Today, global capitalism pervades nearly every nook and cranny of national economies. Some believe resistance is futile. Yet Buchsbaum describes the French government’s surprisingly successful defense of French cultural identity in the face of winner-take-all globalization. His book traces in precise but engaging detail France’s preservation of its cinema industry.
By the early 1990s, U.S. films controlled 60 percent of the French market, and that proportion was rising steadily. Since then, the French state has systematically deployed its power to reverse that trend. At the center of this effort has been a program of domestic state subsidies to filmmakers, theaters, and television stations, all linked to maintaining quotas for French-produced content. Stiff opposition from Hollywood followed, as did a concerted U.S. effort to get the World Trade Organization to ban such subsidies and liberalize trade in films. French diplomats and regulators went on the offensive, forming alliances with other countries, notably Canada, and successfully pushed for the establishment of an international legal right to cultural sovereignty. EU regulations and Europe’s ability to negotiate lent France clout. For those who prize global cultural diversity, this is a hopeful tale.