Introduction | xvii powerhouse—it has the largest area of arable land in the EU, and leads in both crop and animal production it is also the sixth largest producer and fifth largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. In terms of diplomatic and military clout, France may not be a superpower, but it is still a force to reckon with: in tandem with Germany, it has often been a driving force of EU politics it has veto power as a perma- nent member of the United Nations Security Council it is the home of important international organizations like the European Parliament (Strasbourg), UNESCO, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Doctors With- out Borders, now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, was started by French doc- tors in 1971) and its military—active in overseas operations—boasts the largest active duty armed forces in the EU, the sixth largest defense budget in the world, the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, formidable naval forces, and a fifth place ranking in the world in terms of overall military might. France also continues to measure up in the cultural arena. Paris may no longer be the undisputed global capital of the arts that it once was (e.g., in the thirteenth, seven- teenth, and eighteenth centuries, and between 1830 and 1930), but it still matters. French literary authors, philosophers, public intellectuals, visual and performing art- ists, composers, architects, filmmakers, chefs, and fashion designers still enjoy consid- erable international acclaim. Even as officials carry out ambitious reforms of the French educational system at all levels, France continues to excel in research. It has produced numerous winners of the Nobel Prize and Fields Medal (Mathematics) and its National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) is the largest research organization in Europe and the fourth leading institutional source of scientific papers in the world. Moreover, thanks to the enduring allure of Paris, the natural beauty of the nation’s countryside and varied topography, its attractive beach destinations, its charming and well-preserved villages, its regional cuisines and world-famous vineyards, its summer festivals to suit every taste in art and culture, and its forty-five UNESCO World Heri- tage Sites, France is the top tourist destination nation in the world in terms of total number of visitors. Finally, the French language is more than the native language of close to 90% of the population of France and of an admittedly modest 77 million peo- ple worldwide. If one also counts L2 speakers—including many who live in countries where French is one of the national languages (e.g., France’s former African colonies)— there are 321 million Francophones in the world. By some estimates, French is the fifth most spoken language in the world, the second most learned foreign language in the world, the third most common language of international business, and the fourth lan- guage for internet content. Francophone solidarity and cooperation at the international level help enhance France’s global cultural presence in spite of the fact that some critics call attention to the latent neocolonial connotations of “La Francophonie.” Additional French strengths are to be found in what are often considered traits of the national character. The French people are considered to be steeped in “Cartesian” rationalism (i.e., methodological doubt, rigorous deductive reasoning, a fondness for conceptual abstraction, and insistence on “clear and distinct” ideas expressed in ele- gant language) and Enlightenment idealism (i.e., belief in scientific progress, free thought, liberal government, and universal human rights). However, they are equally
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