AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
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 …