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Unit information: Leadership in France in 2020/21

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Unit name Leadership in France
Unit code FREN30107
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Raymond
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit takes as its starting point the radical transformation in the understanding of leadership in modern France which flows from Rousseau’s Social Contract, and looks at the way symbolic power is vested in icons and myths that consecrate the power of the people rather than the pre-eminence of an individual. The unit then aims to explore the paradoxes that rapidly establish themselves, such as, on the one hand, the rise of ‘l’espace public’, and on the other, the recurring resort to providential leadership in modern France. Using the critical perspectives developed by Durkheim, Bourdieu and others, the unit will elucidate the effect of factors like charisma, the impact of modern communication, the rise of celebrity culture, and enable the students to develop a sophisticated understanding of how and why leadership operates as it does in contemporary France.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit a student will be able to

  1. Deploy an advanced theoretical understanding of how leadership operates: through seminar discussion; and in writing through extended research for the coursework essays;
  2. Utilise critical approaches to an advanced level in investigating the psychology of the leader; the dynamic relationship between the leader and the led; the continuities in that relationship from the print-dominated to the digital age;
  3. Deploy advanced analytical skills in assessing the style and discourse of leadership in a specifically French context;
  4. Demonstrate a sophisticated grasp of the cultural and historical factors which have shaped it; the sensibilities to which it appeals; the ways in which this is expressed in contemporary France.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

1 x 2000-word comparative analysis (30%), testing ILOs 1-4.

1 x 3000-word essay (70%), testing ILO's 1-4.

Reading and References

P. Bourdieu (1991), Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge: Polity Press.

G. Debord (1992 edition), La société du spectacle, Paris : Seuil.

J. Gaffney (2012), Political Leadership in France, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

R. Girardet (1986), Mythes et mythologies politiques, Paris: Seuil.

S. Hazareesingh (2010), Le mythe gaullien, Paris: Gallimard.

A. Lilti (2014), Figures publiques, Paris : Fayard.

As with other contemporary France units in years 1 and 2, the students are also provided with a dossier of articles, extracts and speeches to orientate discussion in the seminars and act as a springboard for further reading.