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How far have the French succeeded in imposing a necessary reduction on the role and power of the state?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The push towards decentralisation.
  3. The system of 'tutelle' (guardianship).
  4. The wave of globalisation and liberalisation.
  5. The French State.
  6. The Jacobin tradition.
  7. The French system of 'grandes ecoles' (competitive-entry higher education establishment).
  8. The French labour market.
  9. Conclusion.
  10. Bibliography.

The French state has always occupied a central and essential role and has over the years taken measures to reduce state power. This necessity has to be related to the unprecedented shift in the balance of power, when the Socialists won the elections in 1981. For the first time during the Fifth Republic, the left wing took over and only such a tremendous change might have been powerful enough to question the might of the State. There are two key areas in which the French state has made concerted efforts to take a back seat; the territorial and economic scenes. However, once examined from a closer stance, it is clear that the supposed measures are not as effective as they could be and that the French state is still very much involved and still plays a significant part. Real efforts have been made on the territorial plan towards a better balance between the state and other sources of power through a process of decentralisation and due to globalisation and liberalisation.

[...] turning point in terms of the balance of power between the state and the ?collectivités locales? or local authorities. This spurred on subsequent laws taking as the starting point where the initial Defferre laws left off. By this law, préfets are no longer the executives of local decisions putting an end to two hundred years of unshared power at the local level, which is one of the most fundamental changes which have been brought about in this area. Previously, the préfets enjoyed the privilege of outlawing acts of local authorities such as council decisions before they were even implemented. [...]

[...] The conviction public services have to be state- run is very deeply rooted in the mind of most French as it is commonly believed that only the State can ensure equal access to water, electricity and other services. The status of EDF (?Electricité de France?, the French provider of electricity benefiting from a monopoly on production and distribution of electricity) is proof of this constant concern. The French government is under heavy pressure from European institutions in terms of European legislation on fair competition that France does not comply with. [...]

[...] As there are only a few of them the ENA, Sciences Po, the ENS and so the elites gain an academic training as well as personality formation to comply with thinking in terms of the importance of the state and many of these establishments such as the ENA (National School of Administration) are solely aimed at preparing students to enter some of the most prestigious positions in the French state civil service. This very example of the ?French exception? is structural and underpins the almightiness of the state as its supposed civil servants form a true social class ready to defend its predominance against any questioning. [...]

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