An exploration of the tension between bureaucracy and democracy in France


Policy and Politics in France

Living with Uncertainty

Douglas E. Ashford

paper EAN: 978-0-87722-262-0 (ISBN: 0-87722-262-2)
$28.95, Sep 82, Out of Stock Unavailable
cloth EAN: 978-0-87722-261-3 (ISBN: 0-87722-261-4)
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345 pp 5x8

"This is a book on the French policy-making process, and one of its many merits is that it looks at the effectiveness of the French policy-making process without losing sight of distinctive national peculiarities. The book demonstrates an excellent familiarity with French politics and it fits admirably into the series in which it appears."
Ezra N. Suleiman, Princeton University

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 France—administrative 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 topics—economic policy, labor relations, social welfare, and the internal organization of the state—are common to all volumes; the remaining two are reserved for policy problems peculiar to the individual country.


Excerpt available at

"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


Editors' Preface

1. The Policy Process and Institutional Uncertainty
French Politics Seen through the Policy Process • Institutional Uncertainty and French Policymaking • Policy Change under a Dominant Party • French society and Politics: Living with Diversity • Parties and Elections: One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward • Policymaking and Administrative Politics • Democratic Institutions and French Policymaking

2. Administrative Reform: Compromising with Necessity
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (The Politicization of the French Civil Service; An Evaluation of Administrative Reform Options; Problems of Implementing Administrative Reform; A Proposal for a Ministry of Administrative Reform; The Political Manipulation of the Administration; The Need to Increase External Influence on the Administration; Socialist Proposals for Administrative Reform)

3. Local and Regional Reform: Territorial Compromises
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (On Reorganizing the Prefects; Central-Local Tax and Subsidy Problems; The Local and Departmental network; The Guichard Report on Smothering Local Democracy; How Mutual Advantage Reinforces the Central-Local Network; The Socialist Debate over Regions and Departments)

4. Economic Policy: Desperation or Design?
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (The Prospects in 1958; The Political Meaning of the Plan; Shifting the course of Economic Policy; Industrial and Budgetary Proposals of the Common Program; The French Economy under Barre; The Socialsits' Economic Program)

5. Industrial Relations: In Search of Compromise
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (Union Participation in Planning; Ambiguities of French Collective Bargaining; Proposals to Reform Industrial Relations; Maire on Relations between the CGT and CFDT; The Future Strategy of the CNPF; The Right to Strike in Question)

6. Social Security: Success by Default
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (The Early Objectives of French Social Security; Early Recommendations for Social Security Reform; The French Concept of Social Solidarity; Political Parites and Social Benefits; The Growth of Social Spending; Social Security Dilemmas under Mitterrand)

7. Immigration Policy: Social and Economic Uncertainties
Context • Agenda • Process • Consequences • Readings (The Search for an Immigration Policy; Unions and Immigrants; An Immigrant Speaks to the Issue; Problems of a Multicultural Society; Considering Repatriation; Reactions to Increased Racial Tension)

8. Conclusion: A French Secret or Putting Politicians to Work
The Demise of the "Two Frances" • Using Policies to Build Institutions • The Politics of Policymaking: Filling or Creating the Institutional Void? • Institutional Development: Stimulus or Deterrent to Policymaking?



About the Author(s)

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.

Subject Categories

Political Science and Public Policy

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.


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