Author (Your Name)

John C. Wood, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Government Dept.


E. Makinen

Second Advisor

K. F. Gillum

Third Advisor

H. Gemery


This Senior Scholars Program was initially undertaken as an attempt to unravel the problem of French political instability since 1789. Subsequent research led to a readjustment in the scope of the project. The final draft provides a broad yet detailed analysis of the connection between economic development and political behavior in post-war France. I have divided the post-war years into three specific time periods. The initial time period isolates the years between 1938-1946. The interval years are 1954-1958. The terminal time period ranges from 1962-64. For each time period I have compared specific indices of economic growth with the voting results in the respective legislative elections on a department level. Chapter I introduces the theoretical background to the connection between economic development and the political system. Included in this introductory chapter is the general methodological scheme for testing the link between economic development and the democratic order in the French system. Chapter II tests two interrelated hypothesis; first, that a high level of economic development produces a more democratic interplay by providing a basis for rational participation in the democratic struggle. To test these hypothesis in the French political system, I have compared levels of economic development with voting behavior in the post-war elections from a random sample of thirty departments. In Chapter III I have tested the theory that rapid economic development produces strain and dislocation for stable democratic order. To test this hypothesis empirically, I have examined the support for the extreme left and extreme right in post-war France. Chapter IV analyzes the effect of economic development in the support for the major groups on the right, the Gaullists and the Moderes, and the major groups on the left, the Communists and Socialists. The lack of any strong correlation between economic development and political behavior in post-war France caused me to search for non-economic factors that influence voting behavior. In Chapter V I have examined the influence of religion in the post-war legislative elections in eleven strong Catholic departments and eleven of the indifferent religious departments. Chapter VI analyzes the influence of regional grouping on the voting behavior in the same elections. In the conclusion, Chapter VII, I have made some general observations on the consequences of the results found above for the modern French political system. In addition I have raised some questions concerning the traditional theoretical assumptions linking economic development with the political system. The last section of the conclusion provides a discussion of the indices used in the study and suggests some areas for further research.


economic development, political system, democracy, France


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