Public Action and Transformations of the State

Subject to continual reforms and transformations, the State remains a strongly contested presence in contemporary societies. The Public Policy and Transformations of the State programme analyses reconfigurations of the State, taking inspiration from a research tradition developed at the CSO beginning in the 1960s that pays special attention to the State’s “periphery”. Researchers in the programme further enrich this tradition by apprehending the State starting from its borders, drawing on the CSO’s wide array of theoretical and methodological approaches.

The borders of the State are analysed from three perspectives:

  1. The first examines the State with a focus on organisations situated at its borders, such as agencies. These organisations, which are established to modernize administrations, provide advantageous viewpoints for observing more general reconfigurations: they are sites where new relationships are formed between administrations and economic and social interests. Examining the State’s borders also enables researchers to investigate the elements that hold state institutions together despite significant organisational fragmentation.
  2. The second considers the State’s borders as a space of exchange between state and non-state actors (e.g., firms, associations, and professional groups). Central questions in this perspective include: What transactions take place at the State’s border? What forms of regulation do they sketch? How do they vary, historically and geographically? What is the situation of organisations and social groups that are kept or that keep themselves at a distance from these transactional spaces? How does this distance – endured or sought after – affect trust in the public authorities and in democracy?
  3. The third perspective envisions borders as the product of an undertaking to differentiate public actors from private. Whether it is an issue of circumscribing the scope of activities attributed to the market, limiting economic or professional monopolies, or defining the responsibilities of the public authorities, borders are the focal point of a demarcation that has momentous implications for the entirety of social activities.

The Public Policy and Transformations of the State programme engages in comparisons between sectors, periods, and countries with the aim of revitalizing the view of the State from its borders with society.

Programme directors: Jérôme AustDaniel Benamouzig and Clara Jacquot.


  • New public management
  • State/professional group relations
  • State/firm relations
  • State reforms and public policy instruments
  • Agencies


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