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Summary 2005(2)

Summary


The Lgitimacy of the French Second Empire in the 1850ís: the Path of Semiliberalism (Nicolas Roussellier)

The French Second Empire has often been considered an authoritarian regime based on the plebiscitary use of mass suffrage. However, by examining the lawmaking process one discovers a far more complex and surprising regime. Due to the workings of the institutional machinery, and above all to the role played by parliamentary commissions, the law-making process remains semi-liberal in nature throughout the 1850ís. The same can also be said of the regimeís general effort to build civil harmony, above all as far as electoral practice is concerned. The Second Empire is no constructivist dictatorship. Napoleonís power is based neither on an ideological programme nor on a political party. As a matter of fact, the Emperor finds himself prisoner of the liberal constraints which are in place as early as 1852, and which evolve in spectacular contradictions during the 1860ís until the regimeís fall in 1870.


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