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Two Decades of French Urban Policy: From Social Development of Neighbourhoods to the Republican Penal State

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This paper provides an overview of French national urban policy for the period 1981–2002, organized around three themes: spatial conceptualizations of intervention areas and changing scales of intervention, discursive articulations of intervention areas, and legitimation of state intervention. By relating the transformations of this policy to the contemporary restructuring of the French state, the paper argues that although there are elements of convergence, the contemporary restructuring of the French state differs remarkably from a US or UK‐style neoliberalization, partly because of the republican tradition emphasizing the active role of the state for the well‐being of its citizens. This restructuring carries the signs of the strong state tradition in France, and is best understood as an articulation of neoliberalism with established political traditions, an articulation that I try to capture with the notion of a “republican penal state”.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK;, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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