151 Lecture Module 5 “Economy and Business

500-word essay on this subject: “What is dirigisme and to what extent does it influence the economy and business in France?” Justify your answer by referring to specific parts of the readings for this module. You must include all the readings and viewingsReading :Drake 174-194Gopnik “The Strike” 28-35 and “Trouble at the Tower” 123-25,NY Times, “A French Paradox at Work . . .,” 11 Nov 1999, by Suzanne Daley.NY Times, “France to Let Companies Scrap 35-Hour Week,” 24 July 2008, by Agence France Presse.NY Times, “France Sees Surge in Foreign Investment,” 28 March 2011, by Matthew Saltmarsh.LET 151 Lecture Module 5 “Economy and Business”The French economy is one of the world’s largest, ranking always in the top tenand some years as high as the fifth largest.Business SuccessFrance leads the world in many domains. Areva is the world leader in nuclearenergy. Vinci Construction is the world leader in construction. Total is France’s largestcompany, and one of the world’s largest energy companies. Many people are familiarwith France’s luxury goods, like Louis Vuitton leather goods, Chanel perfumes, andChristian Dior evening gowns. Lesser know French products may surprise you. Forinstance, Motel 6 is owned by the French Accor group of hotels. Boston’s Bunker Hillbridge uses stay cables designed by the French company Freysinnet. And Nissan carscan be said to be roughly half French since Renault and Nissan formed a strategicpartnership in 1999. Take a look at page 180 in Helen Drake’s Contemporary France tosee the names of more French companies. The article entitled “France Sees Surge inForeign Investment” gives some indications of France’s competitiveness in today’sworld.EconomicsOverall, France is a capitalist country today.1 But France also has a long traditionof state-intervention or “dirigisme” with respect to the economy. The “dirigiste” traditionprecedes the Revolution and is partly the reason for the glory of seventeenth-centuryFrance. With the advent of the Revolution, a new value entered economic matters – thepublic good. This notion of national solidarity, or the third term in the revolutionaryslogan of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” has molded France’s economic matters eversince. The French Revolution was largely about eliminating “privilège,” that is,exclusive rights or special exceptions to certain people or certain regions. So the Frenchhave a tendency to believe that the economy must benefit everyone and that this can bestbe done through centralized decisions. In the US, the tendency is to believe somethingalmost the opposite of this. Americans tend to believe that individual gain is the best wayto ensure the economy benefits everyone. In actual practice, the economies of the twocountries probably are generally fairly close, but the underlying beliefs are starklydifferent. Read Drake’s pages carefully to get more information on dirigisme.Other ReadingsYou will also read two parts of Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. As you read,“The Strike” you will get some insights into French economic practices and the country’scentralization. He mentions how France is centralized around Paris (in a way all roadsand railroads mostly do lead to Paris. Also, 20% of France’s population lives in the Parisarea. Most companies have their headquarters there. One quarter of all universitystudents attend schools in the Paris area. It’s like New York, Washington DC, and LA allin one). The strike itself is the reason I chose the chapter. In France, workers tend totake an adversarial role in respect to management. Thus, the rule seems to be “Strike1The Communists are an obvious exception. Some of the Socialists are also exceptions, but since roughlythe middle of Mitterrand’s first term, the Socialist Party accepts a market-based economic system.first, negotiate later.” Note, however, that union membership is higher in the US than inFrance. In talking about the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, James Corbett notes onpage 223 of Through French Windows that “The trouble is that issues that never make itto the National Assembly tend to explode in the streets.” Thus, the Fifth Republic can beseen as the root cause of France’s strikes.In “The Tower” Gopnik relates a funny and true incident that reveals someinteresting cultural differences. Commerce is the US is highly service-oriented. InFrance, it is more trade-oriented. Waiters, for instance, in France go through training andare licenced to exercise their trade (métier, in French). You don’t tip them because thetip in included in the bill (service compris). In my opinion, the tip is included becausethe waiters have professional pride and will do a good job to honor their trade. The ideaof “serving” a table to earn a good tip seems vaguely humiliating. It’s a lot like Gopnik’sidea of “producerism.”The newspaper articles deal with some important issues. The one entitled“French Paradox at Work” is about a really important and controversial aspect of Frenchlife today – the 35-hour work week. As you read it, think about who proposed it andwhy. Then chart the pros and cons of it for both workers and employers. And then youshould read the follow-up on the 35-hour work in the other article “France to LetCompanies Scrap 35-Hour Week.”

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