Governing Europe

By Jack Hayward; Anand Menon | Go to book overview

22 The Changing European State: Pressures from Within

Patrick Le Galés

Vincent Wright's main interest was in the state, both as an historian and as a political scientist. While working in France, this admirer of the Jacobin state enjoyed searching for archives in the most remote French prefecture which went hand to hand with his research on the Council of State in Paris. In Italy, Spain, or France he was always interested in the diversity of those countries and in the ways in which the state constructed and managed a political order. However, he was no conservative and did not use his sharp mind to defend a frozen representation of the nation-state. Among the first, with his close friends Yves Mény, Jack Hayward, or Sabino Cassese, he passionately engaged in exploring changing forms of the state faced with the dynamics of European integration, changing markets and firms, and the rise of regions and cities. To explain the changing forms of the state, Vincent put forward the dynamic combination of the following factors: the economic recession, a paradigm shift in favour of the market, changing forms of politics, globalization, Europeanization, liberalization, technological progress, decentralization and fragmentation, reforms of the public sector, and a different political agenda. However, he never lost sight of the achievements of the state form and its capacity for restructuring, hence his famous recourse to a series of paradoxes which he loved to present to puzzled students and colleagues alike.

This chapter deals with bottom up pressures on the state. Although Wright enjoyed nothing better than giving a hard time to his students working on regions or cities, he had a profound interest in the ways in which those subnational governments managed their relationship with the state in the new environment. In the 1980s, his edited volume with Yves Mény (Mény and Wright 1985b) and then the special issue of West European Politics he edited with Rod Rhodes in 1987 were essential points of reference to move out of the 'centre-periphery paradigm' and to engage in systematic comparative work. However sceptical he might have been, he had no doubt that the dynamic of cities and regions in Europe was cumulative and self-sustaining, that is, 'the genie appears to be out of the bottle'.

The chapter focuses on the challenges that cities and regions are posing to the nation state in Western Europe, rather than the rise of 'meso-government' in Europe. It analyses three sets of pressures (the fragmentation of the policy process, the competition for resources, the legitimacy of the nation state) and the role they play in the transformation of the state.

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