As the endorsements from politicians such as Laurent Fabius and Xavier Darcos suggest, Philippe Lane has produced a valuable and informative overview of the changes in France’s approach to ‘soft power’, an approach that reflects the state’s endeavour to ensure that its initiatives are more responsive to the challenges of making ‘soft power’ also ‘smart power’ and of deploying it to greater effect. More particularly, Lane focuses on recent changes in legislation whose aim has been to create new institutions capable of giving a greater, more coordinated impact to France’s cultural initiatives abroad. Implicit in the changes is the recognition that past initiatives were sometimes stacked up one on top of another in a bureaucratic mountain and lacked an overall sense of cohesion. Accordingly, in January 2011 the Institut français was inaugurated to oversee and integrate the efforts of individual French Institutes and cultural centres around the world. This was preceded, in the summer of 2010, by the creation of Campus France, which is designed to enhance the standing abroad of French higher education, professional training, and research. To complete the trio of new institutions with a major mission — this time industrial and commercial — France Expertise Internationale was launched in [End Page 444] April 2011, under the wing of the Ministère des affaires étrangères et européennes, its task being to promote French technical assistance and expertise on the global stage. As Lane emphasizes, the traditional view of cultural influence operating in its own sphere came to be seen as too limiting; what was required instead was the development of a ‘diplomacy of influence’, born of the recognition that cultural and scientific questions will be inseparably linked in the responses that need to be framed across a broad range of issues posed by globalization—from early years education to food security to climate change. Thus Lane maps out the challenges that these new French institutions face both in fostering a collaborative ethic across ministries, which was all too lacking in the past, and in the way that these bodies mediate France’s relationship with the world as French cultural diplomacy engages with the arts, sciences, and education. The policy details and latest statistics that Lane has collated constitute a very useful tool for those working in the field of cultural policy; by pointing out that China created more than three hundred Confucius Institutes in over eighty countries between 2004 and 2013, he demonstrates the importance of this field as an arena for the pursuit of a competitive advantage. One of the results of Lane’s lucid ‘top-down’ analysis is to whet the appetite for a complementary ‘bottom-up’ investigation of recent manifestations of French cultural influence operating outside of state-led initiatives, a notable example being the vertiginous growth in the numbers of French citizens in a city such as London, and the deployment of ‘soft power’ that this entails. [End Page 445]
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French Scientific and Cultural Diplomacy. By Philippe Lane. Forewords by Laurent Fabius, Sir Vernon Ellis, and Xavier Darcos.Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013. xviii + 134 pp.
University of Bristol
Copyright © 2014 Gino Raymond