Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lynn Thomas

Reader 2

Claudia Strauss

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Rights Information

© 2013 Nolan Y. Ferar


In this thesis I analyze semi-structured interviews I conducted with fifteen young French and American business students and professionals in order to uncover cultural models relating to work, while paying particular attention to the acceptance or rejection of neoliberal ideas. To contextualize the analysis, I first review the history of neoliberal ideology along with its arrival and political and institutional influence in both countries. In the U.S., the neoliberal transition was rapid and dramatic under the Reagan administration, which constitutes a critical institutional juncture and a shift in the dominant paradigm of governance. In France, in contrast, neoliberal policies have been implemented reluctantly and incrementally, suggesting traditional French values relating to the state and its role in regulating the economy remain largely intact. In line with these historical patterns, the Americans I spoke to primarily conceptualize work as a commodity, accepting the definition of work as defined in the market; while the French interviewees conceptualize work as personal fulfillment and occupational citizenship, emphasizing the human and psychological essence of work and the need for moral regulation of the market economy, perceived as immoral and anarchic. Overall, the Americans much more readily accepted neoliberal ideas and policy directives and towards which the French were far less welcoming. In particular, I argue that the traditional role of the French state as responsible for the wellbeing of its citizens presents a major obstacle to neoliberal ideology, historically on an institutional level as well as in the minds of the French interviewees.