The essay examines the liberalization of public services, in France in particular, where the notion of public service is so central to socio-economic regulation that liberalization is a potential shock in cultural terms. The author reviews the construction of the concept of public service, also through comparison with the Anglo-Saxon notion of the public utility. She examines liberalization within the European Community, highlighting the tendency to incorporate forms of Anglo-Saxon regulation, though this is an extremely formal and technocratic model. The electricity sector exemplifies the French response. The restrictive transposition of the European directive on liberalization has been necessary to protect Electricité de France - as the national operator - against its dismantling and adjustment to the methods of private enterprise. This step is necessary to propose the public service as a successful model for socio-economic regulation in a globalized economy. The public service, with its colossal ramified structure, can compete with other enterprises, protecting the consumer-customer by internalizing regulation. The costs of this operation are absorbed because it is possible to preserve the forms of semi-protected rent available to a public service compared to other enterprises.