Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: the Limits of Liberalism

  • James Shields
Part of the French Politics, Society and Culture Series book series (FPSC)


When Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was elected President of the Republic in May 1974, the key theme of his election campaign was ‘change’. Following Charles de Gaulle (1959–69) and Georges Pompidou (1969–74) as the third President of the Fifth Republic, Giscard promised ‘a new era in French politics, an era that will rejuvenate and change France’ (MDD 1974, 113). This ‘new era’ for France would combine the necessity of change with the security of continuity, a seductively oxymoronic appeal encapsulated in Giscard’s campaign slogan ‘le changement dans la continuité’. When the same Giscard left office in 1981, his presidency was summed up by Le Monde as ‘Seven years of disappointment’. This unsparing assessment set the tone for subsequent evaluations of a presidency which, by the measure of its own promises alone, could not but be deemed to have failed. Again in the judgement of Le Monde, ‘seven years after the great changes promised in 1974, it was back to square one’ (MDD 1981, 4). While custodianship of the new hopes for change would pass to the Socialist Party’s François Mitterrand, Giscard ended his term of office as the only incumbent President in the history of the Fifth Republic thus far to have run for re-election and been rejected.


Prime Minister Finance Minister Election Campaign European Monetary System Socialist Party 
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© James Shields 2013

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  • James Shields

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