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The Hexagonal Politics of Gaullist Infrastructure

Welch, Edward


Edward Welch


During Charles de Gaulle’s presidency (1958–1969), France began to be transformed by an extensive programme of spatial planning and modernization (aménagement du territoire) which produced motorways, airports, rail networks, and other forms of infrastructure. As a political project, Gaullist aménagement aimed to give material form to France’s post-imperial renewal by engineering a certain sense of French modernity into the physical fabric of the nation. Meanwhile Gaullism gravitated towards the figure of the hexagon as a means of expressing its promise of peace, prosperity, and security within a bounded space. This article examines the political stakes of Gaullist aménagement, its investment in infrastructure as a vector for civilizational advance, and its effects on everyday life and lived experience. Drawing on contemporary work by Paul Virilio, the article elucidates aménagement’s entanglement with questions of national security and its relationship with France’s policy of nuclear deterrence as parallel and overlapping strategies for pursuing national renewal. It concludes by considering the on-going legacy of aménagement, and how the broader assumptions it articulates — about growth, progress, or development — along with the infrastructural forms they produce, are increasingly the focus of contemporary political conflict in France as the country faces the realities of climate crisis.


Welch, E. (in press). The Hexagonal Politics of Gaullist Infrastructure. French Studies, 78(4),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 29, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2024
Journal French Studies
Print ISSN 0016-1128
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 78
Issue 4
Public URL

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