Comprehending French Capitalism: Yet Another Archetype or a Manifestation of an Existing Model – the Present State of the Art and Future Directions
Despite the range and diversity of the literature on comparative capitalism, there has been much uncertainty as to how best to categorize France in terms of one or other of the capitalist archetypes, or indeed, as a distinct archetype in its own right. This paper reviews the literature on the French variety of capitalism and differences and similarities in the main characteristics identified. Based on the comparative capitalism literature, including Varieties of Capitalism, Business system theory, Regulation Theory and Social Systems of Innovation and Production, previous research has widely focused on countries that fit more than less ideal-type categories, such as the US, the UK as liberal market economies’ flag-bearers, and countries such as Germany, Japan and Scandinavia as representative of coordinated market economies. France in comparison has been quantitatively speaking less studied. Moreover, the studies that exist offer a rather patchy analysis of the French case requiring a need to map this domain of research and open up new avenues of research, in particular providing a more dynamic apprehension of the organisation and role of companies within French capitalism.
The understudy of France comes mainly from its recent evolutions and the apparent contradictions France displays in its model. Therefore, the French case lacks a coherent theoretical analysis and calls for beforehand an ordering of the existing studies. The literature is divided and still debates where France should stand on a political economy continuum depending on the chosen institutional hierarchy. France falls in between the LME/CME divide for taxonomies based on the mode of economic coordination (Hall & Soskice 2001). Following this analysis, another strand of the literature reads signs in the French model of a gradual adoption of the characteristics of liberal market economies (Hancké 2001; Goyer 2001; Cieply 2001). When the state enters the picture as an organizing criterion, France is deemed to constitute an archetype in its own right and display a ‘state-enhanced’ variety of capitalism (Schmidt 2003, p.527). Scholarships allowing for more than one key institution and, therefore institutional combinations, analyse France for instance either as a state-driven economy (Boyer 2005) or as a Continental Europe variety of capitalism alongside with Germany (Amable 2003).
Facing such a variety of answers, a systematic review of the literature is conducted in order to systematically organise prior knowledge, map the domain and clarify the existing gaps. The paper is structured into three parts: description of the methods applied to distinguish French capitalism, existing themes among the literature along with its limitations and a critical discussion of the findings.
The paper contributes to two levels: theoretical and practical. From a theoretical perspective, it increases the clarity of the depiction of the French variety of capitalism by ordering and mapping the existing research and identifying its gaps. It also advances future avenues for research. On a practical level, a better understanding of the French political economy presents the advantages of better forecasting its evolutions and companies behaviours.