Country Analyses, Second Edition
Edited by Christine A. Mallin
Chapter 5: From Colbert to Messier: two decades of corporate governance reforms in France
Pierre-Yves Gomez Governance in France has long been characterized by strong relations between public service elites and the larger public and private companies. Heir to a Colbert and managerialist tradition according to which rational planning by well-trained elites is more efficient than unbridled market activity, the reform of governance has been under pressure since the 1980s in both the economic and political spheres, and French liberalist culture has slowly gained the upper hand. It has imposed an ever stricter separation of private and public sectors, a substantial diminution of the role of the state, more opening up towards international financial markets and the growing presence of companies over government policy. In the first section of this chapter, we will describe the French context of governance, an understanding of which is crucial in order to understand recent transformations in corporate governance. In the second section we shall describe the main legal and practical evolutions. In conclusion, we shall outline a few prospects for the years to come. UNDERSTANDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF GOVERNANCE IN FRANCE The role of the state in economic and social life is often considered as being one of the characteristic traits of ‘French culture’. Unlike the more liberal ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries or countries which have been strongly marked by comanagement and social dialogue, such as Germany or Scandinavian countries, France – along with some other continental European countries – is said to be characterized by strong public influence on economic regulation, a policy which is implemented elsewhere in the world...
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