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Associationalism from Above: Explaining Failure through France's Politique de la Ville

Walter J. Nicholls
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Walter J. Nicholls: Department of Sociology, California State University, 1250 Bellflower Bvd, Long Beach, California, CA 90840-0906, USA, and the Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London., wnicholl@csulb.edu

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 10, 1779-1802

Abstract: Over the past 20 years, states have attempted to develop partnerships with third-sector associations in a variety of policy areas. Advocates argued that these types of partnership would increase the state's capacities to target the needs of niche populations, strengthen associational sectors and democratise state bureaucracies. However, several studies have shown that state-initiated partnerships often fall well short of their desired objectives and often cause more harm than good for the associational sectors of cities. This paper assesses the problems of the associationalist project through France's politique de la ville. The paper suggests that the outcomes of 'associationalism from above' in France have largely been unintended. State officials operating in good faith sought to foster partnerships that would generate benefits for the state and the associational sector. However, as state officials, they were obliged to impose a bureaucratic infrastructure to co-ordinate complex partnerships and ensure a degree of uniformity across France. Associations found that they not only had to conform to new bureaucratic requirements but also they had to respond to an increasingly political funding system. Thus, bureaucratisation triggered the politicisation of the associational sector, compelling associations to professionalise, politicise, and individualise their practices.

Date: 2006
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