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Public administration in statist France.

The development of administrative science in France is inextricably linked to a particular French model of the state. The uniqueness of the state in France rests on the combination of two phenomena.

The first of these phenomena is the state's social autonomy, which is guaranteed by a series of protective arrangements. In France, this autonomy is accentuated by its combination of three different dimensions: an organic autonomy, which clearly defines the state's contours and ensures its uninterrupted functioning; a legal autonomy, which is expressed in the application to the state apparatus of distinct rules which form exceptions to common law; and, finally, a symbolic autonomy, in which the state presents itself as the incarnation of a general interest that transcends the particular interests which dominate the private sphere. The foundations of bureaucratic organization (only a few examples of which existed under the Ancien Regime and only at the ministry level) were laid under the Empire, but it was not until the end of the 19th century that the logic of professionalism was imposed through the spread of recruitment by examination and the granting to civil servants of guarantees against the arbitrary nature of politics. The state's autonomy was reinforced by its legal emancipation from the common law. Here again, even if some foreshadowing elements are to be found under the Ancien Regime, the appearance of a body of administrative law dates from the creation of the Conseil d'Etat in the revolutionary year eight. The state's special status was thus guaranteed by the powers of legal dogma, contrary to the British notion of the rule of law. Finally, the ideology of the general interest exists to maintain a belief, on the part of both public servants and private citizens, in the uniqueness of the public sphere: the state is set up as the organizing and totalizing principle which permits society to achieve integration, to make its unity real by overcoming individual identifications and sectarian selfishness.

The second and closely related phenomenon is a social supremacy, illustrated by France's deeply rooted tradition of interventionism. Already under the absolutist regime, the state had broad and diversified functions, not only those associated with the monarchy but also social, cultural, and economic functions. This interventionism did not weaken at any time during the 19th century. Despite a liberal discourse which advocated strict controls on the state, justified by the primacy of the individual and by a belief in the benefits of a "natural" order, the state continued to take on wider functions. Although the nature of its social interventions changed at the end of the century, the state remained active in the economic sphere, maintaining regulatory services, creating the basic infrastructure indispensable to the expansion of production, and taking the place of private enterprise in running unprofitable services. Based on these traditions and nourished by a belief that state management was justifiable for the sake of the public interest, the welfare state gained acceptance easily in France. Even more than in other Western countries, the state then established a veritable protectorate over social life through the linked development of functions of economic regulation and of social redistribution.

This notion of the state was obviously propitious for the development of an administrative science. On the one hand, the sharp differentiation between the state and society implied the need to create a specific body of knowledge concerning public administration, with no question of diluting it in a more general science of organization. On the other hand, the state's preeminent status justified the study of the structures and functioning of the apparatus through which the state carried out its social interventions. All the conditions indispensable to the existence of an independent science of public administration were, therefore, present, a fact which explains the rapid emergence of such a science in France. The underlying political and ideological stakes, however, were also a cause of confusion and fuzzing of categories. More than elsewhere perhaps, administrative science in France has had great difficulty in fulfilling the epistemological conditions necessary to strengthen it as a science.

The Genealogy of Administrative Science

The appearance of an applied administrative science in France coincided with, and was intended to contribute to, the setting up of modern state and administrative structures. Nevertheless, the advent of the liberal state was to modify the viewpoint and the agenda of this "science" and lead to its decline as it was supplanted by administrative law. Only the growth of state interventionism, in the second half of the 20th century, brought about the rebirth of a body of thought concerning administration that would attempt to throw off the ascendancy of the law.

The Construction of the Nation-State and the Birth of an Applied Science of Public Administration

Closely tied to the development of the monarchical state and the rise of administrative centralization was the emergence in France at the beginning of the 18th century of a science of organization which foreshadowed German cameralistik theory. Codes of civil organization and administrative dictionaries were drawn up by jurists and civil service professionals (De la Mare's Traite de police, which was published between 1705 and 1710, is the best known and the most representative of these). These works were presented as empirical surveys of the field, free from doctrinal pretensions, and intended principally to inform readers about administrative practices and to find ways of ensuring the effective management of public affairs.

This science of organization was continued during the 19th century by more ambitious works, which set out to formulate the underlying principles of administrative actions. Charles-Jean Bonnin was the first in France to break away from the earlier tradition. Claiming to "treat administration as a science," he insisted on the necessity for a systematic and descriptive study of public administration, endeavoring to "determine, first of all, the general principles covering this subject." This approach was adopted, during the first half of the 19th century, by those interested in administrative questions.

This model of administrative science appeared from then on to be a "social science in the strongest sense of the term, and a total science because it claimed to be able to master all the social data informing administrative action, with the help of the most varied investigative tools, particularly statistics. It tended to incorporate what would later come under the heading of political Science, economic Science, or sociology, but it had an essentially pragmatic aim in seeking to improve the effectiveness of state action, and thus social well-being. Therefore it was thought indispensable to teach this type of administrative science to future civil servants. Because not enough administrative science was taught in the faculties of law, a debate began under the July Monarchy about the appropriateness of creating "faculties of administration," which led in 1849 to the creation of a short-lived School of Administration. The opening in 1872 of the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques represented a continuation of this movement.

It might seem that the development of administrative science had taken a decisive step forward, but the expansion of administrative law studies, the result of the growth of liberal thought, blocked this development and led to a long eclipse of a science that had not had time to assert itself.

The Development of the Liberal State and the Eclipse of Administrative Science

With the advent of the liberal state at the end of the 19th century, the problem of a legal framework for the state came to the fore. The need was no longer to reinforce a feared state power but to give guarantees against it, and these guarantees were to be found in the law. The promotion of the legally legitimate state brought the expansion of administrative law studies in countries like France where there was a demand for a special body of law, but this administrative law underwent a veritable transformation. Its existence was no longer perceived as a privilege for the civil service but as a means of reinforcing its subordination. During this period, the applied science of public administration was relegated to the background; not only was it useless but it was dangerous as well because it sought to reinforce the efficiency of the civil service and thus its ascendancy over society. From then on, the attention of theoreticians was concentrated on curbing administrative actions, especially control by the courts, while the organization and the internal functioning of the state apparatus were left to the empiricism of administrators. During nearly a century, jurists gained a virtual monopoly in the field of administrative studies.

This predominance of the law and of legal disputes was not absolute. The preoccupations of the first theoreticians of administrative science in the 19th century did not completely disappear. The creation of the Ecole Libre Des Sciences Politiques ensured the persistence of a view of administration other than the legalistic one. Answering a specific need, the Ecole managed to monopolize a type of training which the faculties of law did not provide, and its dominance over the recruitment of upper civil servants clearly showed that it was not enough for them simply to be good lawyers. Next, a body of thought that focused on problems of internal organization and the management of services, and that was open to the innovations of business management, developed on the fringe of the university, and foreshadowed the renaissance in administrative science (Chardon, 1911; Fayol, 1916). Finally, in the faculties of law themselves, the preeminence of administrative law did not exclude a wider interest in the political and administrative sciences. The monopoly enjoyed by legal knowledge in the field of administrative studies was thus far from complete. Administrative law coexisted with other disciplines; nevertheless, these disciplines remained marginal compared to a law anchored in its certainties, enjoying great prestige, and assured, because of its powerful structure, a place of honor at the center of public law.

The Advent of the Welfare State and the Rebirth of Administrative Science

The political and administrative sciences suffered a long eclipse. Their rebirth was,inseparable from the advent of the welfare state. Indeed, the growth of administrative regulatory functions was to reveal the limits of the law. On the one hand, the imperative of efficiency was now emphasized. Required to play the role of a driving force in social life, the civil service had to aim at constantly improving the appropriateness of its management policies and the quality of the results-conformity with the law no longer constituted a sufficient guarantee. On the other hand (the two developments were closely linked), the new tasks that the civil service had to confront implied a profound transformation of its structures and methods, whereas the law not only could not be of any help but seemed rather to be a factor of rigidity and sclerosis. It was, therefore, elsewhere that the ways and means of change had to be found. So the renaissance in administrative science was closely tied to movements for administrative reform and motivated by a desire for "rationalization."

The claim of administrative law to be the privileged if not exclusive tool for understanding administrative realities was again questioned. Among the jurists themselves, it became progressively clearer that the adoption of an exclusively legal point of view had resulted in certain weaknesses and inadequacies in their approach to the study of public administration. The need was no longer simply to study legal texts and jurisprudence but also to envisage, through empirical research, the conditions for the application of these rules, by sticking as close as possible to administrative reality. In a parallel development, starting in the 1950s, sociologists invaded the field of administrative studies. A very different vision of administration now appeared, thanks to the formulation of new problems and approaches, often breaking with classic legal analysis.

All the conditions were now present to allow the constitution of a new field of knowledge concerning administration. The development of administrative science was, however, to be put in jeopardy by controversies and uncertainties about the epistemological status of the discipline.

The Construction of Administrative Science

The 1960s in France were marked by a spectacular growth of studies claiming to draw their inspiration from administrative science. This development was accompanied by powerful tensions; research on many different topics, informed by diverse points of view, was now classed under the heading of administrative science. Three essential models existed: a legal model, whose essential goal was to arrive at a better knowledge of the structures and functioning of public administration, while emphasizing the reference to legal texts; a managerial model that was geared toward finding and implementing the most efficient management techniques and intended to go beyond the public/private split; and a sociological model, which aimed to improve the understanding of administrative phenomena with the aid of sociological concepts and methods.

The Legal Model

According to the legal model, the purpose of administrative science was the study of public administration, considered a unique institution which could not be lumped with any other organization. Most jurists, who were interested in going beyond the narrowly legal and litigious points of view, referred to this model. Its importance was due to the still considerable preeminence of the law faculties in the teaching of administrative science.

In theory, the adherents of this approach were careful to distinguish administrative science from administrative law. The former was a descriptive discipline, with the aim of showing administration as it was, whereas the second was a normative discipline, based on the methods of formal logic and deductive reasoning. Both remained, in fact, broadly dependent on the models of administrative law. On the one hand, the object to be studied by administrative science was constructed based on legal criteria; if administrative science was concerned with public administration alone, it was because the latter had a specific status and was subject to a legal regime which lay completely outside the common law. In the same way, the distinction between the civil service and the political realm was based on legal texts (and especially after 1958, on Article 20 of the Constitution according to which "the civil service is at the disposal of the government"). On the other hand, the law was still perceived as a privileged means of knowing about and understanding administrative realities, and this conviction had as a corollary a certain mistrust, even hostility, toward the sociological approach which was believed to neglect the importance of legal rules in administrative law and in the conduct of civil servants. The effort made to approach problems in a more concrete manner was thus not accompanied by a break with the modes of reasoning and concepts associated with administrative law. Highly representative of this legal approach were the first manuals of administrative science published at the beginning of the 1970s (Debbasch, 1971; Drago, 1971-1972), which had an analogous inspiration; even though they attempted to broaden and to go beyond the legal analysis of the civil service, nevertheless they remained faithful to the analytical framework and concepts furnished by administrative law. These manuals simply continued down the trail blazed by the Traite de science administrative (Langrod, 1966). The desire to provide an overview of the subject could not conceal the overwhelming predominance of jurists.

The Managerial Model

The managerial model lumped administration together with management and pursued an essentially pragmatic goal, since it sought to discover and put into practice the most rational and effective methods of organization. According to this model, administrative science appeared to be purely and simply another name for management theory. Nevertheless, with the progressive refinement of managerial theories, certain characteristics of the civil service had to be taken into account. Administrative science, therefore, tended more and more to become the branch of management theory which was applied to public management.

The application of management theory to public administration came up against strong resistance in France where public administration had been based on diametrically opposed theories. Beginning in the 1960s, however, a true revolution in attitudes took place with the conversion of upper-level civil servants to managerial principles. The old axiom that public management could not be assessed in terms of efficiency gradually gave way to the idea that the civil service, like private enterprise, was under an obligation to work toward increased productivity and to rationalize its work methods by calling on modern techniques of organization and decision making. The movement for rationalizing budgetary choices, launched in 1967, constituted the first systematic and coherent attempt to experiment with management theory in the French civil service. This was closely related to the endeavor to formulate the principles of a new public management (Massenet, 1975), which meant the construction of a management theory that would take account of the unique aspects of public administration (Delion, 1969), the effectiveness of which cannot be reduced to simple efficiency.

This ambition led gradually to the formation of a true school of public management theory tied to the great French business schools (the HEC and the ESSEC) and to management programs in higher education. The publication of surveys of the work in the field (Laufer and Burlaud, 1980; Santo and Verrier, 1993) and the creation in 1983 of a specialized journal (Politiques et management public, editor-in-chief P. Gibert) signaled the birth of a discipline for which the Institut du Management Public (a private research institute) provided a center of gravity and institutional support. The goal of this public management theory was resolutely utilitarian and task-oriented. Its objective was to create tools and define styles of management which would be appropriate to the unique nature of public institutions and would allow them to attain their assigned goals with maximum efficiency. In the 1980s, public management theory took on a new dimension with its application to public policy. Going beyond the narrow frame of organization which was its original interest, it now took a larger view of political and administrative actions in general by studying their tangible effects.

The Sociological Model

The development in the 1960s of an administrative science influenced by sociology was the product of work by three groups. First were political scientists, such as Nizard, Sfez, and Quermonne, who became interested in the administrative actor as part of projects in political sociology Second, were sociologists who became interested in public administration, either as part of a sociology of the state continuing in the tradition of Weber (Birnbaum, 1971) or (as in the case of Crozier, Gremion, or Thoenig) in the context of a sociology of organizations which was destined to grow spectacularly. Third, was the jurists who tried to break away from legal dogma by reappropriating sociological knowledge. Sociological methods and concepts penetrated the field during the 1960s because of the intersection of the interests of sociologists in public administration and of political scientists and jurists in sociology. This led to a profound revolution in administrative studies. Abandoning legal norms, this sociologically inspired administrative science turned its attention to real administrative functioning, based on the observation of concrete administrative situations. The principle used in the approach was organizational, influenced by the achievements of the sociology of organizations. This sociological approach went from strength to strength in the 1960s and 1970s, gradually consolidating its position by discrediting competing points of view. After many concrete studies had been published, theoretical works signaled the birth of a true discipline.

Three major currents claimed to represent this sociological approach. First, the sociology of organizations was represented above all by the Centre de Sociologle des Organisations (CSO), which, following Crozier (1963), produced many empirical inquiries into the mechanisms of decision making and the central bureaucracy, how corporate strategies are interwoven with public policy, the links between administrative organizations and their social partners, and the relations between the central and local levels in the political and administrative system. From a quite different point of view, Darbel and Schnapper (1969-1972) endeavored to point out the sociocultural characteristics of civil servants. Next, studies of political sociology took the form of monographs on local power, the links between the civil service and politics (Birnbaum, 1977), bureaucracy, and technocracy. Third, the decision-making approach, which stood midway between the other two, was exemplified by a series of works aimed at shedding light on the way decisions are made, by designating the various participants in this process and evaluating their influence (Jamous, 1969; Sfez, 1992).

This sociologically inspired administrative science, however, went through a period of stagnation during the 1980s, which can be explained by several different factors. The sociopolitical context characterized by the crisis in the welfare state and the law's return to the fore clashed with an administrative science that put the civil service at the heart of social processes, following the example of the 19th century. Furthermore, the limitations of a kind of sociological imperialism were revealed. Many different analyses of the civil service existed and administrative science could be confused with a simple administrative sociology. Finally, the organizational paradigm that had been the basis for this administrative science seemed to have exhausted its capacity for innovation, and much of the research in this period contented itself with applying approaches that were by now very familiar. This period of doubts and desertion (Thoenig, 1990) now seems to be behind us, thanks especially to the emergence of a new paradigm, that of public policy, which has permitted the revival of administrative research.

Thus the administrative science that emerged in the 1960s seemed to be torn between opposite models, to the point that its coherence sometimes appeared doubtful. These divergences did not have only negative effects. The dynamism of administrative science during this period can be explained, at least partly, by the interplay of these oppositions, these confrontations, which helped to enliven the field and mobilize researchers. Nevertheless, the absence of a real scientific community could only harm the development of the discipline over the long term. Today this period is clearly over.

The Present State of French Administrative Science

At the end of an indispensable period of clarification, administrative science in France has succeeded in solidifying its position in the field of the social sciences. The first thing that needed to be clarified was the relation between administrative science and administrative law. To be sure, administrative science cannot ignore the essential place held by the law in administrative life, as, entirely molded by the law, the civil service is characterized by the high degree of legalization. Nevertheless, one cannot study administration through the prism of legal texts without taking those texts for the expression of reality and falling into the trap of normativism.

The second issue to be clarified was the relation between administrative science and management theory. A knowledge of the achievements of administrative science is useful in attempting to improve the functioning of public organizations or to make sure that decision making is based on more accurate information. As a social science, however, the goal of administrative science cannot be to define the principles of improved administrative efficiency, if it is to avoid the trap of pragmatism.

Also to be clarified was the relation between administrative science and sociology. To be sure, sociology has made a decisive contribution to the renaissance in administrative science by bringing out certain latent or hidden aspects of administrative realities, but sociology cannot claim to hold the only key to the understanding of administrative phenomena.

French administrative science is enriched by a variety of approaches and a diversity of areas of investigation that result from the achievements of rapid institutionalization.

Rapid Institutionalization

Administrative science in France since the beginning of the 1960s has benefited from solid institutional ties, calculated to ensure its expansion. First, the Institut Francais des Sciences Administratives (IFSA) plays an essential role as a place for academics and civil service professionals to meet and exchange ideas. Close ties exist between the IFSA and the upper civil service, especially the Conseil d'Etat; the IFSA has its offices in the building which houses the Conseil d'Etat, and the institute's president and secretary-general are members of the conseil These ties have allowed the IFSA to carry on regular activities such as conferences and publications including the Cahiers de l'IFSA. More recently, the creation of regional divisions has extended the Institute's geographic influence. The IFSA has important contacts on the international level; it participates very actively in the work of the Institut International des Sciences Administratives (IISA), based in Brussels, and is well represented in its governing bodies.

Administrative science in France can also count on the network of ecoles administratives, whether general--such as the Ecole nationale d'administration (ENA) or more specialized-the several Instituts rigionaux d'administrations (IRA). The practical expertise taught to civil servants in these schools not only makes extensive use of the achievements of administrative science but also contributes new approaches to the science (for example, the new emphasis on quality circles and human resource management), while conferences and seminars ensure the spread of these innovations. The Institute International d'Administration Publique, which serves as a vehicle for all projects in administrative cooperation, especially with African countries, has no intention of abandoning its basic research in administrative science. Administrative science, as a branch of political science, has been made part of classes in the faculties of law (generally at the advanced undergraduate level or in graduater specializations), and in the schools of political science, but it occupies only a minor place in these schools. Elsewhere, and especially in the business schools and management programs, administrative science gives way to more practical courses in public management.

As far as research and publications are concerned, the position of administrative science is less solid. The Revue francaise d'administration publique (which replaced in 1977 the ten-year old Bulletin de l'Institut) can be considered to be in the field, whereas Politiques et management public, lies rather in the field of management theory, even if many of the articles which appear in it touch on questions of administrative science. Research groups in the universities or associated with the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) rarely specialize in administrative science, as their activities stand at the intersection of several disciplines. Finally, research projects are labeled according to academic discipline, and administrative science does not appear on the official list of these disciplines.

The institutional position of administrative science does not mean that its social and political impact in France is very great. Indeed, one should not be misled by the success of a few popularizing works intended for a wide readership and the occasional interest shown by those in power. The audience for research publications remains small and the opinions of experts on administrative questions receive very little attention. The achievements of administrative science do not constitute a real guide for action in France (Thoenig, 1987). Furthermore, the position of administrative science has deteriorated during the last few years. In the scientific arena, researchers have tended to reduce their involvement in administrative science. While sociologists have turned to the study of other areas, administrative science has tended to be squeezed between the growth of political science and the resurgence of legal studies. In addition, the discipline's failure to obtain a separate status in university programs, especially at the doctoral level, has had the effect of putting young researchers in a difficult position. At the same time, the place of administrative science in the training of civil servants has been reduced in favor of more technical knowledge. Administrative and political sciences have gone from being required subjects to optional ones in the entrance exam at the ENA, and the Instituts Regionaux d'Administration have dropped courses in administrative science.

This reduced visibility of administrative science has, however, been compensated for by the spread of the discipline's approaches and analyses outside their original scope. The success of administrative science can be measured as well by the fact that it is no longer possible to study the administrative phenomenon using traditional approaches. In any case, the ebb in the fortunes of administrative science, which was inseparable from more general developments, especially the crisis of the welfare state, now seems to have been stopped.

Pluralism in Approaches

Administrative science in France continues to be characterized by varied approaches and is enriched by contributions from various sources. In the 1960s, as we have seen, administrative studies in France were a favorite area for confrontation between jurists and sociologists, both of whom were trying to appropriate the field. In fact, all the social sciences came to be interested in the civil service, with very different preoccupations, goals, and methods. For example, given that the civil service is not an immutable institution but is, in the words of Legendre (1966, 1968-92), the fruit of "successive sedimentation," the study of history is indispensable to the study of developments in the administrative phenomenon (Burdeau, 1989-94; Thuillier; and Tulard). The geographical dimension is more recent with interest being shown in the way that the civil service takes up space and takes over a piece of territory by covering it with networks which allow it to control the population. The economic approach is more traditional. Public economics studies the forms and effects of the civil service's interventions in the economy and economic analyses of bureaucracy relate to the interpretation of the phenomenon of bureaucracy. There is a quite logical progression from there to a philosophical inquiry into the goals of the civil service, the values which inspire it, and the effects of its increasing hold on society. The contribution of linguistics is indispensable to the analysis of the content, mechanisms, functioning, and effects of an administrative discourse, which constitutes not just a simple technical medium but also a privileged vehicle for the inculcation of group of representations. Finally, no study of administrative behavior can be carried out without referring to the teachings of psychology, which help to explain the attitudes of partners in administrative relationships (CURAPP, 1985), and even more profoundly Still, the teachings of psychoanalysis. If we admit that administrative power, like all power, is related to desire, then psychoanalysis can contribute to explaining its motivating forces and the relation of individuals to the law, the state, and bureaucracy (Legendre, 1976). For a long time, these different analyses of public administration were perceived as divided, fragmented, and heterogeneous. They seemed to be the concern of specialists, incapable of going beyond the narrow boundaries of their discipline. Starting in the 1960s, an effort was made to break down these impenetrable and sterile barriers between disciplines, to produce a new analysis of the civil services (Chevallier and Loschak, 1978); administrative science has thus become an interdisciplinary science.

Now that this stage has been reached, several analytical approaches to the administrative phenomenon exist, which lead to a relatively complex map of French administrative science. First, the institutional point of view conceives of the civil service as a product of history and society but nonetheless with a specific identity. Second, the organizational point of view puts the emphasis on the complex processes that go on inside the administrative entity. Finally, those interested in administrative action aim to shed light on the mechanisms by which the civil service acts in relation to society as well as the social impact of administrative functioning. The study of organizations has merged progressively with the study of administrative action, and this change expresses a change in the paradigm which is dominant inside French administrative science.

These angles include different methodological options taking as their starting point either particular administrative actors, or the civil service conceived as an entity, a system. The strategic analysis of Crozier is the typical illustration of the first approach, centered on the participants (Crozier and Friedberg, 1977). Underlying this analysis is the hypothesis that an organization is structured around power relations, resulting from the interactions between the interdependent individuals and groups which make up the organization. Focusing on the behavior and the strategies at work inside the organization, this analysis can be extended by taking into account the influence exerted on the organization by outside actors. Gremion (1975), for example, has shown, based on a study of the French political and administrative system, that power relations inside an organization cannot be studied without taking into account the networks of exchange woven between the organization and the environment; systems of action form between internal actors and their social team-mates. The systemic analysis focuses on the organization itself by analyzing the processes by which it succeeds in becoming a unified and active entity. From there, the way is open for a more general theory of administrative systems. So it is that in the view of Timsit (1986), the construction of an administrative science would involve the definition of administrative constants, the finite number of elements that are inherent to all administrative systems. This would mean creating an administrative grammar, which would be applicable to all administrative models, whether practical or theoretical, and would be constructed around two basic precepts: relation and transformation.

Explanatory models have emerged, based on systems of interpretation that differ from social reality. The culturalist analysis has exerted a profound influence on French administrative science. This approach was the center of the analysis put forward starting in 1963 by Crozier, according to whom public administration, like any other organization, is the product of certain cultural traditions, and national pecullarities must be taken into account in analyzing it (see Sainsaulieu's [1987] idea of "national cultural contingency"). Thus the French administrative system would reproduce a typically French cultural model characterized by the isolation of individuals and groups; the impersonal and absolutist model of authority; difficulties in communication, ritualism, centralization. This analysis has been severely criticized as promoting a vision of culture which is at once idealistic, normative, and conservative, but the emphasis on organizational cultures has recently given it new life. This means defining the wealth of traditions and values which are peculiar to public administration and constitute a privileged means of regulating its internal functioning. On the other hand, the Marxist analyses, which endeavored to explain the logic of organization and evolution observable in public administration in terms of production relations (and which had had a definite impact in the 1960s on studies of urban sociology and local power), suffered a clear loss of influence.

These different approaches have been tested in various areas of research which have created a corpus of new analyses of the civil service.

The Variety of Subjects for Research

Although French administrative science has progressively enlarged the scope of its investigations, different lines of research remain unequally developed. Some notable achievements can be cited.

Research on local administration occupies a unique position. Through it, administrative science, which had been buried since the end of the 19t century under the accumulation of legal studies and especially studies of litigation, began to reassert itself. The work of the Centre de Sociologie des Organizations (Crozier, Worms, Gremion, and Thoenig) at this time contributed to a profound renewal of the view of local administration inherited from legal theory, and the traces of this reconstruction persist today because local administration has remained the domain of choice and the cutting edge of research. This over-development is no doubt explained by considerations of proximity and accessibility; it also results from facts of a socio-political nature. In France, local institutions have been the site of very profound change in society (the urban explosion), in politics (the decline of the notables), and in bureaucracy (the redrawing of administrative territorial boundaries in 1982). So it was logical that researchers' attention should turn to one of the favored sites for administrative change, and that the 1982 reform should be favored for the analysis of the system of relations between the civil service and society. The 1982 reform opened up a vast area of study for researchers in administrative science through observation of the concrete conditions of its application.

The analysis of the relations between the civil service and the interests of the larger society constitute the second favored domain of investigation of administrative science. Nizard (1974) and Gremion (1976) revealed the existence of an intersection between the civil service and society, of systems of integrated and interdependent relationships, based on the notion of mutual dependence. Administrative bodies responsible for individual sectors came to take on a representative function (Nizard, 1974). By becoming the defender of the milieu for which it is responsible, each of these bodies appears to be not just society's messenger to the political powers but equally the instrument for political action affecting society. These analyses served as a support for interpretations of French-style neocorporatism that multiplied during the 1980s. In a parallel development, the questioning of administrative secrecy through the adoption at the end of the 1970s of three major laws concerning computer files, access to documents, and the motives of decision making brought about the flourishing of analyses of relations between civil service and citizens (CURAPP, 1983, 1985, 1988), which had until then received very little attention.

The studies of the top ranks of the civil service, starting with the pioneering work of Darbel and Schnapper (1972), followed by the studies by Suleiman (1976) and Birnbaum (1 977), moved from the periphery of the administrative system to penetrate the central core, focusing on the group which, not content with being in charge of the civil service, also tends to colonize all positions of social power. This posed the question of the relation between the civil service and politics (Quermonne and de Baecque, 1982; CURAPP, 1986) and made it necessary, following the path indicated by jamous (1969) and Sfez (1992), to assess the importance of upper civil servants in decision-making processes and, more generally, in the central decision-making milieu (Gremion, 1979). Writers on public policy have taken over since the end of the 1980s, as methodological instruments have been developed that match the requirements of specific case studies (Padioleau, 1982; Thoenig, 1985; Meny and Thoenig, 1989; Muller, 1990).

Finally, although comparative studies have long remained the weak point of French administrative science, the gap is beginning to be filled (Timsit, 1987; Ziller, 1992). This is no doubt the indirect effect of the recent opening up of borders and of European integration, both of which have necessitated a comparison between French and other administrative models.

The present state of French administrative science is thus mixed. The undeniable growth in research and the spread of the discipline's approach to problems do not exclude persisting signs of fragility. Caught between legal dogma (which has found new material in the reactivation of the theme of the state's legal legitimacy and the increased power of the constitutional judge), public management theory (which is responding to the challenge of efficiency which now confronts public management), and political science (which always takes a broader and more integrative view) administrative science is having difficulty in staking an exclusive claim to its field of interest. It is nevertheless through such confrontations that a scientific community can achieve recognition and institutional status.

Jacques Chevallier is a professor at the University of Paris 11, Pantheon-Assas and is the author of various important studies on French administrative sciences, including Science administrative (1986).


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Title Annotation:Changing European States; Changing Public Administration
Author:Chevallier, Jacques
Publication:Public Administration Review
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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