Toulouse is one of the most striking examples of urban modernization both in France and in all of Europe. It exemplifies the unparalleled changes that transformed France into an urban nation after World War II. In Modernizing the Provincial City, Rosemary Wakeman examines the ways in which urban landscape and architecture, culture, and economic life were altered by public modernization programs designed to build “the new France.” Her study is unique in treating modernization not in the conventional sense of a fixed, abstract model superimposed over defenseless provincial cities, but rather as a matter of unpredictable change.
Modernism in France was a politically determined process enacted by the national government and by corporate interests. Yet it encountered historically articulated urban communities that acted as their own agents in the process of transformation. Wakeman’s argument is that modern French cities were created from the rivalries and negotiations between a variety of competing interests in the struggle to define contemporary urban life.
This inquiry into the forces shaping modern French history also contributes to the discussion taking place among sociologists, geographers, urbanists, and historians about the modern condition, the capitalist economic system, and the complex matrix of modern urban life.