French Vertigo

I wrote French Vertigo in 2006 because I was tired of the pessimistic French debate about the economic situation and the country’s future, and I wanted to bring a fresh perspective to it.

A pitched battle continues to rage here between people who declare their passionate attachment to the French social model, and those who trash it. Much of the debate consists of blather about the impossibility of reforming France, or ideological quarrels about whether the country is in terminal decline.

I was frustrated by the lack of any level-headed discussion about the solutions for France's problems – about how to become more productive, how to create more jobs and how to respond to the very real challenges posed by globalization.

As a result of the financial crisis, France is in even worse shape now than it was in 2006, when I wrote French Vertigo, but I stick to my central argument that what really ails the country is the pervasive national spirit of defeatism, and an unwillingness to tackle the real problems directly and decisively.

The book was the result of months of reporting. I went looking for the roots of France's problems, and also tracked down some of the people who were taking action to solve them. My conclusion: France is perfectly capable of changing if it wants to.

French Vertigo was widely and well reviewed. The magazine Challenges praised its “petulant style and crusty anecdotes,” and said of me that “he knows his stuff. He describes the shortcomings of our establishment with humor.” The business newspaper Les Echos recommended my book as “a way out of the ambient gloom,” while Le Figaro described it as “a luminous pamphlet.”

To read an excerpt, click here.