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1This collective work examines the role of territories in social policy implementation and how the various actors use the territories. In the first section, “Social policy implementation and analytic scale diversity,” the authors work to determine the right or relevant territorial scope for public action. They question both the scale at which public policies tend to be implemented in France and the scale at which they are assessed and analysed.

2Chapter 1 “examines the framework in which local-level policy systems develop and presents theoretical and methodological tools for understanding those systems” (p. 22). Alberta Andreotti and Enzo Mingione highlight strong regional disparities in Italy. The vertical subsidiarity principle in social policy there seems adversely affected by the loose national framework and differences between territories’ own capacities, a situation that deepens social inequalities. Given current reductions in Italian state funding and the absence of a strict national framework, the various territories end up competing with each other for resources – increasing existing inequalities. Chapter 2 also critically examines the question of scale, focusing on scientific social policy analysis and assessment. For the author Olivier Giraud, public policy implementation in nation-states is presented in the comparative literature as a recurring process applied in standard fashion to different fields of social action. He shows that in fact, comparative analysis of states is no longer relevant today given the internal complexity of the different territorial echelons and the increasing heterogeneity of the resulting national territories.

3In Chapter 3, Martin Goyette and Mélody Saulnier focus on youth policy design and implementation in Quebec. They show the need for multi-scale analysis that will take into account both the Quebec province framework and how youth policy is implemented in the province’s different territories.

4Chapter 4 studies policy for older people in France at the different territorial echelons. For Dominique Argoud, while ageing policy was initially developed at the territorial level and began rising to the national one, French decentralization policy halted that process at the département level. This created a mosaic of situations that differ from one département to another. Population and territory heterogeneity is in fact making it more and more difficult to define a target population. This new situation has led territorial policymakers to approach the ageing question from a broad social perspective – in contrast to national-level policy, which targets specific populations to increase policy effectiveness but in so doing stigmatizes those populations. Ageing policy in France thus provides an opportunity to observe two distinct visions of social action operating at two different scales.

5In Chapter 5, Émilie Balteau studies urban renewal policies and arrangements for achieving “neighbourhood democracy.” She notes that while, predictably, local politicians and grassroots actors do not perceive things the same way, there are greater divergences between those two groups on the one hand and the groups directly affected by the proposed policy on the other. She uses this example to show how the goal of social mix as understood by politicians induces policy “users” to withdraw into the domestic sphere.

6In Chapter 6, Carole Tuchszirer and Jules Simha study occupational training programmes in the Ile-de-France administrative region, observing a change in how territories are defined: it is now the region that decides what territory is “relevant.” The territorialisation process has worked to break down dividing walls between policy areas and to organize public policy implementation on a contract basis. This in turn has resulted in a division of policy space into three dimensions: political-administrative, actor groups, and projects. Community and region-level actors have contrasting views of the territorialisation process: the former may not be strong enough to get certain projects on the agenda while in other cases, territorialisation is perceived as the region taking over community initiatives again.

7The second section of the book raises the question of the territory as it relates to social work. The authors examine how actors delimit or adjust their prerogatives and how they “invest” the territory. In Chapter 7, Jean-François Gaspard draws up a typology of social workers and shows how the different categories use local resources. In Chapter 8, Yvette Molina studies boundaries between public and private space in social worker intervention. Caroline Arnal in Chapter 9 presents cohabitation strategies among social workers patrolling the streets to assist homeless persons. She shows that the way policies define “the territory” for the purposes of social action may threaten advocate association independence. In Chapter 10 Michaël Bailleul explains how the territory can be both a source of stigma and a means of reinforcing social ties. While urban renewal works to alleviate territory-related stigma, it also upsets territory-based social balances by redefining territorial spaces. The author shows how urban renewal policy may impact differently on groups with roots or connections outside the policy target territory and groups without any such attachments.

8In Chapter 11, Xavier de Larminat describes how rule changes have affected the work of probation officers. While the priority used to be the social reintegration of former inmates it is now managing flows and preventing recidivism. Given the weakening of local-level policy systems, which have lost ground to centralized ones stressing spending reduction and risk management, probation work is becoming specialized and rationalized in ways that reduce officers’ independence and undermine “over twenty years of effort on the part of the penitentiary administration to de-concentrate and open up the territory.” Riccardo Marcato further develops this line of thought in Chapter 12, showing how the job of integration councillor has had to adapt to new regulations within an overall framework that is stricter than before.

9The last section of the work focuses on policy “users”, a group cited as “alibis” for reform yet often in fact forgotten at the territorial level. Here the authors observe the discrepancy between the categories constructed by institutional professionals and the representations of people on the ground. In Chapter 13, Claudine Dardy and Florence N’da Konan show that social policy can only be successfully implemented if its “users” have been clearly identified. In this sense, their study constitutes a reply to Dominique Argoud’s (Chapter 4) on how policy for older people in France no longer targets a particular population. The example of French Guiana shows the difficulty of imposing a rigid national framework on a heterogeneous population. The same is true for Mayotte [an Indian Ocean island and former French colony which recently became a département]; here the authors criticize the move to impose a particular identity model in the name of universal rights when policy designers have failed to examine the effects of identity-based rights in a universalist model.

10The focus of Chapter 14 is allocation of the RSA minimum income benefit in Mayotte. The author analyses public discourse on unequal access to the benefit. The “economic and social destabilization” argument is used to justify the fact that Mayotte inhabitants do not have the same access to the benefit as other inhabitants of France. The French state cites territorial specificity to justify this discrepancy, thereby asserting its dominance in matters of social intervention. This phenomenon illustrates how the state itself is responsible for inequalities in social relations in Mayotte in connection with the RSA welfare benefit. Chapter 15 takes up the problem of managing end of life. The author examines ties between living space and treatment space, but also between time as experienced by people near the end of life and medical time in connection with the decision to die. In Chapter 16, Aude Kerivel studies relations between women inhabitants of a working-class neighbourhood and the institutions in charge of socio-occupational integration. While many of the women do not have the cultural, economic or social resources needed to become independent, not all play along with the institutions purporting to assist them. When the women using these structures try to free themselves of the social control they exert, the institutions are quick to reassert their dominant position.

11In Chapter 17, Kenjiro Muramatsu studies community garden projects to illustrate management of social relations. While the gardens he describes may be perceived as necessary, strategic resources by the actors involved, they also play a role in assuaging social vulnerability. He shows how community gardens are used to reiterate now classic injunctions to become independent, responsible, active, and to accept contractual relations. In Chapter 18, Isabelle Habchy discusses social representations of space. She describes indigenous categories and representations of space division of the sort that shape people’s experience of territories, stressing the gap between institutional and indigenous definitions of living spaces. She puts forward a “typology of proximal lived-in spaces” that is at odds with territorial policy space definitions. Institutional categories are criticized for being too rigid to adjust continually as they should to spaces as people actually live in and experience them. For social action, then, the optimal scale and scope is to be found in a kind of compromise between social equity at the level of the national territory and particularization or individualization at the local level, for proximity may mean inequality between territories “in the sense of resources offered and access to benefits” (p. 241).

12In fact, what the various chapters demonstrate is that the relevant scale for social action depends primarily on the focus or aim of the given social policy or programme, and that scales should be adaptable. Many authors stress mechanisms of re-concentration, some expressing the opinion that this trend reduces independence, others that it is a necessary solution given that decentralization is not well steered in France. With regard to policymaking, some social policy sectors seem to be moving toward a transversal approach at the present time while others are moving away from that approach. Caution is therefore required in assessing the various fields of social action, and multi-scale approaches should be used to whatever degree possible. National comparisons encourage oversimplification, and they appear less and less relevant for understanding the impact of social action in the various fields discussed here.

Loïc Trabut
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Uploaded on on 26/09/2015
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