An exploration of the tension between bureaucracy and democracy in France
Policy and Politics in France
Living with Uncertainty
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Douglas E. Ashford
Under the new socialist regime of Francois Mitterand, how much will French policymaking change? How has it functioned under previous regimes? How does the French process compare with policymaking in other industrial states?
These are some of the questions Douglas E. Ashford considers in analyzing six major areas of domestic policymaking in Franceadministrative reform, local and regional reform, economic policy, industrial relations, social security, and immigration. Each case is accompanied by selected readings translated from official government documents and the writings of critics of official policy, including readings from the Mitterand period. The book offers an unusually strong point of view, one that differs from the standard interpretations of French Politics.
Policy and Politics in France is the third volume in the series, Policy and Politics in Industrial States, edited by Douglas E. Ashford, Peter J. Katzenstein, and T. J. Pempel. Each volume consists of a balance of provocative analysis and documents for six issues. Four topicseconomic policy, labor relations, social welfare, and the internal organization of the stateare common to all volumes; the remaining two are reserved for policy problems peculiar to the individual country.
"The turbulence and intensity of French politics cannot help but create trepidation for anyone writing about the country. Nearly every writer on France, including many leading French citizens, have nothing but despair for French institutions and politics. The theme of this book is defined in a way that I hope will cause readers to reconsider the flood of criticism brought against French political achievements. The politics of French policymaking is an intriguing text of the more pessimistic arguments, because France has succeeded relatively well in a precarious world, even when striking out with highly nationalist measures and defying many Western democracies. The book is not intended to be an uncritical assessment of French policymaking, but does try to strike a balance between what French performance suggests must be some virtues in the French policy process, and the more well-known critiques of France.
"There is less elaboration of the logic behind my analysis than some readers might wish for in this introductory book. The reason is quite simple. If uncertainty is the basic description by friend and foe within French politics, then perhaps it should be treated as a constant of French political life, rather than lamented. The policy analyses are the springboards from which we can begin to see how regularity and consistency is introduced into French politics despite its alleged excess and weaknesses. In this limited sense, policymaking may be the bedrock of French politics and possibly a substitute for those more formal and reliable institutional relationships that most modern democracies have been able to develop. As I shall suggest in the Conclusion, there may even be positive advantages in having a loose connection between politics and policy, even though such weak institutional links may also expose basic democratic practices to greater risk. The ability to live and prosper with such ambiguous institutions may have its virtues, especially as the task of government expands with the modern welfare state."
From the Preface
1. The Policy Process and Institutional Uncertainty
2. Administrative Reform: Compromising with Necessity
3. Local and Regional Reform: Territorial Compromises
4. Economic Policy: Desperation or Design?
5. Industrial Relations: In Search of Compromise
6. Social Security: Success by Default
7. Immigration Policy: Social and Economic Uncertainties
8. Conclusion: A French Secret or Putting Politicians to Work
Douglas E. Ashford is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Pittsburgh. He was formerly Director of the Western Societies Program at Cornell University. He is author of Policy and Politics in Britain, also in this series.
In the series
Policy and Politics in Industrial States, edited by Douglas E. Ashford, Peter J. Katzenstein, and T.J. Pempel.
Each volume in Policy and Politics in Industrial States, edited by Douglas E. Ashford, Peter J. Katzenstein, and T.J. Pempel, is a sophisticated textbook that focuses on a single country but in a comparative policy context. Each consists of a balance of analysis and primary documents for six major issues. The issues include topics like economic policy, labor relations, social welfare, and the internal organization of the state.