The Trouble With France

In This Review

The Trouble With France

By Alain Peyrefitte
Knopf, 1981
334 pp. $18.50

A perceptive and outstandingly ambitious minister of the Fifth Republic-in fact, the occupant of eight successive ministries-recalls vignettes of French life to demonstrate the various ills of a société bloquée. The symptoms are relatively well-known: excessive centralization, rampant bureaucracy, generalized mistrust, governmental irresponsibility. What gives the book spice-and the reader occasional pause-is the wealth of historical data brought to bear on these analyses, including long disquisitions on the differences between Catholic and Protestant countries. The book, a best-seller in France, ends with a series of intelligent, commonsensical, and far-reaching prescriptions, and pleads that "it's a mental revolution that the French need." A vibrant essay of diagnostic skill.

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