A French Paradox?

Toward an Explanation of Inconsistencies between Framing and Policies

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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  • 1 Center for the Sociology of Organizations
  • | 2 Center for the Sociology of Organizations
  • | 3 UCLA
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The French news media has framed “obesity” largely as a product of corporate greed and social inequality. Yet, France has—like other nations including the United States—adopted policies that focus on changing individual-level behavior. This article identifies several factors—including food industry lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture's rivalry with the Ministry of Health and alliance with the food industry, and competition with other policy goals—that favored the development of individual-level policy approaches to obesity in France at the expense of social-structural ones. This case points to the need to more systematically document inconsistencies and consistencies between social problem framing and policies. It also shows that national culture is multivalent and internally contradictory, fueling political and social struggles over which version of national culture will prevail at any given moment.

Contributor Notes

Henri Bergeron is CNRS senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Sociology of Organizations, Sciences Po; co-director of the Health Department of Interdisciplinary Centre for the Evaluation of Public Policies; and scientific coordinator of the Chair in Health Studies. He is also the scientific director of the Executive Master “Management of public policies,” and of the “Management and Public Policy” track at Sciences Po's School of Public Affairs. He conducts research on health policy and uses methods from the fields of sociology of public action and sociology of organizations to evaluate forces at work in policy-making processes.

Patrick Castel is research fellow at Sciences Po (Center for the Sociology of organizations). His research interests include decision- and policy-making in the health sector, and Organization and transformation of medical work in the context of evidence-based medicine, digitalization, and post-genomics. He is the co-author of Sociologie politique de la santé (2014) with Henri Bergeron and Le Biais comportementaliste (2018) with Henri Bergeron, Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier, Jeanne Lazarus, Etienne Nouguez, and Olivier Pilmis.

Abigail C. Saguy is Professor of Sociology at UCLA, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Gender Studies. Saguy is the author of What is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (2003), What's Wrong with Fat (2013), Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are (Forthcoming 2020), and numerous scientific journal articles and op-eds. Saguy is currently studying—with Juliet A. Williams and with support from the National Science Foundation—how lawyers, activists, and journalists invoke the principle of gender neutrality to advance (or oppose) gender equality.


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