The search for the Etat providence, the French "welfare state," may be more elusive than the search for the French political and social identity undertaken by Hoffmann and others twenty-five years ago. The first question is whether this elusiveness is the product of scholarly oversight or French neglect. It is interesting that the last search into the condition of French society and the French state had no essay on the welfare state even though the battery of social legislation from 1946 to 1948 that institutionalized the French welfare state was among the major accomplishments of the Fourth Republic. But the same omission is repeated in the comparative and descriptive studies of welfare states. Inadvertently perhaps, the welfare state is often treated as a Protestant monopoly and, most often, as intellectually inspired by the Nordic welfare state. 1 To be sure, in 1960 the visible product of the French welfare state was not impressive, especially to social scientists most concerned with measuring performance. But the same could be said of the more celebrated Swedish welfare state of the 1960s.