In This Review

The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization
The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization
By Philip Gordon and Sophie Meunier
Brookings Institution Press, 2001, 192 pp

The 1967 book Le Defi americain (The American challenge) became a classic by urging Europe to modernize or succumb to corporate America. Gordon and Meunier explain why today's challenge, American-led globalization, is particularly agonizing for France. But they also argue that France has been adapting to globalization better than is commonly recognized. They show meaningful changes in economic policy and corporate culture (driven by European integration as well as globalization) while acknowledging that falling trade barriers strengthen the demand for protectionism in certain sectors (notably, the "cultural exception"). Overall, public opinion is "neither unambiguously enthusiastic about nor unremittingly hostile to globalization." This assertion seems contradicted by the unremitting hostility to globalization found in much French political rhetoric. But the book attributes this paradox to a strategy of "globalization by stealth": French politicians cater to their "fascinated but afraid" public by quietly pushing the country into the global economy while loudly denouncing "the dangers of unbridled globalization driven by jungle capitalism," in the words of Chirac. Readers familiar with French history will find little new territory here (although the rich trove of public opinion polls offers some surprises). Anyone wanting a primer on contemporary France or an intelligent exegesis of the Franco-American dynamic, however, will find The French Challenge a lively read.