The Politics of Economic
Development in a French Rural Area
In the 1980s, partnership-based local development shifted from being a marginal approach to the economy to becoming a widely lauded strategy for adapting to the constraints and opportunities of contemporary capitalism. During this time, the range of collaboration was extended from private-private relationships, to public-private and even interbureaucratic forms of partnership (John 1995). Officials within the European Commission certainly did not invent this enthusiasm for partnership but they contributed to “spreading the word” throughout the member states. As shown elsewhere, by the early 1980s, many officials within Directorate General (DG) XVI (regional development) and DG V (employment and social affairs) began to understand that the European Union’s policies in support of territorial development (the structural funds) were actually financing “the wrong actors” (Smith 1995a). Aid went to state or regional actors who favored infrastructure-based exogenous development programmed and administered in a top-down fashion. Starting with experimental programs aimed at supporting more locally driven projects, the European Commission subsequently developed both a discourse in favor of partnership-based development and a set of norms and instruments with which it sought to put its ideas into practice. The steady work of the officials resulted in the 1988 reform of the structural funds that enshrined partnership as the basis for formulating projects with European Union (EU) aid and guiding their implementation.
From the perspective of academic research, the increasing presence of