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William Genieys, Jean Joana
Following the 2008 global economic crisis and rolling out of austerity measures, elites of the state seem to have become a “political species” of their own, now under threat of extinction. The study of the health and defense policy reforms in France and the US during the 1990s and 2000s shows that far from disappearing, the influence of state elites is being strategically reconfigured to defend some sector-specific policies. Similarly to those “custodians of policy” dear to P. Selznick, small groups of elites are gaining expertise within strategic sectors of public policy; they are also making the need to control the cost of public spending their royal battle, in order to safeguard what they see as the crucial role of the public good. In the American cases study, the image of the “revolving door”, which encapsulates the idea of professional mobility back and forth from the private to the public sector, implies a fragmented state, open to external pressures of social groups. We document career and professional trajectories marked by a strong commitment to a given policy area. Circulation, we note, is frequent between these positions in the public sector. While these findings do not in and of themselves allow us to fully assess the influence wielded by these elites, this study identifies the social and political resources and forms of specialization which predispose them to play important roles in shaping public policy. For the past 30 years, the question of varieties of liberalisation has been put forward as an explanatory factor for a wide range of public policies (Schmidt & Thatcher, 2013; Thelen, 2014). In this perspective, numerous authors have theorised the dismantling of democratic states and the weakening of public authority that would follow (Suleiman, 2003; Fukuyama, 2004; Bezès, 2009; Bonneli & Pelletier, 2010; Lodge, 2013). Research on public policy has focused on the success of neoliberal ideas among European and North American political elites (Pierson, 1994; Prasad, 2006; Fourcade, 2009) on the calling into question of the neo-Keynesian paradigm (Hall, 1986; Crouch, 2011) and on the development of budgetary constraints (Bezès & Siné, 2011; Streeck & Schäfer, 2013; Blyth, 2013). Other work emphasises the idea that the effects of economic globalization—reinforced by those of the financial crisis of 2008—have accelerated the weakening of state capacity in western democracies by accelerating the expansion of market relations within national political systems (Streeck & Thelen, 2005; Jabko, 2012). At the same time, this period has seen renewed interest in national regulation (Lodge, 2011). Even so, if analysis is limited to the evolution of public policies as a simple functional response to the evolution of the international, financial, or ideological contexts in which they are found, research tends to underestimate the role played by competition among the elite groups involved with their elaboration and their capacity for resilient attachment to the power of public authority. For this reason, the hypothesis of the dismantling of the state, allegedly accelerated by the crisis of 2008, should be revisited.
élites, defense policy, health policy, France, USA