Vincent Wright

La fine del dirigismo? La Francia negli anni Novanta

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This article addresses the highly topical question of whether we are currently witnessing the end of "dirigisme" in France - one of the major props of the traditional economic model. The question is all the more politically salient since it has become linked with wider issues of state restructuring, of the general convergence of French capitalism towards the dreaded "Anglo-Saxon" model, of the end of French exceptionalism, and even of the crisis of identity allegedly afflicting the French at present. It should be stated from the outset that "dirigisme" is a profoundly ambivalent concept - and in several senses. It should also be noted that "dirigisme" has many dimensions and that any attempt to answer the fundamental question raised - la fin du "dirigisme"? - requires us to disaggregate the various strands. These dimensions are briefly analysed in the article. The article suggests that we are currently witnessing four tendencies in the French economy: the erosion but not the disappearance of both external and internal state autonomy, as a result in part of either state volition or the unintended consequences of state policies; an emphasis placed increasingly on state guidance and less on control (although there are still occasional reminders of the latter); the dismantlement of several features of the traditional "dirigiste" model but the tenacity of others; a decided shift from demand-led macro economic management to a preoccupation with the supply side of the economy, and from creating and protecting national champions to providing the conditions in which those champions can flourish in an internationalised and Europeanised competitive environment. As a result of these four tendencies we see a reshaping of French "dirigisme". This reshaping process leaves the state as a crucial and ubiquitous economic actor, and French exceptionalism intact although in somewhat different form.

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