France is in crisis. In this provocative account, Timothy Smith argues that the French economic and social model is collapsing inward on itself, the result of good intentions, bad policies, and vested interests who employ the rhetoric of 'solidarity' to prevent change. French social policy is not redistributive; indeed, Smith argues, the majority of 'social' spending serves to strengthen existing inequalities. He shows how politicians, intellectuals and labor leaders have invoked the specter of 'globalization' to explain homegrown problems and delay reform. Professor Smith makes frequent comparisons with the USA, UK, Canada, Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands and argues that change need not follow the inegalitarian US or British paths but instead can lead to a more equal society. Written in a lively style, this is an unusual blend of history, policy analysis, economics and political commentary and will be indispensable reading for anyone seeking to understand France's current malaise.
'This is a remarkable and wonderful book. It should be read by those interested in all aspects of French culture and in the welfare state across the globe.' Peter Baldwin, University of California 'This book is a must-read for all of those who wonder why the French welfare state is in such trouble. It is a polemic - in the best sense of the word - about the failures of political leaders in France, on the left as much as the right, and a devastating analysis of the employment, pensions, and economic policies that have often added to rather than solved the problems they were meant to remedy.' Vivien Schmidt, Boston University 'Here is the book on contemporary France. Why is the quality of life so high in France? But at the same time why has France gone so badly wrong? How has the French welfare state evolved into an instrument of privilege and exclusion? No observer of Europe, France, or international economics can do without this vitally important book.' Tyler Cowen, George Mason University 'Timothy Smith's fast-moving and tightly-reasoned France in Crisis cuts through the smokescreen of misinformation which veils the French social model. He exposes the pretentions of intellectuals, the inequities created by dysfunctional institutions, the gaps between promise and performance. Smith's message to the French is clear: we have met the enemy, and he is us.' John Gillingham III, University of Missouri 'Globalization is the source of France's current economic problems, right? Think again. Tim Smith argues that the failures of the French welfare state are the result of its own wrongdoings, which French politicians have persistently failed to address. Yet in spite of its forceful critique of contemporary French economy and society, France in Crisis offers a hopeful argument that, even in an age of globalization, governments still possess a certain margin of manoeuvre to conduct autonomous policies and tame the worst effects of the market while achieving full employment.' Sophie Meunier, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies 'Smith's criticism is unsparing but he is hopeful about France's ability to come to terms with market forces and reduce joblessness.' The Times (Weekend Review) 'For 30 years, the French leaders have been blaming globalisation and anglosaxon liberalism for all of France's problems: unemployment, rising inequalities, the crisis of the welfare state. Timothy Smith refutes these arguments of political parties of the left and right. This specialist on welfare systems doesn't want to get rid of the welfare state. Quite the opposite. 'Social expenditures should be maintained, and at a high level, but they should contribute to the reduction of contemporary inequalities'. This is indeed the main problem in France, a problem which is more intergenerational and domestic than economic and global. The first people to benefit from the system are 60% of the adult population (20 % of retired people and 38 percent active people), i.e. the richer and best protected. In other words, the bulk of the redistributed money goes to those who need it least. This is indeed a strange notion of solidarity. The problem is that the members of political parties and unions usually belong to the same category as those who benefit from the system. Where will they find the courage to redirect social expenditure to where it is most needed?' Enjeux les Echos '... impressive ...' Contemporary Review 'Among the rich Western nations, France has the poorest record of job creation and the most dramatic increase in unemployment over recent years. At the same time, its record on social spending is second-to-none, with most of the money going on unfunded pensions for public sector workers. Timothy Smith, Associate Professor of History at Queen's University, Ontario, argues persuasively in this book that these two extremes are inevitably linked.' Contemporary Review '... a forthright and challenging intervention. ... it performs one vitally important task: it highlights the absence of a genuine counter-programme to those offered by neoliberal apologists - and challenges the Left to devise one as a matter of urgency.' New Left Review