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The “steering state” model : The emergence of a new organizational form in the French Public Administration - P. Bezes

Philippe Bezes
Centre d’études et de recherches de sciences administratives et politiques (CERSA), CNRS–université Paris-2, 10, rue Thénard, 75005 Paris, France

Available online 21 December 2007 on ScienceDirect

Since the 1990s, a new organizational form of the administrative system in France has been steadily redefining relations between central administrations and local units of the state. Labelled “the steering state” or the “managerial state”, this new paradigm hinges on separating the strategic functions of steering and controlling the state from the operational functions of execution and policy implementation. The making of this new form of state organization involves two parallel processes : political and cognitive. For one thing, the adoption of concrete measures for “government at distance” results from power struggles between three major ministries (the ministries of the Interior, Budget and Civil Service). For another, a new legitimate “categorization of the state” is being formed in the major committees involved in the reform process of the 1990s ; it is carried forward by top civil servants and inspired by the ideas of New Public Management.

Keywords : Public administration ; Bureaucracy ; Top civil service ; Administrative reform ; Reform of the State ; New Public Management ; Organizational forms ; Devolution ; France

Article Outline

  • 1. The emergence of a new paradigm of state organization in the French context : the “steering state”, with variations on that theme
  • 2. The institutional constraints on separating steering functions from operational functions in the French context : competition between the Ministries of the Interior, the Budget and the Civil Service
    • 2.1. The paradigm for reorganization according to the Ministry of the Interior : remedy decentralization through horizontal devolution
    • 2.2. The General Directorate for Administration and the Civil Service (the DGAFP) : a mimetic importer of New Public Management principles
    • 2.3. The view of reorganization from the Budget Directorate : better control over spending operations through rethinking the hierarchies
    • 2.4. Power struggles within the state : integration at stake and institutional constraints around a differentiation process
  • 3. Creating a new model : the visible hand of France’s most senior civil servants from the grands corps
  • 4. Conclusion : the dual dynamic of constructing an organizational form for the state
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 49, Supplement 2, December 2007, Pages e67–e89
Translation by Karen George