence policy.
Any attempt at a systematic analysis of the role of ideas in policy making must
address the difficult questions ‘where do ideas come from?’ and ‘how do they
affect policy making?’. At the heart of both questions is the problem of culture –
or, more precisely, the cultural context within which policy is made. Ideas
about peace and security emerge within specific social and historical contexts.
They cannot be understood properly without taking these contexts into
account. This, in turn, requires detailed consideration of the social backgrounds, education, training and everyday practices of those political, diplomatic and military elites involved in making foreign and security policy. It was
through these ‘background’ factors that policy elites acquired a durable set of
cultural predispositions that conditioned their responses to the international
challenges of this period. The role of these predispositions must then be understood in relation to the institutional culture of the various organs of state in
which most policy actors were embedded. Just as important were the wider
domestic and international contexts in which policy was made. Factors such as
parliamentary or public opinion, the balance of military and economic power
or the policies of other actors in the international system all placed structural
For useful discussions see P. Finney, ‘Introduction: what is international history?’ and
A. Rotter, ‘Culture’, both in P. Finney (ed.), Palgrave Advances in International History
(London, 2006), 2 and 17 and 267–99 respectively; J. C. E. Gienow-Hecht and
F. Schumacher (eds.), Culture and International History (Oxford, 2004); A. Iriye, ‘Culture
and International History’ in M. Hogan and T. Paterson, Explaining the History of American
Foreign Relations, 2nd edn (Cambridge, 2004), 241–56; S. Brewer, ‘“As Far as we Can”:
Culture and US Foreign Relations’ in R. Schulzinger (ed.), A Companion to American Foreign
Relations (Oxford, 2003), 15–30; and D. Reynolds, ‘International history, the cultural turn and
the diplomatic twitch’, Cultural and Social History, 3 (2006), 75–91.
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Beyond the Balance of Power
constraints on policy choices. Any study of the role of ideas and beliefs must
consider their interrelationship with these outside structures.
Many international historians tackle these problems almost by instinct.
Much of the best international history is written without any engagement
with social or political theory. My own approach to the role of cultural reflexes
in policy decisions owes an intellectual debt that must be acknowledged to
sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice’.2 Bourdieu’s theoretical
framework provides a useful conceptualisation of culture as a set of predispositions that are internalised by social actors over time. These predispositions,
which Bourdieu refers to as the actor’s ‘habitus’, are acquired by a process of
formal and informal learning as well as the cumulative impact of daily practices.
The habitus is therefore the product of the social agent’s social background,
education and training but also of the position that they occupy within a given
field of social relations. The habitus provides actors with an ingrained orientation to the external world that generates expectations and understandings
about how the world works and how things should be done. These constitute
a ‘practical logic’ which shapes the actor’s engagement with the social world.
Crucially, the habitus is in a continual state of evolution as it responds and
adapts to the changes in the external environment. It is durable but in no way
static, and is thus capable of producing a multitude of different strategies and
practices, depending on the external structures to which it is responding.3
An important characteristic of the concepts of habitus and practical logic is
that they can be applied to collective actors as well as individuals. Institutions
with a reasonable degree of social cohesion will often develop their own
corporate identity and a common practical logic to function more effectively
as social actors.4 The chapters that follow will identify the operation of various
practical logics as they evolve in response to the changing circumstances of war,
peacemaking and international stabilisation. This approach provides a useful
template for asking why French policy makers responded in the way that they did
to profound transformations in both the internal and external environment.
Careful attention is paid throughout to the interaction between the cultural
disposition of various policy elites and wider structural factors that set limits on
policy choices. But this is not a Bourdieusian study of French policy.
Bourdieu’s general conceptualisation of ‘culture’, along with the more specific
concept of a ‘practical logic’, are part of the deeper infrastructure of the book.
For more detailed discussion see P. Jackson, ‘Pierre Bourdieu, the “cultural turn” and the
practice of international history’, Review of International Studies, 34, 1 (2008), 155–81;
P. Jackson, ‘Pierre Bourdieu’ in N. Vaughan Williams and J. Edkins (eds.), Critical Theorists
and International Relations (London, 2009), 89–101.
P. Bourdieu, Le Sens pratique (Paris, 1980); D. Swartz, Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre
Bourdieu (Chicago, 1997); V. Pouliot, ‘The logic of practicality’, International Organization,
62, 2 (2008), 257–88.
See esp. P. Bourdieu, La Noblesse d’état: grandes écoles et esprit de corps (Paris, 1989), 11–26,
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The sources of French security policy
Yet the intellectual debt to Bourdieu is significant, even if the evidence and
arguments are not expressed in Bourdieusian language.
The following two chapters consider the institutional and ideological sources
of French policy. The first examines the social background, education and
everyday practices of political, diplomatic and military elites. It seeks to map
out the cultural and institutional settings within which ideas about national
security evolved and identify the dynamics of the wider field of security policy
making during and after the Great War. The second will introduce the two
general conceptions of peace and security that structured both official and
public sphere discourse on international relations. It will consider the origins
and evolution of both the traditional and internationalist approaches as well as
the extent to which each was embedded in prevailing cultural practices of
national security on the eve of the First World War.
Downloaded from Florida State University Libraries, on 25 Oct 2017 at 13:39:26, subject to the Cambridge
Core terms of use, available at
Downloaded from Florida State University Libraries, on 25 Oct 2017 at 13:39:26, subject to the Cambridge
Core terms of use, available at
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