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Looking for a Christmas Present?

November 27, 2013

Do you have someone in your life who is obsessed with public diplomacy or cultural relations?, do they read French? Is your other half asking you what you want for Christmas?  Then PD Networks can recommnent the perfect present: it’s the Atlas de l’Influence Francaise au XXIe Siecle new from the Institut Francaise

It’s exactly what it sounds like it’s an atlas with a set of maps that plot France’s influence in the world across numerous spheres of activity: language, development, health, architecture, books, cinema, science, the cultural network etc.  Each map is accompanied by a commentary and there are case studies of influence in different regions.   You can see pages from the atlas here and there’s an interview the editor here

My copy turned up today so I haven’t had much of chance to look at the contents carefully but there’s an effort to explain why the concept of influence is different from soft power, influence is a much broader concept.  For an up to date French view of where the game is this looks invaluable.

If you’re a foreign ministry or cultural relations organization that wants to make the case for what you do this looks a pretty valuable tool in two ways:  either you can go ‘we ought to have something like that’ or you can wave it at the people with the money and go ‘look at all the things that the French are doing’.

Amazon will even gift wrap it for you.

Thanks to Louis Clerc (@luikki) for alerting me to this.

One comment

  1. No problem.

    “Influence” versus “puissance” is the way French commentators would frame the debate on what one would call public diplomacy in English. Either you have one or you try to get the other – most of the time you navigate between these two poles. Both words, especially “puissance” have a history in French debates over foreign policy.

    Linked to that, there is also the debate as to whether or not France is a “middle power” (puissance moyenne). It starts with WWII and the decolonization process. In 1970 Giscard d’Estaing brought the term to light by asking whether France is a “grande puissance moyenne”…

    Reflections on that in 1976: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rfsp_0035-2950_1976_num_26_4_393683 and the recent book by Maurice Vaisse: “La puissance ou l’influence, La France dans le monde depuis 1958”.

    That gives us a vision of French debates over public diplomacy as 1. dominated by the slow downsizing of French power and questioning of French universalism, and 2. conceived essentially as an expansion of or a “second best option” to classical diplomacy.

    As a light-minded footnote, one could also look at the maps in the book and classify those countries where France has “influence” into three, often overlapping categories: places we invaded and occupied; people we forced to speak French; people who fantasize about French cuisine…



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