Constructing social problems in an age of globalization: A French-American comparison

Rodney Benson, Abigail C. Saguy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite growing academic interest in political and cultural globalization, sociologists have failed to systematically account for the factors that favor cross-national convergence or divergence in the form or content of public political debates in news media. This article uses two original data sets on American and French news reporting on immigration and sexual harassment to test the effects of four factors potentially relevant to such convergence or divergence: 1) cultural repertoires, 2) legal constraints, 3) journalistic field relations to the state and market and competition among journalistic outlets, and 4) global position of nation-states. Differences in dominant national cultural repertoires correlate with persistent cross-national variations in media frames. Legal reform related to the two issues offers a strong explanation of shifts in framing over time. Lesser news media autonomy vis-à-vis the state is associated with fewer journalistic enterprise stories on immigration and less reporting on sexual harassment scandals, while greater competition may make sensationalized reporting on immigration more likely. America's dominant position in the global political economy correlates with substantially greater visibility of U.S. policies and personalities in France, than vice versa. There is some evidence for greater cross-national divergence in issue frames over time, as U.S. global visibility and influence have increased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-259
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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