ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The French Economy in the Twentieth Century Review

Updated on May 16, 2019

France has been known historically for a surprising and unique route that it has taken on the path to its contemporary economic position, one marked by a large rural population, low population growth, an expansive colonial empire producing a closed franc zone which abetted protectionism, large state economic intervention, and a delayed transition to a fully industrialized economy. During the 20th century, many of these features were ablated, while others survived, sometimes in fact the early 20th century adumbrating the later developments in the period. It is the subject of the transformations of the French economy and its general development, specifically in macro-economic and structural terms, that Jean-Pierre Dormois presents his book The French Economy in the Twentieth Century.

The first chapter is devoted to the end of what the author sees as French economic exceptionalism, based on a largely rural nation with a low population growth, which has been replaced by France becoming largely similar to other European nations (or more ominously, to the Americans....) - similar moderate population growth with large amounts of immigration (in this it was its neighbors evolution towards its previous modern which was most marked), and a largely urbanized population.

In the second chapter, French economic history is periodicized into the 1900-1913 period, 1914-1945 period, 1946-1973 period, and the 1974-2000 period, the first marked by slow but sustained growth, the second by general economic stagnation, the third by economic boom, and the fourth by low economic growth once more, with discussion of reasons why and some of the effects.

Trade, colonialism, represent the third chapter, which deplores French isolationism and protectionism in the WW1 to 1960s era, viewing it as a brake on French economic growth, especially in its imperial form, castigating colonialism for negative economic results. Since the 1960s France has come to be increasingly open to Europe and its trade redirected there.

The expenditure and influence of the state is the mainstay of the fourth chapter, opening with the distinctive French preference for state guidance and direction, and followed with discussion of the number of employees of the state, various tools used by the government for intervention in the economy in both fiscal and monetary realms, and the development of social security.

Various economic institutions and elements constitute the fifth chapter, such as judicial aspects, types of firms and their concentration, the banking system, education and research, and labor unions and some of the elite technocratic groups and institutions which govern the country.

The greatest change in the French economy, the dramatic shift in economic employment sector in the second half of the 20th century, changing the nature of French employment from an economy based principally on agricultural work to one defined by a service economy, alongside a respectable but diminishing-in-employment-terms industrial sector and a tiny agricultural employment. Along the way, the number of workers grew somewhat, but not hugely, and was repressed by the state. Wages rose and hours worked fell, although for the working class, since 1973 results have been negative. Women have entered the work force in larger and larger numbers since 1973 themselves, although they had always had a relatively large percentage number in the French economy. Unemployment, traditionally low in France but growing rapidly since the late 1960s, is the final theme,

Despite the reduction in agriculture's importance in the economy it continues to be a major preoccupation and economic sector, as is related by chapter 7, which showcases the dramatic reforms in French agriculture after WW2 which transformed it. Despite the major strides in production, the picture painted is not a rosy one, depicting an industry reliant on subsidies and not nearly as productive as heralded.

The two big economic sectors which profited from the relative decline of agriculture were industry and services. Industry grew more concentrated and productive over time. Services started out relatively unproductive but exploded during the Trentes glorieuses (1945-1973), and grew to constitute a key feature of the French economy, with some of the enterprises listed.

A conclusion advances the argument that the closest and most similar economy to France in Europe is Italy, and warns against claims of particular French economic exceptionalism and insular examination.

Although written by a French writer, this book hews more closely to the perceptions of the Anglo-Saxons (Britain and the United States) upon the French economy, representing what might be viewed as the dominant neo-liberal globalization perspective. It is a volume which is, if perhaps the moniker of fiercely is ill suited, certainly deeply critical of French economic policy, be it in regards to subsidies and protectionism, unemployment and employment policies, protectionism, and state intervention: it repudiates these in favor of what would be to the Anglo-Saxon eye a much more orthodox view of how an economy should be run. Perhaps Jean-Pierre Dormois was influenced by The Economist, which he credits with helping to improve his writing in English for the book, but doubtless it does represent his own convictions. While the book is certainly no novel, its brevity, efficient organization, and almost polemical tone does do something to prevent it from being too boring. Indeed, for somebody who enjoys plentiful tables, charts, and statistics, these are in abundance and break up the text, although some of the charts to me at least, seem poorly labeled and at times confusing....

It is furthermore a surprisingly short book, running at barely more than 150 pages for its content. This naturally brings both strengths and weaknesses: weaknesses in that the content must naturally be somewhat sparse and trimmed down, to fit into such a short volume, but the strength in that it is short, and that it is, for its size, a good and useful portrait of the economy. It might be useful to think of it not so much as a history book or a textbook, but rather an exposé, or even a pamphlet of the French economy: a negative one, but one which earnestly presents its facts and ideas. And there are few other books which provide for a general overview of the 20th century: there are plentiful books for certain eras, and for certain features of the French economy, but precious few which look at it as a whole. It is one which has selected its niche well.

Ultimately after reading this book one will only have an understanding of the French economy in the broadest sweeps, focusing on macro-economics above all else. Perhaps in this regard, the picture on the cover is deceptive: the book dives little into the individual events which transformed France and French economic life, like the cars and roads shown on the cover. But to provide a good introduction into the subject, and a general history of the 20th century, one which ties together this era, it does its job in a workmanlike way, even if it is a book which really should serve as the start of a study into the subject rather than being viewed as a conclusive end.

3 stars for The French Economy in the Twentieth Century

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      This is a well-balanced review. I was surprised at how short the book is, given that it covers such a period of change.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)