The French Challenge deals with France's effort to adapt to globalization and its consequences for France's economy, cultural identity, domestic politics, and foreign relations. The authors begin by analyzing the structural transformation of the French economy, driven first by liberalization within the European Union and more recently by globalization. By examining a wide variety of possible measures of globalization and liberalization, the authors conclude that the French economy's adaptation has been far reaching and largely successful, even if French leaders prefer to downplay the extent of these changes in response to political pressures and public opinion. They call this adaptation "globalization by stealth."
The authors also examine the relationship between trade, culture, and identity and explain why globalization has rendered the three inseparable. They show how globalization is contributing to the restructuring of the traditional French political spectrum and blurring the traditional differences between left and right. Finally, they explore France's effort to tame globalization—maîtriser la mondialisation—and the possible consequences and lessons of the French stance for the rest of the world.