The text will be published in the International Review of Administrative Sciences: Vol.73 (2) June 2008

Reinventing the State:  to be continued


A theme – that of reinventing the State – broached
within a two-fold continuum
– the Braibant Lectures
– and the long history of reforming the State

however in a changed perspective based on established fact and a hypothesis:
– established fact: that of a dual paradox concerning successful and failed reforms, a paradox which traditional theories of the State cannot explain.
– the hypothesis: traditional theories, on behalf of a certain Weberian vulgate, see essentially in the State a technical mechanism for exercising constraint and public authority ? a mechanism whose reform and improvement call solely for measures of a technical nature.   Currently these analyses either ignore or neglect another aspect, nevertheless basic, on which Weber himself had greatly insisted:  the political legitimacy of State action.
To reintroduce this idea into the analysis, it would seem useful to relate reinventing the State to a theory of social norms ? a theory of rules that govern the conduct of societies and that aim to ensure the coordination of the overall behaviour of the members of the community:  a theory that, making room for this idea of legitimacy, would perhaps allow for a better analysis of the nature of the crisis affecting the functioning of contemporary societies (I) and the breadth of attempts at reinventing the State that have taken place in recent years (II).

I. The crises of traditional normative approaches.

1. Traditional normative approaches?
Two ideal-kinds of vision concerning the normative approach

A. They are structurally opposed
– One theorizes a spontaneous and decentralized normative approach resulting in reactions linked directly to market prices.
– The other an imposed normative approach resulting in rules enacted by the hierarchical organisation of the State.

B  They share common traits
– External mechanisms that they formulate
– A behavioural rationale that they assume
– Optimal results that they forecast

2. ?And its crises.
Two inappropriate visions of reality:  Neither takes into full account the flagrant deficiencies of the market related to competition requirements and general balance nor the deficiencies of the State hierarchy and its incapacity to correct the excesses or tensions arising from the market place. What is in question, above and beyond such crises, is not simply mechanical deficiencies, but more fundamentally, a deficit of political legitimacy ? a distending of the civic link ? both in time and space ? that greatly perturbs the functioning of our societies and threatens its unity.  For this reason, the State needs to be reinvented and also a new normative approach, to rework the social relationship.

II. The emergence of a new normative approach

New kinds of social norms: based on dialogue, to restructure the legitimacy of public action and remedy deficiencies and the ineffectiveness of traditional normative approaches ? spontaneous or imposed.1. What dialogue ?….
A dialogue with those for whom the norms are meant : – which would lead to:- the remodelling of the State
(techniques and perspectives?)

– the promotion of civil society
(methods and obstacles?)

2. ? Towards what kind of normative approach?

– What characteristics?  – rules and regulations.
– What kind of legitimacy? – substitution or reorganisation.