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Key Theme: The state as a producer of public policies

Section #presentation

Presentation of the state as a producer of public policies theme

States today are undergoing major change. Caught between competing pressures, they are subject to both internal and external forces of change. External dynamics include globalisation, integration in different forms (whether regional, multilateral or transnational), the changing face of capitalism, and wholesale changes to the social and political landscape. Internal dynamics also play a role, such as privatisation and decentralisation reforms, public campaigns, pressure from political extremes, attacks on legitimacy, changes to public sector structures (e.g. neo-managerialism) and the introduction of new technologies, for instance digital with the shift to paperless.

Amid these profound changes, modern States are still overwhelmingly ‘policy states’. They 1) produce public policy, continually selecting and prioritising public issues, while conversely dismantling and/or withdrawing funds for previous state interventions, and finding new ways to deliver policy; but also 2) are transformed in turn by the feedback loop of their own policies. This phenomenon is not limited to nation states, moreover, but can be seen in pan-national entities such as the European Union, and in occasional political systems operating without any State.

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Research Programme 2023-2027

From 2023 to 2027, the State and Public Policy research group will continue studying how both states (particularly EU members) and public policies are being reshaped, in the context of major changes affecting the former’s role and the latter’s implementation. These changes include: the green and digital transition, worsening social inequality, multiple crises (the pandemic, refugees, natural resources, security, and terrorism), shifting economic and budgetary policy, growing geopolitical tensions and rising protectionism, and a new political landscape marked by polarisation and acute mistrust of public authorities. These changes render state intervention more complex, calling into question existing practices, highlighting contradictions between various State interventions, and requiring new ways of connecting or even combining public policies. In doing so, they give rise to a renewed focus on planning and developing a management approach based on goals and results.

The research group will explore these shifts from a comparative perspective (between policies, sectors and countries) and along four axes providing for fruitful dialogue with the CEE’s other research themes.

These changes can be seen across a range of European public policy. Particular attention will be paid to the development, management and effects of green transition issues on public policies (Charlotte Halpern, Ulrike Lepont, Nathalie Morel; doctoral research by Jean-Baptiste Bonnet and Marta Tramezzani (FR)).

There is a paradox here: while public issues arguably renew and re-legitimise the role that States play, they may no longer have the resources to respond to those issues, relying instead on other levels of governance or even private actors – which can arouse public mistrust. For example, European States can face tighter supervision of their spending and borrowing capacities (Patrick Le Lidec). The features of evolving States (whether “regulatory”, “strategic”, “green”, “investor”, and so on) will be analysed, for instance through research on the consequences of Brexit and the possible fragmentation of the United Kingdom (Florence Faucher, Colin Hay, Patrick Le Galès, Takuya Onoda), in the context of illiberal regimes in Europe and elsewhere, or by considering the links between criminal or mafia organisations and state institutions (Gabriel Feltran, Federico Varese).

These new dynamics will be explored further by looking at the ongoing erosion of the state monopoly, the importance of sharing and trying new practices, and the range of collective actors involved in these processes: social movements, private actors, associations, interest groups, unelected governmental elites, experts, etc. (William Genieys, Takuya Onoda ; doctoral research by Marie Inès Harté, Arno Lizet (FR), Francesco Nardone, Marta Tramezzani (FR)).

Contemporary public policies draw on norms, public statements, modes of publication, techniques for citizen engagement and participation, and tools for monitoring public opinion; all of which are capable of changing the relationship between the state and its citizens, nationals and beneficiaries. A number of research projects at the CEE therefore place beneficiaries and those subject to public policy, as well as citizens more generally, at the heart of their work. This includes work on restorative and transitional justice policies (Sandrine Lefranc), local policies designed to foster social links (doctoral research by Arno Lizet (FR)), or symbolic policies developed by the French Government in response to the pandemic or terrorist attacks (Laurie Boussaguet, Florence Faucher, Sandrine Lefranc; doctoral research by Francesco Nardone).

To encourage the development of research in this stream, the group has set up a seminar cycle on “Policy State Conversations”.

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Research Programme 2017-2022

At a conceptual and theoretical level, systematically analysing “policy states” in different contexts (Europe, United States, Latin America) has enabled the most powerful mechanisms of State transformation to be identified. On an empirical level, the research group also produced a number of case studies (looking at Great Britain, France, Italy, Mexico and Brazil). A significant number of the CEE’s members were involved in this work, which took a comparative approach and drew on contributions from studies of the sociology of the State and public intervention, research on public bureaucracies, and the sociology of activism. The group’s research centred on three key areas:

To understand these ongoing changes to contemporary states, empirical research was carried out into the redistribution and relocating of power relations, as reflected in public policies and institutions. This enabled researchers to analyse the processes, conflicts and means of resistance by which jurisdictions are redefined, as well as the limits and scope for exercising political authority between these bodies. They also studied how public policies are increasingly used as a means of intervention by and on state authorities in a wide range of areas.

A number of research projects in this area were launched at the CEE:

This examination of the redistribution of power relations also looks at research on legislative output in France or in Europe (Observatory of European Institutions, Olivier Rozenberg in partnership with the EUI), as well as the links between integration and EU policy (Charlotte Halpern).

A second major research stream looked at the means by which States govern (in the broad sense of management, regulation, monitoring and horizon scanning) and evolve with the rise of neoliberal and neo-managerial political approaches. These processes drive the development of technologies (systems, knowledge and expertise, tools, etc.) that are increasingly market-driven and depoliticised; for example metrics, forecasts and futurology, “good government” procedures and mechanisms for reducing the regulatory burden, digital technologies, databases, etc. These technologies are produced and circulate within and between new governments, including States, but also more importantly in transnational spaces. This profoundly disrupts government activities, which have become a particular focus of the CEE’s research.

This includes work on: future governance within political systems, and the link between social sciences and policy analysis with respect to prediction, forecasting and planning (Jenny Andersson); transhumanism and post-human futures (doctoral research of Apolline Taillandier); the role of measures in the comparative and multidisciplinary study of tax policies in the home care/services sector in Europe and the US (Virginie Guiraudon, Nathalie Morel), the streamlining of governance methods and bureaucratic control as a result of New Public Management (Philippe Bezes (FR)); reducing the regulatory burden in French and European agricultural policies (doctoral research by Blandine Mesnel (FR)); public policy tools and how to choose them (Charlotte Halpern, Pierre Lascoumes, Patrick Le Galès), for instance in relation to the green transition (doctoral research by Théodore Tallent); the growing use of digital technologies (Antoine Courmont); and increasing/decreasing access to rights (Tommaso Vitale).

This third stream looked at the effects of these State changes on the emergence of new forms of legitimation (e.g. based on results or efficiency). These in turn affect relations with those subject to public policies, and help to promote democratic norms (such as “good” government, “good” governance, and “good” State). New forms of participation are developing, linked to the rise in tools for tracking public opinion and mobilising citizens; rules around responsiveness, transparency, ethics and anticorruption are becoming institutionalised; and the manifold nature of risk – financial, climatic, terrorist, environmental, social, etc. – gives States an opportunity to symbolically position themselves as crisis managers.

A significant number of the CEE’s studies look at the changing relationship between States – these policy machines and crisis managers, who are in charge or at least supposedly more transparent – and ordinary citizens. These include research into systems for citizen participation and consultation on energy, urban renewal and green transition policy (Richard Balme, Clément Boisseuil (FR), Charlotte Halpern); the use of symbols in governmental rhetoric, and practices to manage public debate and frame the issues around terrorist attacks (Florence Faucher, Laurie Boussaguet ); the symbolic dimension of local government reform policy (Patrick Le Lidec); the long-term effects of neoliberalism, austerity and crisis on state forms and social movements (Jenny Andersson, Colin Hay , Patrick Le Galès); forms of political socialisation, attitudes to criminality and inequalities, and connection to politics (Colin Hay); the handling of migrants and increased/decreased access to rights (Tommaso Vitale, Laura Morales, Virginie Guiraudon); the promotion of norms around transparency and “good” government, and the introduction of anticorruption policies (doctoral research by Sofia Wickberg (FR)); building trust between citizens and governments (doctoral research by Bilal Hassan); relations between farmers and European institutions in the context of the “greening” and bureaucratisation of the EU’s common agricultural policy (doctoral research by Blandine Mesnel (FR)); and the question of conjugal status and access to nationality in Japan in marriages between nationals and foreigners (doctoral research by Amélie Corbel (FR)).

Ultimately, the interplay of these different, and all too often isolated, approaches enabled the State and Public Policy research group to explore the changing face of States and public intervention in a multi-dimensional and comparative way. Its overarching aim was to identify the national and transnational conditions for production, their underlying mechanisms, and the impact of wider context.

Section #projets

Research projects

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