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The scales of the management of territory

Les échelles de la gestion du territoire

Espaces et sociétés journal

Revue Espaces et sociétés

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Published on Thursday, January 17, 2013


Cet appel à articles vise à faire réfléchir sur les dernières évolutions perceptibles du rôle des États et de la place des collectivités locales dans un contexte de contraction des finances publiques. Après de longues décennies de montée en puissance des collectivités infra étatiques dans la plupart des pays deux tendances se dessinent. La première s’appuie sur une remise en cause de cette multiplication d’échelons plus ou moins indépendants au nom du renouveau d’une certaine forme de légitimité technique et d’une volonté de limiter le coût de l’action publique. À l’inverse, la seconde renvoie à la volonté d’États désargentés de se décharger encore davantage sur les collectivités locales. L’exemple français n’est pas isolé.



Levels of territorial management

A major challenge for most countries today is to improve their political and administrative territorial organisation. In France there is much debate about: (i) its territorial “mille-feuille” (proliferation of administrative arrangements in which new layers do not erase the old ones); (ii) its tiny 36 700 communes and/or (iii) restrictions to joint funding by central, regional and local governments. Many other countries face the same issues, but in specific terms. It becomes a major concern with the increasing crisis of public funding. Urged to spend less, both by tax-payers and creditors, most EU countries (France, Spain, Italy, U-K…) aim to design anew and to rationalise their internal governance.

This Call welcomes international comparisons as the following issues are a main concern everywhere: (i) the sense given to collective action; (ii) relevance of scale locally and regionally and (iii) public policy coherence when funding becomes scarce. Papers should scrutinise how the public funding crisis challenges prospects and practices concerning territorial political and administrative organisation: is it a move back towards re-centralisation? Adversely, in the context of the economic world crisis and the end of re-distributive Keynesian policies, central governments may be tempted to pass on the financial burden to local and regional governments, wrapped up in the rhetoric of “strengthening” their role.

In France, this move has happened at the end of a long cycle giving increasing autonomy to local and regional governments, thereby increasing their capacity to resist their central government. For some thirty years, the literature on local economic development and local democracy and also some European Union initiatives have praised empowerment forms of local and regional authorities. Hardly any country remained outside of this global trend of increasing local authority capacity. This radical shift gave birth to a wide range of new authorities with varying degrees of independence and multi-level co-operative mechanisms among quasi-sovereign political entities. Governance, partnership, partnership agreement, joint funding, subsidiarity and call for projects became the trendy key-words in the field of public policy.

Under current financial pressure, the recent strategy of public management rationalisation has now been turned upside down with the power balance again in a top-down mode, in which the “top” might be national or supra-national (European Union for instance):

  • These reforms recognise the effects of de-centralisation. Independent local powers reduce the need for powerful central government services and with the State rapidly contracting, local authorities are therefore becoming increasingly more autonomous.
  • A “shrinking” central government folds back upon itself and retreats into its traditional functions of control, neglecting transversal demands for co-ordination and animation. This gap is filled by new configurations of more local powers for example the rise of the regions, the fast development of metropolises and the reforms to local government arrangements.
  • On the other hand, rationalisation in other countries has generated massive recentralisation programmes thereby reducing the role of local authorities. .

This move is also based on a dominant technician culture which legitimises the search for relevant performance indicators measuring sustainable development policies. This plays an increasingly central role and because it is based on technical and rational approaches, it is erroneously presumed to be de-politicised. Choice is thus constrained by technical indicators and devices. Some of these approaches may easily circumvent the multiplicity of levels of political decision-making.

Among others, relevant approaches may come from economics, geography, law, political science and/or sociology. The focus of this Call for Papers is first upon the transformations of the power relationships between infra-national, national and supra-national governments, and last but not least on the social and territorial consequences of these transformations.

Submission Guidelines

  • Only full articles are taken into account.
  • Papers should be under 42 000 signs (including spaces notes, references and appendixes (but not abstracts).
  • Advice to authors is included in each issue.
  • Advice to authors and presentation norms of manuscripts are available on the website: http://www.espacesetsocietes.msh-paris.fr/conseils.html


Jérôme Dubois and Jean-Pierre Gaudin


  • 1. 09. 2013: reception of full papers

  • 1. 10. 2013 feedback to the authors


  • Preferably by e-mail



  • or 4 paper copies:

Jérôme Dubois
Institut d'Urbanisme et d'Aménagement Régional
3 avenue Robert Schuman
13628 Aix-en-Provence, France

Editorial Board

  • Jean-Yves Authier,
  • Christian Azaïs,
  • Bernard Barraqué,
  • Catherine Bidou-Zachariasen,
  • Maurice Blanc,
  • Florence Bouillon,
  • Alain Bourdin,
  • Olivier Chadoin,
  • Anne Clerval,
  • Jérôme Dubois,
  • Jean-Pierre Garnier,
  • Joëlle Jacquin,
  • Leïla Kebir
  • Albert Lévy,
  • Jérôme Monnet,
  • Stephane Nahrath,
  • Jean Remy,
  • Thomas Sauvadet,
  • Stéphanie Vermeersch


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Sunday, September 01, 2013


  • organisation territoriale , pouvoirs locaux, décentralisation et recentralisation, gouvernance multi-niveaux


  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The scales of the management of territory », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, January 17, 2013, https://calenda.org/235185

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