State reform in France: From public service to public management?

Alistair Mark COLE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The 'Reform of the State' is one of the recurrent themes in French politics, but it is deeply ambivalent. Understanding the causes or independent variables of state reform cannot be dissociated from understanding the core narratives that are used to justify the reform process. In this article we observe processes of state reform since the late 1980s through the lens of two rather different forms of justification that are labelled as public service and state productivity. Though there are some similarities between the two, they represent distinct ways of understanding the nature and scope of the State and the weighting of endogenous and exogenous forces driving the reform process itself. While state reform is a by-product of the public services narrative, it occupies a central role in that of state productivity. Crucially, for the purposes of this article, they take a different stance towards new public management, which is firmly resisted in the public services narrative as foreign to French political and administrative traditions, but forms a central theme in accounts of state productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-357
Number of pages15
JournalPerspectives on European Politics and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • France
  • New public management
  • Public service
  • Sarkozy
  • State reform


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