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Globalization and Europeanization: A Challenge to French Politics

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Globalization and Europeanization: A Challenge to French Politics
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  Articles Globalization and Europeanization: A Challengeto French Politics Sophie Meunier Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University,Bendheim Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.E-mail: smeunier@princeton.edu; URL: www.princeton.edu/ B smeunier. This article examines how globalization and Europeanization interact with eachother, either in a centrifugal or in a centripetal way, to alter French politics. Itanalyzes how globalization has redefined domestic politics in France and it exploreswhether Europeanization has accelerated or hindered these transformations. Itstudies in turn the impact of globalization and Europeanization on power,preferences and institutions — three essential components of a country’s domesticpolitics. The central argument is that globalization and Europeanization not onlyhave transformed the nature of domestic politics, but are also becoming a newcleavage around which domestic politics are being structured. French Politics  (2004)  2,  125–150. doi:10.1057/palgrave.fp.8200056 Keywords:  cleavages; Europeanization; France; globalization; neo-liberalism Introduction In France, the most surprising political mobilization of the year 2003 occurredin August in the barren region of Larzac, where more than 200,000 peoplegathered to protest against globalization. 1 From the state’s proposed pensionsreform to the privatization of public services, the ultra-liberalism of the WorldTrade Organization (WTO) and the threats posed by genetically modifiedcrops, supporters of Jose ´ Bove ´, a sheepfarmer turned McDonald’s wrecker andmedia star, denounced the ravages of neo-liberal globalization on the Frencheconomy and society. Beyond the unexpectedly high turnout, the mostsurprising aspect of this mobilization was the non-political nature of theprotest, despite the political nature of the issues addressed. Indeed, the growingstrength and appeal of the French ‘counter-globalization’ movement isoccurring at the margins of the traditional political sphere, outside of theparty system. And yet, at the same time, globalization seems to becomeincreasingly relevant as a new defining cleavage in French politics, so much sothat politicians of all creeds now try to define themselves  vis-a `-vis  this complexconcept. How has it happened that the theme of globalization has permeated French Politics,  2004 ,  2 , (125–150) r 2004 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 1476-3419/04 $30.00www.palgrave-journals.com/fp  French political discourse, and how has it transformed the nature of domesticpolitics?In most European countries, the distinction between the Left and the Righthas become increasingly blurred and on some issues, the extremes on each sideof the political spectrum have now more in common with each other than theydo with the center. This increased blurriness of partisan politics can beinterpreted as the result of structural change, such as demographictransformations, the rise of the middle class (Goldthorpe, 1995), the resolutionof the old cleavages (Franklin  et al  ., 1992), and an increasing disillusionmentwith catch-all political parties. It can also be interpreted as the product of acombination of globalization and Europeanization. Indeed, globalization — the accelerated movement of goods, capital, services, technologies, people, andideas across borders — has been mostly a market-driven process taking placein boardrooms and over the internet, without much prior discussion of itspolitical implications. Europeanization — the gradual integration of economiesand societies that belong to the European Union (EU) — has been mostly anelite-driven process taking place away from the critical eye of the public andcontested elections. Yet both phenomena have already impacted profoundly onthe configuration of domestic politics in Europe. They alter some of the basicfeatures of a country’s politics, including the relationship between state andindividual, the expression of cultural identity, and the practice of democracy.They redefine the limits of national sovereignty, affect democratic account-ability and legitimacy, and upset the prevailing balance among interest groupsand political forces.Nevertheless, globalization and Europeanization differ from each other, notonly in their nature but also in their political implications. Are theycontradictory phenomena (Hirst and Thompson, 1996) or complementaryprocesses (Held, 1999)? Is it possible to disentangle the impact of Europeanintegration on French politics from that of globalization? Some scholars haveanalyzed the impact of Europeanization on the French polity (Ladrech, 1994;Cole and Drake, 2000; Drake, 2003), while others have focused on the impactof globalization on France (Cohen, 1996; Meunier, 2000a; Gordon andMeunier, 2001; Hanley, 2001). This article examines how globalization andEuropeanization interact with each other, either in a centrifugal or in acentripetal way, to alter French politics. It analyzes how globalization hasredefined domestic politics in France and it explores whether Europeanizationhas accelerated or hindered these transformations. It studies in turn the impactof globalization and Europeanization on power, preferences, and institutions — three essential components of a country’s domestic politics. The centralargument is that globalization and Europeanization not only have transformedthe nature of domestic politics, but are also becoming a new cleavage aroundwhich domestic politics are being structured. Sophie MeunierGlobalization and Europeanization 126 French Politics 2004 2  Globalization, Europeanization, and Political Power Globalization is a catch-all word, but is often underspecified in the literature.In its narrower definition, globalization is primarily an economic phenomenon,whereby economic activity is increasingly conducted across national bound-aries (Goldthorpe, 2002). According to this interpretation, globalization ischaracterized by unprecedented levels of trade and capital mobility. In abroader definition, globalization is not only an economic, but also a social,political, environmental, and cultural phenomenon, encompassing a greatermovement of persons, norms, technology, and culture, among others. A relatedand central question is whether globalization is a new, an old, or a cyclicaldevelopment (Giddens, 1994; Held, 1999; O’Rourke and Williamson, 1999; James, 2001; Goldthorpe, 2002; Berger, 2003). Whether globalization is a real phenomenon or little more than a new slogan, it is obvious that the word itself has spurred considerable political rhetoric and activity. For the purpose of analyzing the potential political impact of globalization on French domesticpolitics, this paper adopts a broad definition of globalization and considersthat, although it does not represent a radical discontinuity with the past, thecurrent wave of globalization has distinctive features in its scope, scale, andintensity, which can have consequences of their own.Europeanization has also recently become an ubiquitous concept, althoughsomewhat clearer to define and less controversial than globalization.Europeanization usually refers to the sources of change in national politicsand practices coming from European integration (Hix and Goetz, 2000; GreenCowles  et al  ., 2001; Featherstone and Radaelli, 2003; Vink, 2003).By accelerating the speed and intensity of exchanges and interactions,globalization reduces the meaningfulness of national borders. As a result,it can affect the relative power of different groups in society and redefine theissues and divisions around which domestic politics are structured. In France,as in most other advanced industrial countries, globalization has affectedpower in at least four dimensions: it has enhanced the power of the individualat the detriment of the power of the collective entity represented by the state; ithas weakened the autonomy and tools of the state; it has increased the powerof multinationals and international investors; and it has decreased thebargaining power of labor. This, in turn, has affected the nature of domesticpolitics. Dirigisme vs  the market In its trade and financial incarnation, globalization ‘shrinks’ the state byshifting power away from the state sector into the hands of private actors.Although for some analysts there is a complementarity between the state and Sophie MeunierGlobalization and Europeanization 127 French Politics 2004 2  private economic interests (Cerny, 1999), the most widespread view is thatstates and private interests are in opposition (Hanley, 2001). The state can nolonger own/control much of the national means of production, directly employlarge number of workers, and tax heavily to promote redistribution. In place of state control, the market takes over. Privatized firms act according to theirbalance sheets and shareholder interests rather than under national direction;the stock market dictates economic decisions more than the government; andnew forces in society, from civic action groups to business executives, playmore of a role than bureaucrats, officials, and political parties. As a result,power in society rests increasingly with private actors, be they individuals orcorporations.Globalization therefore represents a particular challenge for France, acountry traditionally characterized by its  dirigisme . In the  dirigiste  model, thestate has an important role to play in guiding national economic developments,because only the state can identify and pursue the common interest that issuperior to the sum of private interests (Hall, 1986; Schmidt, 1996; Levy, 1999).The market is allowed to work, but only under close supervision of the state,which controls many of its most important levers through a high degree of national ownership of the means of production and finance, high taxation andspending, interventionist industrial policies, and close governmental ties withthe corporate world. By contrast, globalization requires abandoning, to a largeextent, state control over the economy — and thereby over society. Thistransformation has already largely occurred in France, as evidenced by themassive amount of formerly state-owned companies that have been privatized,many of them by the Socialist Jospin’s government (Gordon and Meunier,2001).Yet acknowledging this transfer of power is not an easy task for Frenchpoliticians who, to counter accusations of the powerlessness of the state in theface of global constraints, must demonstrate that they are still solidly incommand of the French economy. Former Prime Minister Jospin experiencedthis in 1999 when, whereas tire-maker Michelin announced massive layoffsamidst record profits, he declared that the French cannot expect everythingfrom the state, and that there was nothing he could do in that case because itwas no longer the state’s duty to administer the economy. This extremelyunpopular statement heightened public awareness of a sense of vulnerabilityassociated with the new economy and was widely denounced throughout thecountry. Indeed, since globalization increases the role of the market ascompared to the role of the state in the determination of economicrelationships, it is particularly difficult for a society that is used to lookingto the state to provide jobs, redistribute incomes, protect against unwantedimports, and promote prestigious industrial sectors and perceived nationalinterests. Sophie MeunierGlobalization and Europeanization 128 French Politics 2004 2  This impression has been further reinforced in 2004 by the Aventis episode.In the well-publicized takeover battle between French company Sanofi andSwiss company Novartis for the control of the French–German pharmaceu-tical giant Aventis, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has limited hisimplication to comments indirectly supporting Sanofi, since it is a matterinvolving private companies and their shareholders and not nationalgovernments. Yet the absence of government intervention has been muchcriticized for what it reveals about modern capitalism. Many have argued thatFrance’s national interest is at stake, not only because the merger would resultin massive layoffs or outsourcing of highly qualified workers, but mostlybecause in the highly sensitive sector of health, shareholders should not be leftalone to make decisions. 2 A reduced margin of maneuver in policy-making Globalization is also perceived to make the state ‘shrink’ because it has reducednational levers for macroeconomic policy, the availability of the tools of industrial policy, and the ability to raise resources to finance welfare andredistributive policies (Berger, 2000). With their margin of maneuverconstrained by external forces, national governments may have less room toact autonomously. As a result, the central state loses some of its politicalpower. 3 The feeling that the state has ‘shrunk’ is prevalent in France, as it is in therest of Europe. And indeed Europeanization, more than globalization, is oftenblamed for this in the discourse of politicians who claim that their hands aretied by ‘Brussels’ and by their European commitments. The French Socialists,in particular, have experienced this firsthand. The 1981 election of Franc   ¸ oisMitterrand as President had initially brought back  dirigisme  with a vengeance,based on the premise that France could save its own economy in a context of worldwide recession by taking control. But the Mitterrand U-turn of 1983 — moving from a defiant rejection of international economic pressures to anacceptance of its constraints in just 2 years — played an important role inFrance’s adaptation to international economic integration, both in itsEuropean and global dimensions. The lesson that the French and the rest of the world drew from this experiment is that the idea of going it alone was nolonger an option for a national economy — particularly one that wasintegrated into the European Community.Subsequent governments, both of the Left and Right, have given to thepublic the impression of conducting similar economic policies, subject to thesame international constraints and European commitments. In a countryknown for its deep, ideological divisions, the differences between Left andRight on the economy, in practice if not rhetoric, have become minimal. Sophie MeunierGlobalization and Europeanization 129 French Politics 2004 2
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