This essay examines the administrative reform process in France since the late 1980s. The key reforms undertaken during this period have sought to delegate greater managerial autonomy to the ministerial field-service level. We undertook semistructured interviews with officials in the field services of three French ministries (Education, Agriculture, and Infrastructure) in the Champagne-Ardennes region, as well as with members of the wider policy communities. The capacity of the field services to adopt a proactive approach to management reform depended on five key variables: internal organizational dynamics; the attitude of the central services to mesolevel autonomy; the degree of institutional receptivity to change; the type of service delivery, and the extent of penetration in local networks. The Infrastructure Ministry was more receptive to management change than either Education or (especially) Agriculture, a receptivity that reflects the institutional diversity of the French administrative system, and that supports new institutionalist arguments. The essay rejects straightforward convergence to the New Policy Management norm. Changes in public management norms require either endogenous discursive shifts or else need to be interpreted in terms of domestic registers that are acceptable or understandable to those charged with implementing reform.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Public Administration