The New Custodians of the State

The New Custodians of the State

Programmatic Elites in French Society

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ISBN: 978-1-4128-1156-9
Pages: 224
Binding: Hardcover
Publication Date: 01-31-2010
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The New Custodians of the State uses contemporary France to reassess sociological theories of political and policymaking elites. Based on detailed case studies drawn from social policy and national defense sectors, it concludes that a new type of sectorally-based elite has risen to prominence in France since the 1980s. Genieys suggests that programmatic elites found in specific policy sectors, made up of individuals linked both by common career paths and the resulting skills and expertise, should be seen as new guardians of state power.

Like their "technocratic" predecessors, programmatic elites maintain a high degree of independence with respect to electoral politics and to civil society; like them, they share an ideological commitment to protect and expand the role of the state in French society. Unlike them, however, these new guardians of the state are structured around specific policy programs and limited in scope to a given sector. Competition among programmatic elites at the highest levels of the state emerges as the chief driving force behind innovation for social change.

The New Custodians of the State introduces programmatic elites both as real-world actors and as an analytic category and highlights the limits of elite power by analyzing the defeat of efforts by the French Ministry of Defense. This book presents a thought-provoking critical case study that suggests that models presenting either a single unified state elite or those that herald or decry the demise of the state require modification. The work will be of interest to students and scholars of France, and its society and government as well as anyone interested in the policymaking process in other countries with respect to domestic policy or national defense.

Editorial Reviews

“This complex book about elites in France analyzes a variety of theories in the light of concrete situations. Genieys (Univ. of Montpellier, France) concentrates on "programmatic" elites, which he distinguishes from "general" ones… Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate, research, and professional collections.”

W. Safran, Choice

“France has long been considered the epitome of a “strong state” dominated by a grand corps of elite administrators. Like other industrial democracies, it has faced global economic transition and “neoliberal” pressures for government retrenchment over the last three decades. However, in The New Custodians of the State, William Genieys argues that the French state actually extended control over key policy sectors in this period, in part through a shift from “technocratic generalists” to a more pluralistic system of “programmatic elites.” These “new custodians” are organized around particular policy programs rather than part of a general governing class. Their power stems from expertise—both technical and political—derived from long careers in specialized policy sectors. This power has allowed them to resist, and adapt to, the pressures of economic constraint and the fluctuations of French politics… [A]n informative resource, especially for English readers.”

—Patrick Akard, American Journal of Sociology

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Table of Contents

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
Part I: Understanding Policy Elites: Contrasting Theoretical Perspectives
1. Comparative Approaches to an Elite-Centered Understanding of Politics and Policy
Part II: The Making of a Social Welfare Policy Elite
2. Backgrounds and Careers: The Professional Construction of a Policy Elite
3. Choosing Social Welfare: Why Do Elites Specialize?
4. Elite Trajectories in the Social Policy Sector
5. From Program to Policy: The Affirmation of New Custodians of the State
Part III: Defense Elites and Political Change
6. Leclerc, or “The Best Tank in the World”: Changing Definitions of Elite Success
7. The End of Conscription: Elite Competition and the Limits of Influence
General Conclusion: For a Comparative
Sociology of Programmatic Elites