The French Challenge

The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization

Philip H. Gordon
Sophie Meunier
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The French Challenge
    Book Description:

    In August 1999 a forty-six-year-old sheep farmer name José Bové was arrested for dismantling the construction site of a new McDonald's restaurant in the south of France. A few months later Bové built on his fame by smuggling huge chunks of Roquefort cheese into Seattle, where he was among the leaders of the antiglobalization protests against the World Trade Organization summit.

    Bové's crusade against globalization helped provoke a debate both within France and beyond about the pros and cons of a world in which financial, commercial, human, cultural, and technology flows move faster and more extensively than ever before. As the French struggle to preserve the country's identity, heritage, and distinctiveness, they are nonetheless adapting to a new economy and an interdependent world.

    This book deals with France's effort to adapt to globalization and its consequences for France's economy, cultural identity, domestic politics, and foreign relations. The authors begin by analyzing the structural transformation of the French economy, driven first by liberalization within the European Union and more recently by globalization. By examining a wide variety of possible measures of globalization and liberalization, the authors conclude that the French economy's adaptation has been far reaching and largely successful, even if French leaders prefer to downplay the extent of these changes in response to political pressures and public opinion. They call this adaptation "globalization by stealth."

    The authors also examine the relationship between trade, culture, and identity and explain why globalization has rendered the three inseparable. They show how globalization is contributing to the restructuring of the traditional French political spectrum and blurring the traditional differences between left and right. Finally, they explore France's effort to tame globalization -maîtriser la mondialisation -and the possible consequences and lessons of the French stance for the rest of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9865-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  3. CHAPTER ONE How Globalization Challenges France
    (pp. 1-12)

    In August 1999 a forty-six-year-old sheep farmer named José Bové was arrested for dismantling the construction site of a new McDonald’s restaurant in the southern French town of Millau. He acted, he argued, in protest against U.S. retaliatory trade sanctions against European products (notably, French cheese) and the uncontrolled spread of free market globalization. By attacking McDonald’s, and getting himself photographed in handcuffs in the process, the publicity-conscious Bové was striking out at the symbol of U.S.-inspired globalization, a perceived threat to French identity and culinary traditions. A few months later Bové built on his fame by smuggling huge chunks...

  4. CHAPTER TWO The New French Economy: Globalization by Stealth
    (pp. 13-40)

    The traditional view of the French economy—antiliberal, heavily state centered, antiglobalization, and inflexible—is gradually becoming outdated. To be sure, many aspects of the traditionallydirigistestate live on in France. Tax rates and government spending are among the highest in the world. The state still employs nearly one-quarter of all French workers. There are few prominent neoliberal thinkers and politicians in a country where the notion of “economic liberalism” is still highly suspect. The French education system perpetuates a tight circle of powerful elites who permeate industry and government, and therefore uphold the central role of the state....

  5. CHAPTER THREE Trade, Culture, and Identity
    (pp. 41-64)

    If the impact of globalization on France were merely economic, the French would probably not find it so problematic. As the preceding chapter made clear, the French economy is adapting remarkably well to the requirements of globalization; for many, the loss of state control and growing inequalities that result from globalization may be a price worth paying for increased prosperity and jobs. The real threat from globalization is thus not economic but cultural: it is not so much the disappearance ofdirigismethat worries the French, but the disappearance of France itself. Like others in Europe and elsewhere around the...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR Domestic Politics and Public Opinion
    (pp. 65-96)

    Globalization is not only transforming the French economy and affecting French culture, but it is also reshaping the French political system. Globalization alters some of the most basic features of a country’s politics, including the relationship between the state and the individual, the expression of cultural identity, and the ways in which democracy is practiced. It redefines the limits of national sovereignty, alters democratic accountability and legitimacy, and upsets the prevailing balance among interest groups and political forces.¹ Thus in France today, some of the traditional cleavages separating the Left from the Right—religion, capitalism, communism, public ownership, education, and...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE The French Response: Managing Globalization
    (pp. 97-118)

    As France enters the twenty-first century, globalization is one of its greatest challenges. While the technological advances, economic freedoms, and social and cultural opportunities that accompany it clearly bring major benefits to most French people, globalization also threatens to undermine some fundamental features of French society—the tradition of state-centered capitalism, in which citizens count on the state rather than the market to ensure their welfare; certain aspects of French culture and identity, including language, food, art, and traditional way of life; the republican tradition emphasizing equality and fraternity over efficiency; and the enduring desire to play an influential global...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 119-146)
  9. Index
    (pp. 147-152)