The circulation of public officials in a fragmented system: Urban governance networks in Paris

Published date01 December 2019
AuthorVlad Gross,Christine Barwick
Date01 December 2019
The circulation of public officials in a fragmented
system: Urban governance networks in Paris
Christine Barwick
| Vlad Gross
Research division Migration, Mobility and
Spatial Reconfigurations, Centre Marc Bloch,
Berlin, Germany
Department of Business Support, ICE
International Copyright Enterprise Germany
GmbH, Berlin, Germany
Christine Barwick, Centre Marc Bloch,
Friedrichstrasse 191, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
Fragmentation and specializationtwo characteristics of
governancehave increased the number and variety of
actors involved in the governing process, which can influ-
ence policy outcomes and legitimacy. To date, studies on
governance or policy networks usually focus on one policy
field and one moment in time. In this article, we analyse the
dynamic aspect, thus how governance networks change
over time, and examine whether the fragmentation and spe-
cialization of the governance system is mirrored in the cir-
culation of public officials. Our case is the urban
governance system of the Paris region, which is character-
ized by high fragmentation along policy fields and territory.
The data show that Paris is governed by three sub-systems
that largely correspond to the different territorial levels of
governance, but also to different types of organizations.
Generally, territorial fragmentation seems to be stronger
than policy field fragmentation. This structure is quite stable
across time.
The circulation of public officials or the relations between actors from different societal spheres, who influence the
policy process, is considered to have an effect on policy outcomes and legitimacy. If, for example, networks are quite
informal, or business exerts a strong influence, this is considered to be problematic as it decreases democratic
accountability (Van Kersbergen and Van Waarden 2004; Papadopoulos 2007; Rhodes 2007). At the same time, it is
argued that informal networks can play a crucial part in the smooth functioning of the governing process (Torfing
2005; Sørensen and Torfing 2009).
Whether or not such networks are seen as problematic, the shift from government to governance has certainly
increased their importance. Fragmentation and specializationtwo characteristics of governancehave not only led
Received: 5 July 2018 Revised: 19 March 2019 Accepted: 25 March 2019
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12599
892 © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Public Administration. 2019;
to more targeted policies, but also to an increasein the number and variety of actors involvedin the governing process.
The question thus arises how these actorsare related to each other if, for example, some hold key positions in a net-
work and might therefore be able to influence policies morethan others. Drawing on urban studiesand the decentrali-
zation literature, we can add another layer of fragmentation, namely territorial levels of governance. Through
decentralization, competencieshave been transferred from the nationalto regional and local levels. Inquiringabout the
circulation of publicofficials between these territoriesgives us insights into whether or not these levelscan be seen as
autonomousentities or whether they are more connectedthan the hypothesis of fragmentationmight suggest.
In this article we look at governance networks, that is, at government organizations that are connected through
the circulation of public officials. Thereby, we are interested in whether or not the observed fragmentation of the
government system is also mirrored in networks, and if so along which dimensions. Do public officials only circulate
within the same organizations, policy field, territory, or also between them? How does circulation change over time
and with the continuity or change of the ruling party? Does it become more integrated as the literature suggests
(Verhoest et al. 2007; Lægreid and Verhoest 2010), or does fragmentation persist?
We approach these questions with the example of the Paris region. Specialization and fragmentation are less prevalent
in France than in other European countries and they are strongly controlled by the central government (Verhoest et al.
2007). Nevertheless, there have been major territorial reforms which gave new competencies to organizations on the
departmental and regional levelsone of the main drivers of specialization. In this regard, Parismade up of the region, the
department/commune and the arrondissementsis a particularly fragmented or specialized governance system.
As we will see, the Parisian governance system indeed shows fragmentation. The organizations on the regional level
the most recent and most specialized territorial levelare much less integrated than those on the departmental and local
levels. The circulation of public officials linking different territorial levels is usually within one policy field. Moreover, even
over a period of 20 years, fragmentation seems to persist and we only find a minimal increase in integration.
In the following section, we present a more detailed overview of the literature around governance, fragmentation
and networks. We then describe the Parisian governance system, followed by our data and methods. The results
section contains three sub-sections, describing the evolution of governance networks across time, territorial scales,
and policy fields. We end the article with a discussion of the findings.
Among the major characteristics of governance are decreasing institutional power, the flattening out of traditional
hierarchies, and the increase in actors from different spheres in the governing process (Borraz and John 2004). This
is manifested on all levels of government, from the local to the trans/international. Cities and metropolitan
regionsthe scale we are interested inhave particularly benefited from the decentralization trend observable in
many European countries. From local authorities challenging national immigration policies to the regulation of the
sharing economy, the lower levels of government have gained more autonomy and powers.
Decentralization led to vertical specialization through an increase in the number of autonomous organizations as
well as the increased heterogeneity and diversity of organizations (Christensen and Lægreid 2007; Verhoest et al.
2007; Lægreid and Verhoest 2010). Importantly for sub-national entities, vertical specialization resulted in a transfer
of responsibility from units close to the political leadership to units that are further away from the political national
executive(Bezes et al. 2013, p. 150).
Just as on the national and supra-national levels, urban governance includes a multitude of formal and informal
actors, from the public, private and third sectors. A characteristic of large cities or metropolitan regions such as Paris
is that they are governed by a complex mishmash of municipalities, counties, départements, special authorities, dis-
tricts and agencies(Storper 2014, p. 118). The governance of large cities and city-regions thus potentially poses the
problem or challenge of multiple scales of governance, which can lead to a tortured relationship between the

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT