The Civil Service in Britain and France

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
THE CIVIL SERVICE IN FRANCE

By P. CHATENET ( Director of the French Civil Service)

THIS brief study does not aim at a full description of French administration nor even at an exposition of the fundamental rules according to which it is governed. It seeks, more simply, to outline and explain its original features, particularly when it is compared to Anglo-Saxon administrative institutions.

These original features, we must first note, are much less the result of legal and logical constructions set up a priori than of concepts which stem from a long historical tradition. At least this was true until the great Imperial reforms of the first years of the nineteenth century. Up to that time, there had been few great administrative reformers in France, or, rather, the great reforms that had taken place had only regulated or modified in- stitutions which were the product of a long historical evolution.

The essential attributes of the French administrative system, i.e. those fundamental characteristics which are original to it, are derived from the close connection between administration and the political sovereign over the centuries. The stability and the continuity of the administrative system have thus led to the sur- vival within administrative life of principles belonging to van- ished political systems.

It should not be thought, however, that French administration has remained static over the centuries; new ideas and social forces have superimposed new concepts upon earlier principles; these new concepts have not destroyed the ancient structure; but they have radically modified its character.


1. The Superiority of the State

France is a country of Roman and statute law. It is therefore no matter for surprise that one of the fundamental principles regulating its institutions should be that of the supremacy of law,

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