Reforming the state in France: From public service to public management?

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Four endogenous characteristics of the French case provide the context for discussions about the reform of the state. The first is a specific state tradition based on public puissance. In terms of its formal organization, the French administration corresponds fairly closely to the classic Weberian ideal-type of public bureaucracy. The French administration is built upon a hierarchy within the state, upon a meritocratic form of recruitment, upon an internal career structure based mainly on seniority, on an ethic of public service and a belief, given legal substance by a system of public law, that the state embodies the general will and speaks in the name of the general interest of the nation as whole. Second, the French case is set apart by the functional outreach of the state. The French state does so much more than its comparators, or at least it did in terms of traditional dirigiste understandings that were widely held until the 1980s (Cole 2008). Third, the French state can be contrasted with most other modern states (whether or not of the Napoleonic variety) by the extent of its territorial coverage. Though decentralization in France since the 1980s has shifted the locus of local power, the basic architecture of the territorial state (based around regional and departmental prefects, ministerial field services and local public services) has proved highly resistant to reform. Fourth, the system of technical and administrative corps informs understanding of corporate identities and hierarchies within the state (Suleiman 1974; Kessler 1986; Eymeri-Douzans 1999; Gervais 2008). The significance of the corps is not limited to the highest reaches of the state; in 2000, over 1700 different corps existed, each ensuring specific terms and conditions of employment (EymeriDouzans 2000).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdministrative Reforms and Democratic Governance
EditorsJean-Michel Eymeri-Douzans, Jon Pierre
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780203820339
ISBN (Print)9780415557214
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2011

Publication series

NameRoutledge/ECPR Studies in European Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Reforming the state in France: From public service to public management?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this