In This Review
The French Way: How France Embraced and Rejected American Values and Power

The French Way: How France Embraced and Rejected American Values and Power

By Richard F. Kuisel

Princeton University Press, 2011, 544 pp.

This book captures France’s deep ambivalence toward American economics, politics, and culture. After a scholarly lifetime explaining French attitudes toward liberal values, free markets, and foreigners, the political scientist Kuisel is uniquely suited to the task. Many French find the Unites States’ inequality, materialism, populism, and global militarism deeply distasteful. Like so many things French, this response remains paradoxical: Americanization and anti-Americanization coexist together. The French flirt with transatlantic fashions and ideas, from free-market economics to California Cabernet. Some of it sticks, as Euro Disney, 1,000 McDonald’s, and many successful American TV shows attest. The French are more willing to use military force, support high technology, and oppose both communist and Islamist extremism than most other Europeans. Yet in the end, the French remain firmly wedded to views of democracy, family, work, and lifestyle that diverge from those 
of Americans, and there is little sign of change. These views are particularly pronounced on the left, but even French business is ambivalent about the United States, seeking more freedom from regulation but remaining suspicious 
of moving toward what is perceived as 
an underregulated U.S. model. Kuisel unpacks all this, making this book required reading for anyone interested in relations between the world’s two oldest republics.