The introduction explores the problematic relationship between the terms ‘right’ and ‘conservative’ in France, along with the divisions among the parties that opposed the left. It proceeds through a critique of the influential interpretation of René Rémond, who charted the fortunes of three irreducible tendencies — Orleanist, Legitimist, and Bonapartist — and of the Marxist view that underlying commitment to the social order made surface divisions irrelevant. It shows that both views fail to understand the links between day-to-day politics, perceived interests, and cultural dispositions. The book argues that conservatives (the Centre, Right, and Extreme Right) shared a common culture, in which assumptions about the nature of the elite and mass were central, but used it in different ways, for different purposes, in particular contexts.
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