The Politics of PaCS in a Transatlantic Mirror

Same-Sex Unions and Sexual Difference in France Today
  • Eric Fassin


1989 was not only the year the Berlin Wall finally collapsed. In France, 1989 was primarily the year of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution—that is, at long last, the Revolution was over (at least, according to François Furet1). This meant that, henceforth, instead of opposing 1776 to 1789, a (good) liberal Revolution to a (bad) radical Revolution, French “neo-liberals” could invoke de Tocqueville to denounce the perils of democracy in America—thus turning around the transatlantic mirror: in contrast to a French tradition of civility fortunately inherited from a happy combination of the Old and New Regimes merging in the “République,” “democratic passions” (meaning the immoderate love of equality) jeopardized the American nation. This became intellectual common sense in Parisian circles in the following years, in response to American (so-called) political correctness, and shortly thereafter, to (so-called) sexual correctness.


Sexual Difference French Revolution Political Choice Symbolic Order Lesbian Couple 
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  1. 2.
    Mona Ozouf Les Mots des femmes, essai sur la singularité française (Paris: Fayard, 1995).Google Scholar
  2. See also Frédéric Martel, Le rose et le noir, les homosexuels en France depuis 1968 (Paris: Seuil, 1996),Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For a more fully developed comparison of the French and American debates, see Eric Fassin, “Same Sex, Different Politics: ‘Gay Marriage’ Debates in France and the United States,” Public Culture 13.2 (2001): 215–32 (and a forthcoming volume with Duke University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Hannah Arendt, “Reflections on Little Rock,” Dissent 6.1 (Winter 1959), excerpted in Andrew Sullivan’s reader: Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con (New York: Vintage, 1997), 144.Google Scholar
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    Irène Théry “Le contrat d’union sociale en question,” Esprit IO (October 1997): 159–87, and the report Couple, filiation et parenté aujourd’hui. Le droit face aux mutations de la famille et de la vie privée (Paris: Odile Jacob/La Documentation française, 1998).Google Scholar
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    For an intellectual as well as political history of the two debates, see Michel Feher and Éric Fassin, “Parité et PaCS: anatomie politique d’un rapport,” Au-delà du PaCS: l’expertise familiale à l’épreuve de l’homosexualité, ed. Daniel Borrillo, Eric Fassin, Marcela Iacub (Paris: PUF, 1999, 2001), 13–43.Google Scholar
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© Roger Célestin, Eliane DalMolin, Isabelle de Courtivron 2003

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  • Eric Fassin

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