French Politics

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 31–57

Decentralization in France: Central Steering, Capacity Building and Identity Construction

  • Alistair Cole


This article provides an overview on decentralization in France from three distinct conceptual lenses. It considers decentralization in France first as part of a wider process of state reform, an example of ‘steering at a distance’ drawn from a subset of the literature on governance. The second reading is of decentralization as part of an iterative process of local and regional capacity building. The third reading of decentralization, drawn from literature on new regionalism and minority nationalism, tests linkages between identity formation and meso-level political institutions. Although each hypothesis can draw some support from the evidence presented, the article concludes that capacity building captures the dynamic process unleashed by decentralization better than either central state steering or identity-based mobilization.


decentralization governance capacity-building identity state 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alistair Cole
    • 1
  1. 1.School of European Studies, 65-68 Park Place, Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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