“What do you think of ordinateur? It’s a word, correctly formed, that can even be found in the Littré listed as an adjective used to speak of God, who brings order to the world.”
1How do instruments work to change public policies? In a recent volume edited by Pierre Lascoumes and Patrick Le Galès, instruments are used at various points as effective “trackers of change”.  Instruments may, in reality, have at least two different roles in explaining changes in public policy. They first may be conceived as vehicles for operationalizing and materializing change. As objects, they constitute easy footholds (“indicators”) for researchers; they may be grasped onto in order to access either the ideas they convey or the “structural transformations”  they demonstrate. The same technical object may be used differently at different moments as it becomes established. The purposes assigned to a drug detection instrument in highway security policies change according to the context in which the instrument is used: these changes modify the instrument, and it becomes difficult to believe that one is even dealing with the same object.  The relationship between an instrument and the political ideas it materializes thus grows increasingly complex. The instrument may be put to the service of several policies. It is therefore entirely permeable to the intentions invested in it, and only able feebly to resist these intentions via its own materiality.
2The second way of understanding the role of instruments in change is to imagine instruments’ potential autonomy in “creating effects of inertia” and/or in producing a “specific representation of the issue at hand”.  By virtue of the new solutions the instrument imposes and the limited options it offers leaders, it may itself become the explanatory factor for change. In this view, instruments are objects with true substance, capable of dictating to political decision-makers what they should do.  Instruments, more than speeches given to rally scattered support, may more clearly define the meaning behind pursued policies. It is on this basis that Bruno Palier analyses the rise of the CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée) in social security financing. 
3Here, I analyze the second perspective, using as a case study the computerization of administrative services, which I examine for the Plan Calcul period (1966-1975). The aim of this article is to understand whether the intentions that the instrument transmits (representations) and the effects that it carries (inertia) may or may not explain the “reform configuration” structures  that worked to embed the instrument into public administration. In other words: are links between reforming actors consolidated around a specific representation of the instrument and its effects?
4The hypothesis put forward in this article is that deep uncertainty with regard to the instrument’s modernizing effects underlies this configuration, resulting in a wide variety of desired uses of the same instrument. If each group present attempts to orient and lock down the modernization process on the basis of the increasing returns it anticipates, then no single possible configuration or future development may a priori be excluded through use of the instrument. Incompatible logics may thus be accumulated until changes within the reform configuration modify the value of links between actors, and exclude or displace some of the participating actors.
The place of information technology in the reform of the state
5According to Philippe Bezes, the state “reform configuration” includes three major collective groups of actors: “political decision-makers and law-makers; ministries and high-ranking civil servants involved in the reform process, and the experts, more broadly speaking, who formulate problems, and offer analysis and solutions”.  In the area I am looking at here, the “experts” category includes the computer and consulting companies in high demand during the period of the Sixth Plan (1971-1975).  Private sector actors may thus be considered in the analysis. Philippe Bezes does not, however, count local institutions as being amongst the actors within this “reform configuration”. Instead of approaching the issue of local actors from the standpoint of the power of prominent local figures (notables), reduced to their “power to block, to resist demands from the center, to filter bureaucratic action”  and instead of seeing increasing local powers as a result of negotiations taking place at the center,  or of concessions ceded by the center,  the socio-historical approach to dealing with social policies (hygiene, aid, road networks ) showed to what extent overlapping participation on local and national levels contributed to the definition of the reform programs under the Third Republic. Is it possible to verify this approach – which focuses on the role of local actors – against a later period (the 1960s) and for a process dealing with the reform of the state itself? In order to accomplish this task, we shall need to show how local actors became part of the “reform configuration”.
6This article examines the development of the relations between center and periphery during the process of computerization of the administrative services. Our goal here is not to describe the various arenas in which the computerization of the French administration took place. The process will be observed from the point of view of one pivotal moment and at two specific times.
These archives contain the meeting minutes and preliminary documents (preparatory studies, drafts, letters) from the meetings of the Interior Ministry’s information technology commission and various related sub-commissions. We can also trace the participation of the Interior Ministry in the interministerial commission on information technology through the archives, which contain the meeting minutes from meetings of regional information technology groups created by the information technologies delegation, the DGRST and the Interior Ministry during the second half of 1967 with prefects in the Lille, Toulouse and Clermont-Ferrand regions. These groups represented a form of regional coordination for preparing the transition to computerization, and as such can be opposed to the Prime Minister’s far more sectorally-inspired choice, in December 1967, of ministerial commissions in charge of information technologies. The documents contained in the archive dossier number 930178 provide a view of the way in which computerization projects were presented by local government and what means central government had at their disposal to impose a framework. This collection of documents represents only a percentage of the Interior Ministry’s available archives on the subject, and has been exhaustively analyzed. More rapid examinations were made of other document collections in order to flesh out knowledge regarding a certain case or certain actors.
The idea behind using archives in this way is the restitution of a “social world” based on elements relegated to marginalia  and based on indications and cross-references to earlier versions of the same document (meeting minutes, letters, or reports). Thus it is less about identifying the result (did this information technology commission succeed in its attempt at a “French computerization”?) than it is about describing the interactions between commission members, determining the degree of social interconnectivity that structured this particular universe,  and explaining the exchanges that tied together various actors, and how information and data circulated among them. The archives are thus essentially understood here as a working tool, and in two ways: first, they provide a view of one part of the information used by the actors in question (reports, articles, correspondence, literature, commercial brochures…) and, second, they can be seen as a tool allowing the administrative services to accumulate knowledge, know-how, and expertise concerning the cases they dealt with. I have studied the main actors on these commissions over a period of nearly ten years, and have thus been able to observe the learning process for specific competencies, as well as the emergence of specialized careers in information technology administration.  I have also made use of the writings of the members of these commissions in various specialized journals (in particular, the Revue administrative), which have not been examined in an exhaustive manner.
7The article describes the computerization process as it was conceived by the Office for Organization and Information Technology in the Interior Ministry, which claimed to steer the computerization process within central administration and its decentralized departments. But the exercise conducted by the Interior Ministry overspilled the boundaries of its administrative services alone since the Interior Ministry also has control over local government. This commission therefore had equally to provide a framework for computer equipment procedures on a local level. Considered on the basis of equipment procedures, then, the central objective of the commission in question was the regional administration of the Republic.
8The article focuses on two specific moments (1966/1975) which constituted the beginning and end of the Plan Calcul. We shall concentrate our attention on two “branching points”,  two sequences wherein past historical conditions may have altered the course of certain processes. During these two sequences, actors mobilized resources in order to escape one path dependency and try to create another. The creation of the Plan Calcul demonstrated the desire of certain actors, who had been dominated within the framework of mecanographic [the system of data processing and recording via keypunch machines] modernization processes first introduced during the 1940s, to redefine their position within the reform of the state, taking advantage of the information technology shift. By contrast, the winding-up of the Plan Calcul showed the modernizing potential of information technology being reduced to an essentially economic perspective, thus bringing about the disintegration of the reform configuration. These changes in the “reform configuration” thus altered the effects and key figures of the modernization processes.
9This article will initially show how, in a context of stabilized historical conditions, the tool of information technology modified the structure of the state “reform configuration”. Resources acquired by certain actors at this time permitted them to assert their own particular representations of the instrument. This is the case for certain dominated actors such as the Interior Ministry – amongst others – who seized upon the computerization process as an opportunity to break with processes that had been disadvantageous for them. These modified structures turned the technical object into an instrument of public policy. Next, I will show that the arrival of new actors in the reform configuration served to demonetize traditional means of “crossed regulation” action, leaving the Interior Ministry without any true influence over the choices of local government. Finally, I will analyze how the instrument exercised its hold over the configuration, despite the incompatible logics which constituted the latter. The instrument maintained an equilibrium between inertia and reversibility, fueling uncertainty in regards to the tool’s evolutions to come, and leaving open all potential developments in the future.
Information technology: from tool to instrument
10Information technology does not suddenly arise in uncharted territory. Its arrival constituted a challenge to the balance that mechanographic methods (punch-card systems, tabulating machines) had established, and represented an opportunity that certain, previously less fortunate, players could exploit in order to institute a more favorable situation.
Challenging the established balance
11Information technology became an instrument of state reform in the mid-1960s. Three phenomena combined to lend this tool reforming qualities. To begin with, the heightened value of information changed the symbolic representation of the object. Secondly, an entire group of actors wishing to reaffirm their place in the state reform process had been anticipating the arrival of a tool whose properties they could redefine. The object was thus imbued with a political mission. Finally, the “information technologists”, members of an infant profession, were keen to offer their expertise which established both their own competence and a definition of the techniques they were promoting.
The information age
12A circular from 7 December 1967 signed by Prime Minister Pompidou enjoined all ministries to create information technology commissions.  The Interior Ministry’s commission was created on 15 January 1968, replacing the commission, founded in 1950, that had dealt with the mechanographic systems. This commission was charged with steering the computerization of central administrative departments, of decentralized administrative departments, and regional and local government at the level of départements and communes [regional and local administrative units]. Members of the Interior Ministry’s information technology commission had relatively more influence on the introduction of computer technology in the départements [regional government] than they did on its introduction to the communes [local government]. Whereas in the cities “it can only be a case of advice and persuasion” in the departmental préfectures,“the State may impose a certain number of solutions”.  When Jean-Paul Baquiast  made a plea to “standardize” the procedures for computerization at the departmental level, Pierre Germain responded that “the conseils généraux are the ones providing the resources […] and so the commission can only serve as a guide; however, the commission may present general programs and may aim to establish a doctrine”.  During this period, expenses associated with personnel were covered by the state while investment expenses (materials) were covered by the conseils généraux, made up of locally elected officials. Because computers were equipment expenses information technology thus escaped state control. But technology was not the only area affected here, as the same had been true in the case of the mechanographical keypunch machines: it was the value recently bestowed on “information” which effectively made the distinction all the more salient.
13The introduction of computers effectively changed what sort of “information” the state was able to provide on its activities. At the start of the 1960s, “information” acquired a new value,  becoming the specific object of a science called cybernetics.  Information also acquired a new dimension in administrative terms. On the one hand, information was defined as an index of the relations existing between the administration and those it administrated.  Public “information” was the tool used to change these relations in the context of the “counterpower reformism” of the 1970s.  On the other hand, information was defined as an indicator of the relations existing between administrations,  and the way in which information circulated was taken as evidence of the degree of sectorization in public policy.
14If information appeared as a “government technology”, then information technology may be seen as its science. In 1966, the Académie des sciences defined l’informatique [information technology] as “the science of rationally treating information, considered as the formal support for this type of knowledge” (“la science du traitement rationnel de l’information considérée comme le support formel de cette connaissance”). The new science resulted from autonomization and differentiation, not just for mathematical information but also in the field of industrial – particularly electronic – tools.  As such, the definition of l’informatique suggests that data production and processing derive from the same technology: the computer.
Information technology: a suitable tool for administrative decentralization?
15If information serves as an index for organizations in action, then the tool by which this information circulates can also change those organizations’ administrative structures. The Interior Ministry adopted this reasoning, and in a note from 6 December 1967, stated that the computerization of the administrative services aims to provide prefects with the necessary means for carrying out the new missions defined in the 1964 decentralization decrees:
“The effect of the regional and departmental administrative reforms decreed on 14 March 1964 is to centre the new administrative organization on the Prefect. From now on, we must act upon these measures. In order to meet the goals we have set, we must provide the Prefect with an extremely vast supply of information on the regional as well as departmental level, for this will be necessary for him to complete his tasks […] So that the Prefect may have an overall view of his region or his department, he must be able to exploit and update the various forms of information. Modern methods for processing information are indispensable for the realization of this goal.” 
17Thus information technology was presented by some as the perfect tool for such an undertaking.
“Computer use is not compatible with over-decentralization, because we must use common elements such as codes, norms, and programs. Computer use presupposes devolution.” 
19Even so, this view of the instrument is not based solely on its properties. The instrument reactivated expectations that had already been structured. Far from being a specific characteristic of information technology, the centralization of information within the prefectures had already been envisaged in 1964-1965 in relation to the mecanographical machines. An “overview group (departmental and regional reform)” had been set up at the Interior Ministry on 16 March 1964 and been assigned the specific task of demonstrating the potential of the keypunch and tabulating machines for the centralization of administrative, economic, and social information at the prefectural level. The group’s report had been optimistic, employing turns of phrase (“modern methods for information processing”) which were to be found again in the note from 1967:
“It seems indispensable that we should use the tabulating machine systems in order to record and exploit [data]. […] This communal service can only […] be located at the prefecture.” 
21On the other hand, although computers may redirect the flow of information from the departments toward the prefectures, they may also very well create the opposite effect. Actors from the Economy and Finance Ministry suggested a definition of information technology wherein it would no longer be the perfect means for prefectural devolution, but, on the contrary, would be the means of creating greater verticality. M. Bonnafy from the accounting directorate within the Economy and Finance Ministry said in 1971:
“Vertical systems presuppose remote management. These systems must lead to the establishment of networks, such that problems of information centralization or decentralization should disappear.” 
23The circulation of information was not seen as being inscribed within new structures; information would only reach the prefect “by diversion of the [proper] administrative circuits of the administration in question”.  The actors realized that the effects of information technology were dependent less on its intrinsic properties – which are themselves uncertain, as the controversy surrounding centralization, decentralization, and devolution within the field of organization and management studies demonstrates  – but more dependent on the political objectives to which information technology was assigned. As early as 1969 Jean-Paul Baquiast stated that “the organization of information technology may be conceived on the regional level or according to a vertical structure. It is difficult to determine at this point what the central administration’s intentions are on this subject”.  Competition between actors across different sectors should in principle have allowed one group to impose its specific representation of the potential effects of information technology as a tool. The configuration which developed prevented them from imposing one specific representation over another; however the Interior Ministry drew on a conception of information technology promoted by the computer scientists themselves.
Computer scientists centre stage
24For the Interior Ministry, the computer became the instrument for administrative organizational reform and, as such, the notion of information technology itself took on a specific representation, corresponding to the second of the three periods defined by Philippe Breton. 
25During the first period (1940s-1950s), technology was subordinated to the overarching “philosophy” of “cybernetics”. Traces of this period are to be found in the realm of administrative reform.  The second period (1960s) began when technology was instrumentalized, defined for the first time as a vehicle for reform. Information technology was thus freed from the discourse of cybernetics that masked the technology itself, and the term “information technology” came to encompass “computer, information and system” all at once.  From this point on, administrative reform was synonymous with the tool.
26Front and center in the new layout, Management Information Systems (MIS) claimed to integrate all information circuits and to automate decision-making. During a trip to the United States in December 1968, M. Boquet, head of the section responsible for the general organization and equipment of the administrative services within the directorate-general for administration and public services that spans the Organization and Information Technology Division, along with the members of the steering committee for the interministerial information technology commission, was particularly receptive to IBM’s presentation of “MIS integration” into administrative services.  To achieve this goal, computer scientists imposed a definition of their “jurisdiction”:  by knocking down “the barriers between the technical and the managerial erected during the early twentieth century to protect and demarcate managerial authority from that of engineers. The authority of the engineer had been confined to a technical sphere – he or she might one day advance to executive status, but only by shedding one identity and assuming another.”  With the mechanographical punch-card systems, tasks were clearly divided up. Operators (mécanographes) and authorizers (ordonnateurs, who worked at the Organization and Method – O&M – offices) were distinct from one another and organized into hierarchies. However, the computer scientists considered themselves to be the authorizers of the reform, and information technology was their method. The changes in the organization charts attest to this fact, for the computer scientists were no longer lower-placed than the ordonnateurs, but in fact replaced them. In 1970, in Lyon, the O&M service became the “Information Technology Methods and Organization” service, and from 1971 on the Interior Ministry’s O&M service became the “Organization and Information Technology” service. In claiming that a “management philosophy” (information technology as a “governing technology”) previously distinct from the “technical substrate”,  plays a role in the instrument, information technologists were hierarchically defining themselves as potential organizers, and defining themselves professionally in opposition to what had gone before.
27Promoted by the computer scientists, this vision of information technology as a turning point serves to reinforce the symbolic importance of the financial resources available to the conseils généraux to purchase computing equipment. More surprising is that the Interior Ministry also upheld this at-odds representation of the instrument, even though it deprived the central state of control over the collection and processing of information relating to state action. The circular of 20 December 1972 confirms this fact:
“The goal is not to transfer traditional operations onto computer, but to use information technology to generate a decisive and structural renewal of services.” 
29Why, then, did the information technology commission choose to support such a position, when it might serve to increase the autonomy of local government?
Rupture as opportunity
30As a process of modernization of office management techniques, the computerization of the administrative system represented a continuation of other office innovations.  Both public and private organizations  in the United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union  were in the process of systematizing their information procedures. Computerization can thus be seen as a new manifestation of the policy of administrative automation put in place jointly by the O&M offices established throughout the 1940s  and by the bodies of the national statistics organization.  Following this logic, the introduction of information technology was simply an improvement upon existing technologies. This is the perspective that dominated at the beginning of the computerization period, as evidenced in the Interior Ministry’s information processing center’s acquisition in June 1968 of an IBM 360.40 computer, intended to “take over responsibility for the tasks previously performed at the traditional workstation”. 
31Paradoxically, the Interior Ministry also called for an institutional translation of the changes brought about by information technology. Though such a position reinforced the importance of the relative autonomy of local government, it also allowed for the more dominated actors to seize the development of information technologies as an opportunity to reaffirm, at interdepartmental level, the Interior Ministry’s crosscutting position in relation to other “crosscutting” ministries, such as the Economy and Finance Ministry.
32A circular dated 7 December 1967 and signed by Georges Pompidou speaks of isolated initiatives taken by certain ministries in order to kick-start the computerization process. The circular proposes that these initiatives be made general via the creation of a special commission for each ministry.  This approach is based directly on the model established earlier for the switch to mechanographical systems. But in contrast to previous arrangements, the jurisdiction of the information technology commissions extended to all the “particular ministry’s central and exterior services”. On this occasion the ministries assumed control of modernizing all their services, thus threatening the idea of a harmonized transministerial service for computerizing the entire French administration. The position aimed for by the Interior Ministry – that is, to be one of the governing actors in the administrative reorganization of the State – thus seemed more difficult to attain.
33As a result of these various initiatives in different sectors, along with the early attempts made by administrative divisions, the crosscutting actors (the Interior Ministry and the information technology delegation) found themselves obliged to call for an “integrated”  interministerial group that would coordinate the computerization process in the different sectors. The equipment and administrative responsibilities assumed by the commissions in the various ministries constituted a risk that increasing sectoral divisions in the administration would be created. Such divisions would further challenge the crosscutting actors’ position. Integrating initiatives at a central level remained a decisive – and ongoing – issue within administrative policy. This integrated group first took the form of a meeting held between all the ministerial information technology commission presidents,  and later, after much demand from the information technology delegate, an interministerial information technology commission was formed  and linked to the Prime Minister.  Established amidst tensions surrounding the decision-making autonomy of each ministry on the one hand and the political coordination required between ministries on the other, the commission was declared to be
“neither a decision-making body nor a supplementary authority meant to give advice on the purchase of computer equipment. On the contrary, the commission should allow representatives from each ministry to confer with one another with regards to the different equipment programs, the working out of which may prove easier if discussion is undertaken together”. 
35The commission was linked to another crosscutting actor – the Prime Minister – thereby bypassing the Interior Ministry and mirroring the older set-up in relation to mecanography, where the task of interministerial coordination had been assigned to the permanent advisory commission for office data-processing equipment (Commission consultative permanente de la mécanographie), created on 20 February 1949 within the presidency of the Conseil and reporting to the state secretary for public service and administrative reform.  The path dependency created by the introduction of mecanographic tabulating machines into administrative processes continued to produce effects on the political choices made, and to maintain domination over certain actors.
The will of the dominated
36The idea of information technology as a break with the past developed within forums such as the information technology delegation and the Interior Ministry, where a desire for autonomy revealed the weaknesses at the heart of the attempts at reform.
37The information technology delegation’s autonomy was contested from the very start. When it was created on 8 October 1966, it was placed under the authority of the Prime Minister; however, on 18 July 1969 this reporting line was moved to the Ministry of Industry, where the delegation managed to preserve a degree of autonomy. In 1974 it supported the UNIDATA agreement, which proposed a communal European information technology system, against the Ministry of Industry which eventually won the day. The conflict may explain that on 29 July 1974, the information technology delegation’s funding was merged with that of the Electronic Industry and Computing Directorate, and became a single structure within the Directorate-General of Industry, in the ministry of the same name.  Stripped of its material substance, the information technology delegation was dissolved on 16 October 1974. 
38Like the information technology delegation, the Interior Ministry initially found itself in an unfavorable position. Insofar as information technology was concerned, the Interior Ministry showed a marked lag compared to the Economics and Finance Ministry in terms both of volume of equipment and speed of implementation.  These two central actors were in dominated positions; this becomes clear upon examination of the various commissions set up to prepare the transition to information technology. M. Mounier of the regional information technology group of Clermont-Ferrand suggested (with barely veiled irony) that, given the problems encountered by the Interior Ministry in its computerization process, the machines used by the TPG (trésorerie paierie générale or paymaster general) be called in to undertake its work. The information technology delegate and the Interior Ministry both reacted immediately to this proposition:
40This desire for autonomy can also be seen in the tabula rasa policy encouraged by the Interior Ministry on hiring. In order to work with computers, specially trained individuals had to be hired.  As P. Germain clearly stated, “insofar as hiring high-level information technology staff, the administration is starting from scratch”. 
41In reality, this argument was used to justify the demands for recruitment of administrative officers to use the computers that were being installed, and to keep the Interior Ministry’s decentralized departments, as well as the prefectures, from resorting to more advanced arrangements. On 19 February 1971, André Martin shared these arguments with the assistant director of prefecture staff:
“The Interior Ministry is not at the forefront and risks being outperformed, especially by the Finance Ministry […] There is a great risk that the Prefects, charged with leading governmental action at the regional and departmental levels, will find themselves without proper support for management or decision-making, and that they will need to have recourse to services outside the state.”
43Martin indicates that the prefectures were already contacting private and semi-public companies, the latter created by the local councils with aid from the Caisse des Dépôts. Martin requests that students from the IUTs [Instituts universitaires de technologie, or university institutes of technology], who have “acquired solid training in the information technology field” be allowed to take the competitive examination to become prefectural attachés. Such an arrangement was technically forbidden by the status reform for Category A personnel (attachés) in the prefectures. Only entrants with a licence [bachelor’s degree] could take the examination, and this was not the case for the IUT students. 
44The introduction of information technology into the administrative system helped to turn local government into a real actor. Town councils now had the financial resources they needed to collect, process, and circulate information, a commodity whose value was rising, and which could thus escape the control of central powers. The representation of information technology as a break with the past is supported, however paradoxically, by those actors exercising authority over the local councils. The paradox may only be understood in the context of the actors’ dominated position within the competition between crosscutting actors. These dominated actors thus fashioned the computer as an instrument, a technical object inherently endowed with the potential to reform. But doing so contributed to modifying the links between the actors in the “reform configuration”.
An instrument without a pilot
45The old balance of the “reform configuration” was set off-kilter when new actors and forums joined the mix. Local government gained power through the emergence of information technology, and as a result the usual means of exercising control via cross-regulation – allocating resources and drawing up doctrines – lost their effectiveness. 
“ [The State] has at its disposal an abundance of financial resources, which allows it stand in for underfunded local government, and offer subventions to those who are willing to accept and finance the right projects, as well as to satisfy the right norms and procedures.” 
47This schema was significant in the action of the information technology commission at the Interior Ministry. J.-P. Baquiast came up with the idea of support from the information technology delegation in the form of a subvention for prefectures that chose to use the CII equipment;  as well as “creating mobile teams of analysts and programmers”  in order to counter IBM’s commercial offer, which included training programs for personnel. To justify its choice to use IBM equipment, the Conseil général of the Bouchesdu-Rhône department cited the lack of a CII agency in Marseille.  Even the allocation of financial resources was not enough to convince the local government to spend more and satisfy the demands of the Plan Calcul for them to use CII equipment.  IBM had approached them with much more attractive offers.  Even when IBM’s main market was under attack – the market where it saw the most reliable return – the American manufacturer was able to cut back on its margins without putting the business into danger. This was not the case for the CII. 
48There was another problem with the idea of providing subsidies for prefectures willing to use CII products: the early timing of IBM’s competing offer. Commercial businesses were the first to look to the public sector market:
“In order to sell their products more more easily, certain providers have gotten together with pilot local government initiatives in order to create standardized programs for the most common applications (payroll, accounting, elections). These software programs, which other local councils have been able to take advantage of, have, however, made [local government] dependent on those who have built them.” 
51IBM’s early presence in the information technology market, along with its commercial policy and technological support base explains why the state subvention allocation policy ultimately proved to be a counter-productive strategy.
52Doctrine development is the second type of action characteristic of the “cross regulation” period. The Interior Ministry drew up its own doctrine and published it in two circulars, the first on 3 July 1969, and the second on 28 December 1970, in the latter as a joint publication with the information technology delegation. However the importance of this doctrine was, in reality, inversely proportional to the means at its disposal to assert control. In order to put a solid framework around the computerization process, the central administration attempted to establish a kind of “domination of good sense”.  The “doctrine” was used as a “new form of authority”.  However, it cannot simply be read as an expression of a “reorganizing paradigm” based on “horizontal decentralization”.  Nor is it a question of the top-most placed actors steering the entire computerization process since, on the one hand, the doctrine is a hybrid construction, an accommodation of heterogeneous forces, and, on the other, it dictates nothing.
A hybrid doctrine
53This doctrine must be read within its competitive context. It cannot be seen as a straight translation of policies imposed by the ministry, but rather as a marker of how the ministry adjusted to the constraints imposed upon it by this competitive environment.
54Despite P. Germain’s intention to initiate “new studies in order to ‘launch’ information technology in local government”,  the Interior Ministry encountered fierce competition when it attempted to exercise this type of authority at local level. In 1972, the directorate-general of local government (Direction générale des collectivités locales, or DGCL) organized a special “information technology mission” for the consulting services for mayors and elected local officials. The mission was intended to help officials choose appropriate equipment, “to help users confronted with manufacturers” and to “stimulate exchanges via the development of a programming library”.  The competition, however, was twofold. It came first from the computer manufacturers, who were quick off the mark here too, and were already involved in establishing training centers and promoting practices. Montpellier, Marseille, Mulhouse and Toulouse were the first cities to be computerized by information technology companies, and together they created a communal information technology commission (CIC). Subsequently competition came from the semi-public companies (sociétés d”économie mixte, or SEM), founded at the end of the 1960s with the aid of the Caisse des Dépôts in Marseille (ICOREM), in Montpellier (SIAGE) and Lyon (ICARE). The Lyon-based company even published a Guide bureautique à l’usage des collectivités locales (Office automation guide for local government). 
55The Interior Ministry’s computerization doctrine borrowed less from its “reorganizing paradigm” than from the demands made by local government which it could appropriate. The ministry re-articulates certain points of view expressed at the International City Congress on information technologies held from 12 to 14 June 1968 in London. The conference had concluded that, whatever the level of decentralization, a central body was essential to regulate technical standards in order to make different systems compatible.  Focusing attention on the demands of local government changed the Interior Ministry’s strategy: on 20 July 1970, the ministry proposed to the associations of elected officials that an association be created “for the development of information technology in local government”. The association’s goal would be to “train the staff at local level, working with the National Association of Municipal Studies [l’Asscociation nationale des études municipales, or ANEM], and the Institute for research on information technology and automation [l’Institut de recherches en informatique et automatique, or IRIA]”. 
56The doctrine borrows from other sources that go beyond the usual Interior Ministry paradigm, and, moreover, it remains limited in its scope of action. The uncertainty reigning over the exact status of the ministry itself is a good indication of this fact.
A commission issuing no directives
57The actors making up the information technology commission were themselves unsure of how to define their group. It was first and foremost a forum for evaluation and should, according to some, adopt standardized evaluation criteria in order to “take a position on similar projects proposed”  and provide a framework for other local or sectoral initiatives. But it was also a forum for allowing the Interior Ministry to maintain a certain degree of control over local government: when confronted with the emergence of regional (and later departmental) information technology commissions, P. Germain suggested that these commissions could only act on the basis of a “doctrine, based on concrete examples, drawn up by the central commission”.  Finally, the commission constituted a space for synthesizing various local experiences. When M. Dumont, prefect for the Nord departément and of the defense zone suggested that the commission “provide instructions, or else all of the prefectures will present a different project”, Germain’s response was that “there is a doctrine being developed on the subject […] The aim is to find practical solutions, which necessarily include a certain margin of uncertainy.” 
58Tension resulting from conflicting definitions had characterized the commission from the outset. When M. Wuillaume, general inspector of the administration, was asked to participate in drawing up the draft decree establishing the information technology commission within the Interior Ministry, he suggested replacing the second article of the decree (“in particular, the commission is in charge of the Interior Ministry’s information technology policy”) with a less potent formulation: “the information technology commission shall give advice”. 
59The commission rarely opposed the projects submitted to it, though it did ask the Tarn prefecture to defer its plan to rent a Gamma 55 computer, and to wait instead for governmental direction on computerization at the prefectural level.  The commission also rejected the program they received from the Bas-Rhin prefecture. On several occasions, it was too late: certain procedures had already been carried out, and the commission was obliged to accept the fait accompli. Similarly it did not oppose the program proposed by the Calvados prefecture which made use of insufficient equipment and would require rapid replacement.
“M. Germain notes that the project is modest and limited, especially for a regional prefecture. He notes that the preparatory commission had suggested ordering a 105 GE Bull, but the prefecture opposed this, stating that the General council would not grant additional credit […] To conclude, the commission approves the plan to rent the equipment.” 
61In the same way, after rejecting the Bouches-du-Rhône’s computerization plan on several occasions, the commission ended up accepting the prefecture’s plan to purchase an IBM. At this point, the CII had installed computers in Metz, Lyon, Dijon, and Créteil. The commission acknowledged the sway of market logic.
“Competition had free play in this situation. The CII made a considerable commercial effort, and we may soon see the fruits of this in the Marseille region.” 
63When local actors entered into the “reform configuration”, positions were modified accordingly. The ties which bound actors together in the context of “cross regulation” lost their currency in the context of information technology, less because of their intrinsic qualities than because of the resources (financial and commercial, particularly for IBM) which were held by the actors involved. New ties solidified the new power relations which structured the reform configuration. Though the administrative computerization policy was admired for its implementation, the policy itself seems relatively paradoxical and inefficient. Information technology called into question the usual means of control exercised by the Interior Ministry over regional government within a cross-regulation framework. The Interior Ministry was now in a position where it had to compete with other actors in the same sector, and could no longer impose its own plan for modernization. However the absence of a pilot should not lead us to think that it was therefore the instrument which automatically controlled the process of change, given the incompatible forces for which it was a vehicle.
An instrument’s grasp
64Instruments are vectors of change when they create “effects of inertia” or produce a “specific representation of the matter at hand”.  In the case of information technology, though, these two corollaries of instrumentation do not in fact structure the relations within the “reform configuration”. The information technology instrument, as defined within this configuration, is instead a vessel for several opposing representations of French regional administration. Similarly, if the crosscutting actors represented by the information technology delegation and the Interior Ministry hoped that information technology would serve to reorganize the diffusion of information in the long term – and, consequently, reorganize the regional administration of the French state – then any institutional configuration behind such a task would be subject to the respective positions of every one of its members. The uncertainty surrounding the potential qualities of the instrument allowed the configuration to be maintained, and also the possibility that the computerization process thus might be coordinated within the administration. The conclusion of the Plan Calcul, however, plainly reveals the circumstances by which the configuration was maintained, and, then, eventually, dislocated via a series of “feedback loops”.
65In analyzing the two questions with which the commission were permanently confronted, the incompatibility of the various forces which its members had to negotiate becomes clear.
66The first question: was it necessary to take on a French computerization process, when that option contradicts the logic of economic profitability? Not only were CII computers more expensive, but this issue called into question how calls for tender should operate in public markets. The information technology delegate was not ignorant of this, and in March 1968, in order to ensure that the information technology choice would be a national one, he proposed promoting “early and close contacts” between the Plan Calcul companies and the different administrations. The information technology commissions should look “particularly favorably on the proposals from purely French companies”. He concludes,
“It will become more and more difficult for the client-state to selectively choose its equipment if we do not progressively drop the practice of issuing widespread calls for tender […] and replace them by smaller consultations or over-the-counter markets.” 
68To ensure the success of the Plan Calcul, the information technology delegate proposed suspending the rules of operation of public markets, citing the ambition to better evaluate spending for certain public programs. The computerization process in public administration was meant to optimize decision-making procedures based on criteria from the RCB (Rationalisation des choix budgetaires).  The need for modernization was thus pulled in two different directions by these approaches: first, the desire for rationalization and optimization of public spending from an economic point of view, and, second, the logic of political will, which encouraged French computerization at all costs.
69The second question concerns whether or not every level of the administration had to be computerized. One of the Plan Calcul’s foremost goals was to distribute CII computers, and small administrative units were the perfect forum for this. The information technology delegation as well as the computer manufacturers had been aware of the fact that “the cities are the ideal environment for selling rationality and for selling computers”.  Computerization at the prefectural level was thus devised to promote the commercial development of the CII. When the Toulouse administration chose to buy IRIS computers, the CII opened an agency in the city,  boosting its local presence and making it easier for other clients to choose CII as well. Thus the commercial logic of the computerization imperative was satisfied, but the technological effort was reduced as a result of the business costs involved:
“The challenge the CII has to meet is imposing, especially because it combines two contradictory elements. First, it must develop products at odds with American technologies, thus anticipating future evolutions and ‘skipping’ a generation in order to get ahead. At the same time, it has to assert its presence in the market so that IBM, in the absence of competition, cannot establish an unassailable position.” 
71The computerization imperative thus draws on two contradictory logics which it must nonetheless pursue at the same time: the logic of business and the logic of technological innovation.
72Computerization at local level responded to another aim of the Plan Calcul:tospreadinformation technology throughout administrative bodies. The goal is shared by the smaller towns:
“Now that there are more administrative and accounting tasks to accomplish at local and departmental level, the desire to modernize management conditions leads local officials to acquire accounting machines, or to rent computers that are more and more advanced and costly.” 
74At the same time, however, the logic of diffusing information technology ran counter to the requirements for the equipment to be cost-effective that the commission had established in its doctrine, according to the “justification repertoire” traditionally put forward by the Interior Ministry in relation to regional reorganization. The Ministry advised that a critical mass should be reached before pursuing computerization. To achieve this critical mass, the only solution was to join forces with other communes. M. Malphettes, a member of the information technology delegation, stated that “we shall not equip the small communes individually, but will need to find a solution such as forming a syndicate of communes or creating urban districts…”.  This strategy of joining forces, which was received unenthusiastically by local actors (the DGCL remarked that the “cooperative spirit between communes still seems underdeveloped”),  highlighted the weakness of the strategy of allocating resources within the field of information technology, which was dangled as a carrot to encourage communes to work together. This was effectively dropped from the ministry’s political agenda after the failure of the 1969 referendum and the municipal elections of 1971.  The administrative imperative was thus pulled between the logic of diffusing information technology throughout the administration and maintaining a level of control and integration at the center.
75The administrative computerization process was thus the result of different tensions. These were structured around three imperatives: the “information technology imperative”, the “administrative imperative”, and the “modernization imperative” all pulled between different forces. The “reform configuration” created around information technology thus had to take account of shifting positions and the logic of the various parties in an attempt to render them compatible.
Between inertia and reversibility
76Between these three imperatives, none was truly promoted over another. The weakness of the commission’s room to maneuver prevented the solutions proposed from achieving irreversible effects, and thus generated uncertainty. This was only possible, however, because the instrument allowed a division of tasks between the center and the periphery. On the other hand, when the information technology instrument was given a specific definition some of the competing logics within it proved incompatible, and this incompatibility led to the end of the Plan Calcul.
The impossible irreversibility of choices
78In the service of this goal, and in order to propose solutions capable of bringing about effects that they hoped to be irreversible, the dominated crosscutting actors were obliged to entirely reconfigure the previous organizational system.
79The tool behind this organizational reform was to be preliminary surveys concerning the purchase of computer equipment. The surveys were meant to ensure that the new technologies would be correctly introduced into the system according to information technology delegation criteria. The representative from the regional Clermont-Ferrand group, M. Monpetit, suggested that “if we want to propose a revision of some of the circuits, we need to have an early overall view of the administration, and we need to consider the options”.  The superior strength of computers, compared with the older mechanographical machines, rendered these preliminary studies necessary.
“Several years ago, with the limited mechanographical possibilities, and then even later with the first computers, everyone could work alone in his or her own space. Several pieces of the puzzle were therefore set in place […] but now information technology has added an entirely new dimension. Now the administrations must be able to see the contours of the puzzle before setting down the pieces.” 
81The virtue of information technology as an instrument might almost be boiled down to this “effort to classify, [which] in itself is an interesting new development”.  The operation was not at all neutral insofar as administrative policy was concerned. During a survey conducted at Clermont-Ferrand, the prefectural heads of service had been asked to describe the tasks accomplished by the service in order to determine what kinds of information were being processed and what routes the information followed. A first synthesis of the results enabled the survey leaders to study the feasibility and profit implications of mechanization; however in order to map how information travelled throughout the administration it was deemed necessary to go beyond the prefectural level and study the activities taking place in the decentralized services. The idea behind this approach was the suppression of potential duplication. The study concluded that “the current system of separating authorizers and accountants causes the same long and complex tasks to be performed twice, once at the prefecture and once at the trésorerie paierie générale”. That an organizational study should question the sectoral prerogatives of the trésorerie paierie générale immediately provoked the anger of its chief, the paymaster-general M. Mounier, who had already perceived the general scope of this type of operational study:
“Just as I indicated, such a general study can only lead to another examination of how the the distribution of tasks among administrations are distributed.” 
83Contrary to what the studies suggested, the Interior Ministry’s information technology commission quickly moved towards action that would redefine the commission’s crosscutting position as one of coordination and not instigation. This would allow for the development of individual solutions. The president of the commission was obliged to account for the resources of the different actors present.
“It is expected that certain administrative groups with specialized remits (pioneers, incidentally, in information technology, such as PTT [‘L’administration des Postes et Télécommunications’, the postal and telecommunications agency] and Finance) will continue to equip their own centers.”
85As far as the development of information technology at the prefectural level was concerned, there was a question as to how prefects would gain access to computerized data. Two main solutions were proposed: first, a single regional center, or, second, several regional data processing centers. P. Germain was in favor of the second solution, because “there are activities that are by nature sectoral (PTT, Finance)” and because “there is nothing to prevent any authority, especially not the regional prefects, from using terminals that communicate with the regional sectoral centers”. In 1969, a regional system was to be created, made up of a “series of sectoral centers”. But a specific condition needed to be met.
“There is no doubt that for various reasons, a number of specialized files will be created before the centralized system. This is perfectly acceptable provided we clearly ensure that the files may later become part of the centralized system. This has to be one of the first tasks to be accomplished, and it is not easy, for it presupposes standardized, unambiguous designations as well as common identifiers. Without these conditions, the files created will not be compatible – and the current situation, with even more expense – will simply repeat itself.” 
87In renouncing the possibility, as a result of its weak position, of imposing devolution through information technology, the Interior Ministry hoped instead to reinforce its position as a crosscutting actor by rendering compatible various incompatible systems. The interministerial information technology commission set up a sub-commission, which, on the one hand “aims at a broader and more in-depth comparison of the possibilities offered by the different manufacturers, and perhaps also at an evaluation of the different machines’ performances”.
89In no longer trying to impose their own views via the introduction of information technology, the crosscutting actors allowed each individual actor to maintain his or own place in the modernization configuration. No single position was excluded by the ever-clearer political intentions of the commission, and no single evolutionary process seemed to be irreversible.
The “feedback loops” 
90The Plan Calcul was able to combine a variety of logics through not imposing unequivocal or irreversible solutions. However, there was an important development at the beginning of the 1970s. The first reports to be produced, and the imposition of new ways of doing things limited the possibilities which could be envisaged and thus limited the support for the Plan. Presented as an industrial, technological, administrative and political failure, the Plan Calcul was abandoned.
91The industrial options were fully reworked. 1975 marked the end of the second agreement between the state and the CII (1972-1975), and the European computerization solution, UNIDATA, was deemed a failure. The French government opted instead for a “French solution supported by the USA” wherein the American manufacturer HoneyWell-Bull merged with the CII. 
92The technological choices were also questioned. Those who had supported the Plan Calcul were greatly disillusioned. In 1973, P. Germain and A. Martin expressed similar feelings of disenchantment:
“Five years ago, we believed that information technology (along with other technologies) would shortly provide important support in making programming decisions and coordinating various administrative authorities, particularly the prefects […] However, it is now clear that it takes much longer and is much more expensive to put in place systems to help in decision-making, and this is true in both the public and private sectors.” 
94As far as the Plan Calcul was concerned, it was less about abandoning information technology as a whole than about dropping the administrative options meant to help develop them. The position of the administrators in the Interior Ministry who promoted the role of information technology in the state reform was now in question. Throughout 1975 and 1976, the Organization and Information Technology group was audited twice, once by the interadministration office of information technology documentation or the BIADI, the Bureau inter-administration de documentation informatique, and once by the administration’s general inspection office. After the two reports, an internal report was commissioned and carried out in November 1977 by Captain Guy Alepee, information technologist at the Armies Ministry and attached to the Interior Ministry.  The audits, which highlighted the structures’ organizational problems, encouraged strongly argued responses from A. Martin. Doubts were raised about the ability of the members of the information technology commissions to lead the reforms in their own central administrations, let alone steer the diffusion of information technology into the prefectures and local government as they were supposed to do.
95Finally, political changes – both outside the “reform configuration” in terms of the electoral cycle, and within it when it was a question of politicizing the issue of information technology – caused doubt to be shed on the stability of the relations existing between actors within the configuration.
96First, the election of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing as President of the Republic coincided with the suppression of the “Gaullism reform initiatives”.  The information technology delegation was dissolved on 16 October 1974. The “abandonment of the nationalist pretensions of Gaullism” was the sign of a new fusion “of the high-level administration, executive power, and the business world”.  The introduction of these new administrative actors more closely connected to the economic sphere undermined the stated ambition of the Plan Calcul, which was to create a national information technology strategy, while protecting the computerization procedures from the pressure of manufacturers, in particular IBM. Without the political will necessary to balance these relationships within the “reform configuration” the respective positions of the Interior Ministry and information technology delegation were clearly put in question. The links structuring the “reform configuration” were weakened. Although computerization was addressed within the Seventh Plan, which commissioned Simon Nora and Alain Minc  to write a report on the subject, the institutional relationship between the computer industry, the administrative system, and the political sphere had broken down.
97Second, the question of information technology was also the object of intense “politicization”  from the beginning of the 1970s in the context of public liberties. New actors appear on the scene; initially members of parliament; then in 1970 draft legislation was submitted by the independent republican group; then, most significantly, in 1974, an information technology and liberties commission was created, leading to the vote on an information technology and liberties law on 6 January 1978 (which in turn instituted the National Information Technology and Liberties commission). Other administrative actors took up the issue. The commission for the council of state’s report, for example, created an “information technology” group in charge of writing part of the report for 1969-1970.  The media publicized the matter through a series of articles,  and political parties too mobilized on the issue.  At the start of the 1970s, public liberties and the protection of personal data became public issues.  But despite everything, this politicization process may still be described as taking place within the “reform configuration”. Bezes shows to what extent the administration ended up publicizing its own insufficiencies.  The politicization process illustrates the conditions of “reversibility” for a technical issue such as this one. Y. Barthe demonstrates that “feedback loops may drive change” and thus allow actors to “escape path dependency” – in this case, the very same path that the crosscutting Plan Calcul actors had attempted to construct.  The politicization of the information technology question may be seen as the result of technical choices. The 1969 debate surrounding the updating of files and their reliability, which raged among the members of the commission coordinating the regional information technology groups (here the debate focused on data held on people), supports this hypothesis. Dealing with the question of declaring one’s location (one’s home, one’s birthplace, or one’s place of residence), the commission came to the conclusion, voiced by M. Marilia, the representative of the prefect of the Puy-de-Dôme, that “the need to determine a place of residence will undoubtedly mean declaring every change of residence” and thus a “sanction for not declaring” will also have to be put in place.  This meant that the question would need to be dealt with at a legal level – in a context which was no longer technical, but political, and mobilized other kinds of actors.
98When the computer was assigned specific objectives, the reform configuration collapsed under the effects of external transformations (the timescale of elections) as well as internal (the politicization of technical questions), resulting in the disappearance of a body working to coordinate administrative decisions about computerization.
99The political effects of an instrument appear to be located in the intention which is bestowed on it, and translated in an apparently neutral, technical manner. For Bachelard, instruments “make the theory concrete”.  Our goal in this article has been to show that instruments are not necessarily the vectors of a homogenous, unambiguous doctrine. The instrument of information technology, at work in a specific “reform configuration”, effectively increased the autonomy of local government in relation to the authorities – in particular the Interior Ministry. The Ministry, fighting to maintain its crosscutting status in the steering of the reform of the French state, supported this relative autonomy against the sectoral claims of the Finance Ministry, until it ended up depriving itself of any means of action. Dominated by better-placed actors, the Interior Ministry abandoned its attempts to impose a specific vision and irreversible choices. This allowed uncertainty to reign over the real effects of the instrument, and as a result, incompatible logics came together within the same “reform configuration”. Inversely, it was when the ambitions for information technology became more specific that the attempts at coordinating the computerization of the French administration came to an end.
100Studying instrumentation is not so much searching for the traces of an instrument’s effects on the specific targets of the public policy (populations, or, in this case, local government) as it is a search for the instrument’s effects on those steering public policy and on the competition that drives them. Emmanuel Didier shows that the instruments used to map the New Deal ended up serving to govern the government rather than disciplining the population.  In so doing, Didier moved away from Christopher Hood’s approach, which focuses on the government/population boundaries to focus attention instead on the producers of public policy programs. It thus appears that the effects of instrumentation are felt in the links which bind the actors in the “reform configuration”. In the case of information technology, the uncertainty surrounding the real potential of the instrument ended up being the reason why the instrument could accommodate incompatible logics. The configuration itself did not fall apart until the appearance of hierarchical divisions (economic rationality rather than political will). These divisions forbade certain investments from being made in the configuration, restructuring the space within which the state reform took place, and eventually determining the shape that the instrumentation process itself would take. 
Response from Jacques Perret, holder of the aggregation [high-level teaching qualification] in grammar and a PhD, professor of philology and Latin languages and literature at the University of Paris (Faculty of Arts), when asked by IBM to translate Electronic Data Processing Machine. Letter published in Nouvelles IBM France, July 1957, cited by Bernard Mauduit, Introduction aux ensembles éléctroniques de gestion (Paris: Éditions d’Organisation, 1966), 17.
Bruno Palier, “Les instruments, traceurs du changement. La politique des retraites en France”, in Pierre Lascoumes, Patrick Le Galès (eds), Gouverner par les instruments (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2004), 273-300.
Pierre Lascoumes, Patrick Le Galès, “L’action publique saisie par ses instruments”, in P. Lascoumes, P. Le Galès (eds), Gouverner par les instruments, 11-44 (37).
Renaud Crespin, “Drogues et sécurité routière. Changement politique ou nouvel usage des instruments?”, Revue française de science politique, 56(5), 2006, 813-36.
P. Lascoumes, P. Le Galès, “L’action publique…”, 32.
Renaud Crespin, “Quand l’instrument définit les problèmes. Le cas du dépistage des drogues dans l’emploi aux États-Unis”, in Claude Gilbert, Emmanuel Henry (eds), Comment se construisent les problèmes de santé publique (Paris: La Découverte, 2009) 215-36.
Bruno Palier, “Gouverner le changement des politiques de sécurité sociale”, in Pierre Favre, Jack Hayward, Yves Schemeil (eds), Être gouverné. Études en l’honneur de Jean Leca (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2003), 163-79.
Philippe Bezes, Réinventer l’État. Les réformes de l’administration française, 1962-2008 (Paris: PUF, 2009), 49-54.
P. Bezes, Réinventer l’État.
Albert Broder, “Manque de moyens, absence de logique politique ou espace économique restreint: la politique de l’informatique en France (1960-1993)”, in Michel Hau, Hubert Kiesewetter (eds), Chemins vers l’an 2000: le processus de transformation scientifique et technique en Allemagne et en France au 20e siècle (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2000), 116-72.
Pierre Grémion, Le pouvoir périphérique. Bureaucrates et notables dans le système politique français (Paris: Seuil, 1976), 254.
Patrick Le Lidec, “Le jeu du compromis: l’État et les collectivités territoriales dans la décentralisation en France”, Revue française d’administration publique, 121-122, 2007, 111-30.
Cf. Philippe Bezes, “Les rationalités politiques dans les réformes de l’État”, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 56(4 bis), 2009, 54-74 (68); Patrick Le Galès, “Les deux moteurs de la décentralisation. Concurrences politiques et restructuration de l’État jacobin”, in Pepper P. Culpepper, Peter Hall, Bruno Palier (eds), La France en mutation, 1980-2005 (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2006), 303-41.
See contributions to the collection edited by Bruno Dumons, Gilles Pollet (eds), Administrer la ville en Europe (19e-20e siècle) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003).
Dossier 930178 deposited in the archives by the Organisation informatique de la sous-direction des Affaires immobilières et sociales de la direction générale de l’administration and covering the period 1949-1980.
For a different use of the same kind of data, see: Sylvain Laurens, “Les agents de l’État face à leur propre pouvoir. Éléments pour une micro-analyse des mots griffonnés en marge des décisions officielles”, Genèses, 72, 2008, 26-41. Online
Which may be a determining factor in a technology provision program: see for example William Genieys, Laura Michel, “Au-delà du complexe militaro-industriel. Le rôle d’une élite sectorielle dans le programme du char Leclerc”, Revue française de sociologie, 47(1), 2006, 117-42. Online
I have already used this archival research method for other projects. See Pierre-Yves Baudot, “Le politiste et l’archive. De la critique archivistique à la problématique. Analyser les funérailles des présidents de la République en France (1877-1996)”, in Michel Offerlé, Henry Rousso (eds), La fabrique interdisciplinaire. Histoire et science politique (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008), 217-28.
Paul Pierson, “Increasing returns, path dependence and the study of politics”, American Political Science Review, 94(2), 2000, 251-67 (263).Online
12 December 1967, circular from Prime Minister Pompidou to ministers and state secretaries ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 310).
Verbal communication, Noël Aucagne (Aucagne was technical secretary of the group specializing in markets for electromechanical and electronic office equipment. The group reported to the Finance ministry, and from 1970 onward Aucagne himself represented the president of the Economy and Finance Ministry’s information technology commission within the larger, interministerial information technology commission), “local government” section, Interior Ministry’s information technology commission, 29 October 1970 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
Jean-Paul Baquiast (a graduate of the Institut d’études politiques in Paris and the ENA [Ecole nationale d’administration], state controller at the Economy and Finance Ministry in 1962) played a key role in most of the senior management teams of the Plan Calcul, from his nomination in 1966 as adjunct to the information technology delegation with responsibility for administrative questions.
Interior Ministry’s information technology commission, 4 May 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Bernard D. Geoghegan, “The historiographic conceptualization of information: a critical survey”, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 30(1), 2008, 66-81.Online
Mathieu Triclot, Le moment cybernétique. La constitution de la notion d’information (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2008); Ronan Le Roux, “L’impossible constitution d’une théorie générale des machines? Convergence de projets autour de la cybernétique dans la France des années cinquante”, Revue de synthèse, 130(1), 2009, 5-36; Andrew Pickering, The Cybernetic Brain. Sketches of Another Future (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2009).Online
Philippe Bezes, “Publiciser et politiser la question administrative: généalogie de la réforme néo-libérale de l’État dans les années 1970”, Revue française d’administration publique, 120, 2006, 721-42; Dominique Linhard, “La ‘question informationnelle’. Éléments pour une sociologie politique des fichiers de police et de population en Allemagne et en France (années 1970 et 1980)”, Déviance et société, 29(3), 2005, 259-72.
P. Bezes, Réinventer l’État…, chapter 2.
Haroun Jamous, Pierre Grémion, “Les systèmes d’information dans l’administration publique”, Revue française de science politique, 24(2), 1974, 214-35 (222).Online
Jacques Arsac, “Des ordinateurs à l’informatique”,in Colloque sur l’Histoire de l’informatique en France, contributions edited by Philippe Chatelin (Grenoble, 1988), t. 1, 31-43.
Note from the Interior Minister regarding computer processing of information, 6 December 1967 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 224).
Verbal communication, M. Marilia, Representative for the prefect of Puy-de-Dôme, “local government” section, information technology commission, Interior Ministry, 21 Janurary 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
“Overview group (departmental and regional reforms) on the subject of mecanographic machine systems”, Interior Ministry, undated [most certainly January 1965] ([CAC] – 930178/art. 12).
Interministerial commission for information technology, 24 April 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 228).
Verbal communication, M. Mounier, paymaster-general [TPG] of the Puy-de-Dôme department, regional group of Clermont Ferrand, 15 January 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 220).
Cf. H. Jamous, P. Grémion, “Les systèmes…”, 225ff; Herbert A. Simon, “The consequence of computers for centralization and decentralization”, in Michael L. Dertouzos, Joel Moses (eds), The Computer Age: A Twenty Year View (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1979), 212-28; Brian P. Bloomfield, Rod Coombs, “Information technology, control and power: the centralization and decentralization debate revisited”, Journal of Management Studies, 29(4), 1992, 459-84.Online
Coordination commission for regional information technology groups, Clermont-Ferrand, 21/01/1969 ([CAC] –930178/art. 5/chemise 221).
Philippe Breton, Une histoire de l’informatique (Paris: La Découverte, 1987), 128ff.
Georges Langrod, Les applications de la cybernétique à l’administration publique (Brussels: Institut international des sciences administratives, 1958); Lucien Mehl, “Pour une théorie cybernétique de l’action administrative”,in Traité de science administrative (Paris: Mouton, 1966), 781-825.
P. Breton, Une histoire de l’informatique, 209.
[CAC] – versement 19790740/art. 19.
Andrew Abbott, “Écologies liées: à propos du système des professions”, in Pierre-Michel Menger (ed.), Les professions et leurs sociologies. Modèles théoriques, catégorisations, évolutions (Paris: Éditions de la MSH, 2003), 29-50. On information technology, see Nathan L. Ensmenger, “The ‘question of professionalism’ in the computer fields”, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 23(4), 2001, 56-74.
Thomas Haigh, “Inventing information systems. The systems men and the computer, 1950–1968”, Business History Review, 75, Spring 2001, 15-61; Atushi Akera, “Engineers or managers? The systems analysis of electronic data processing in the federal bureaucracy”, in Agatha C. Hugues, Thomas P. Hugues (eds), Systems, Experts and Computers. The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2000), 191-220.Online
Armand Hatchuel, Benoît Weil, L’expert et le système, suivi de: quatre histoires de systèmes experts (Paris: Economica, 1992), 123. According to Hatchuel and Weil, managerial techniques are made up of three elements: a “technical substrate”,a “philosophy of management” and a “simplified vision of organizational relations”. These three elements may be clearly defined and assigned to different actors, but, as the case of information technology shows, they may also be combined and overseen by the same group of actors.Online
Circular 70-579 from the Interior Ministry and information technology delegation in regards to information technology at regional, departmental, and local level ([CAC] – 930178/art. 7/chemise 331).
Bruno Delmas, “Révolution industrielle et mutation administrative: l’innovation dans l’administration française au 19e siècle”, Histoire, économie et société, 2, 1985, 205-32.
Delphine Gardey, Écrire, calculer, classer. Comment une révolution de papier a transformé les sociétés contemporaines, 1800-1940 (Paris: La Découverte, 2007).Online
Yves Cohen, “Administration, politique et techniques. Réflexions sur la matérialité des pratiques administratives dans la Russie stalinienne, 1922-1940”, Cahiers du monde russe, 44(2-3), 2003, 269-307.
Lars Heide, Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880-1945 (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).Online
Béatrice Touchelay, “De la mécanographie à l’informatique en France (années 1890-années 1960): la formulation d’une nébuleuse propice aux transformations technologiques en marge de l’État”, lecture given at the International Economic History Association conference, Helsinki, 2006.
Verbal communication, A. Martin (Chief of the Interior Ministry’s organization and computing service), information technology commission of the Interior Ministry, 13 January 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Circular dated 12 December 1967 from Prime Minister G. Pompidou to the ministers and state secretaries ([CAC]
– 930178/art. 5/chemise 310).
Aimé François, “L’informatique dans l’administration: un problème d’intégration”, Revue internationale des sciences administratives, 38(4), 1972, 409-18.
Plenary assembly of ministerial information technology commissions, 2 December 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 328).Online
Cf. Special interministerial council to the Prime Minister, 19 March 1968, on the subject of the automation of public services. Note from the information technology delegate, 7 May 1968, decree date 24 September 1970 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 310).
Journal officiel, 25 September 1970, 8947.
Interministerial meeting, secretary-general of the government, on the subject of creating and defining an action program for the interministerial information technology commission, 5 June 1970 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 310).
Decree number 49-270, 28/02/1949, Journal officiel, 1 March 1949, 2152-2153.
Aimé François, L’intégration de l’informatique dans l’administration française (Brussels: Institut international des sciences administratives, 1976), 219.
Jean Frayssinet, La bureautique: l’administration française face à l’informatique (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1981), 110-13 (published version of a thesis in law defended in 1975).
Raphaël Hadas-Lebel, L’informatique dans l’administration française (Paris: Éditions Cujas, 1973), 9-18.
Marcel Diebolt was prefect of the Puy-de-Dôme (Auvergne region) from 1964 to 1969 as well as president of the assocation of prefects and senior civil servants of the Interior Ministry (Association du corps préfectoral et des hauts fonctionnaires du ministère de l’Intérieur).
Robert Galley was the first delegate for information technology.
Pierre Farçat was the temporary substitute for Pierre Germain at the central directorate for administrative/ financial affairs and common support services (Direction centrale des affaires administratives et financières et des services communs, or DAAFSC) from the end of 1967 to the beginning of 1968.
Inaugural meeting, Clermont-Ferrand group, 7 December 1967 ([CAC] 930178 art. 5/chemise 220).
Pierre-Éric Mounier-Kuhn, L’informatique en France de la seconde guerre mondiale au Plan Calcul (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2010), 355-72.
Information technology commission, Interior Ministry, 13 January 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Note from A. Martin to the assistant director of prefecture staff, 19 April 1971 ([CAC] –930178/art. 7).
Patrice Duran, Jean-Claude Thoenig, “L’État et la gestion publique territoriale”, Revue française de science politique, 46(4), 1996, 580-623 (586).
P. Duran, J.-C. Thoenig, “L’État et la gestion publique territoriale”, 586.Online
CII, or the Compagnie international pour l’informatique, was the leading French computer manufacturer during this period.
Information technology commission, Interior Ministry, 14 May 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Information technology commission, Interior Ministry, 18 June 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
The French manufacturer was 50% more expensive than the lowest bidder, according to the secretary-general of the Bas-Rhin Prefecture. Information technology commission, Interior Ministry, 18 June 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
“L’introduction de l’informatique dans les communes”, Revue des finances communales, 40(3), 1975, 73-5; André Martin, “L’informatique au niveau départemental”, Revue des collectivités locales, 168, April 1974, 9-17, and 169, August-October 1974, 13-17.
Pierre-Éric Mounier-Kuhn, “Le plan Calcul, Bull et l’industrie des composants: les contradictions d’une stratégie”, Revue historique, 292(1), 2002, 123-53.
Claudie Panchetti, L’ordinateur et la gestion communale (Paris: Éditions du Moniteur, 1979), 40.
P. Breton, Une histoire de l’informatique, 198.
Haroun Jamous, Pierre Gremion, L’ordinateur au pouvoir. Essai sur les projets de rationalisation du gouvernement des hommes (Paris: Seuil, 1978), 173.
L’Informatique communale: rapport au gouvernement présenté par Gabriel Pallez (Paris: La Documentation française, 1980), 105.
Philippe Bezes, “Le modèle de ‘l’État Stratège’: genèse d’une forme organisationnelle dans l’administration française”, Sociologie du travail, 47(4-5), 2005, 431-50 (437).Online
P. Germain, “local government” section, Interior Ministry information technology commission, 7 July 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
C. Panchetti, L’ordinateur et la gestion communale, 43.
ICARE, Guide bureautique à l’usage des collectivités locales (written by A. Rajon) (Paris: La Documentation française, 1984).
Sub-commission “Local government”, Interior Ministry information technology commission, 7 July 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
[CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206. On the ANEM, see Gérard Marcou, “Les institutions universitaires dans la préparation aux carrières administratives et la formation continue des administrateurs”, in Gérard Marcou (ed.), Fonction publique et décentralisation (Villeneuve-d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1987), 195-220 (199); Emmanuel Bellanger, “L’école nationale d’administration municipale. Des sans-grades devenus secrétaires généraux”, Politix, 53, 2001, 145-71 (170). L’IRIA (later INRIA) is the research institution created under the Plan Calcul.Online
According to M. Bousquet, mission head at the DGRST and the Central Organization and Methods service (SCOM) at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Interior Ministry information technology commission, 12 February 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Interior Ministry information technology commission, 14 May 1969 [CAC] – 930178 / art. 4).
Interior Ministry information technology commission, 14 May 1969 [CAC] – 930178 / art. 4).
M. Wuillaume’s response to M. Farçat, DAAFSC director, 7 November 1967 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Letter from the Interior Ministry to the Tarn Prefecture, 27 August 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 15/chemise 347).
Interior Ministry information technology commission, 4 May 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Interior Ministry information technology commission, 18 June 1971 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
P. Lascoumes, P. Le Galès, “L’action publique…”, 32.
Report from the information technology delegate to the special interministerial committee, 19 March 1968, on the automation of public services, p. 19 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/ chemise 310).
One of the members of the Lille Regional group in charge of computerizing the defense region wrote that “We are already planning to use regional computers for both local and regional tasks, such as the promotion and introduction of RCB investment procedures” ([CAC] – 930178/art 5/chemise 221).
H. Jamous, P. Grémion, L’ordinateur au pouvoir…, 70.
“Report on the development of computers at the departmental and communal levels”, presented by M. Hubert of the Interior Ministry information technology commission, Midi-Pyrénées prefecture, 3 March 1970 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Alain Beltran, Pascal Griset, Histoire d’un pionnier: 40 ans de recherches à l’INRIA (Paris: EDP Éditions, 2007), 30.
Interior Ministry circular, January 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
Report on computerization of the communes, 4 June 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 4).
Note, DGCL, 11 July 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 206).
P. Bezes, Réinventer l’État…, 178.
Inaugural meeting of the regional group of Clermont-Ferrand, 7 December 1967 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 220).
Clermont-Ferrand working group, 15 January 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/ chemise 220).
Pierre Germain, André Martin, “Informatique dans les préfectures et informatique pour les préfets”, Revue administrative, part 1, 152, March-April 1973, 205-17 (209).
Noël Aucagne, Clermont-Ferrand working group, 15 January 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/ chemise 220).
Report, working group III “program operations file”, Clermont-Ferrand, 26 June 1968 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 220).
Pierre Germain, “Les groupes régionaux d’études pour l’application de l’informatique à l’exercice des pouvoirs préfectoraux”, Revue administrative, 128, March-April 1969, 233-6.
Meeting of Group 4, “COBOL standardization”, interministerial information technology commission, 7 April 1971 ([CAC] -930178/art. 5/chemise 310).
Yannick Barthe, Le pouvoir d’indécision. La mise en politique des déchets nucléaires (Paris: Economica, 2006), 213.
Cf. Jean-Pierre Brulé, “Autopsie d’un changement de politique (1975-1976): d’Unidata à Honeywell Bull”,in Colloque sur l’Histoire de l’Informatique en France, 127-56. For another version of the same story, see the piece written by the adjunct commissioner of the Plan Calcul, Pierre Audoin: “Le Plan Calcul français (1966-1974)”, in J.-P. Brulé, Colloque sur l’Histoire de l’Informatique en France, 13-46.
P. Germain, A. Martin, “Informatique dans les préfectures…”.
[CAC] – 20000019/art 4.
H. Jamous, P. Gremion, L’ordinateur au pouvoir…, 75. Jean-Pierre Brulé, HoneyWell-Bull president, nevertheless believed that the reconsideration of the CII began in 1973. Cf. Jean-Pierre Brulé, L’informatique malade de L’État. Du Plan Calcul à Bull nationalisé: un fiasco de 40 milliards (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1993).
Pierre Birnbaum, Les sommets de l’État. Essai sur l’élite du pouvoir en France (Paris: Seuil, 1977), 174-5.
Simon Nora, Alain Minc, L’informatisation de la société. Rapport à M. le Président de la République (Paris: Seuil, 1978).
Jacques Lagroye, “Les processus de politisation”, in Jacques Lagroye (ed.), La politisation (Paris: Belin, 2003), 359-72.
Kept in the archives of M. Boquet, consulted for the writing of the report: [CAC]–19790740/art. 21.
See G. Charbonnier, “Informatique et Inquisition”, Le Monde, 22 May 1971; and in particular P. Boucher, “SAFARI ou la chasse aux Français”, Le Monde, 21 January 1974.
The topic was broached by the Socialist party during an information technology conference, 20-21 September 1980, published under the title of “Socialisme et informatique” (Paris: Club socialiste du livre, 1981).
D. Linhardt, “La ‘question informationnelle’…”.
P. Bezes, Réinventer l’État…, 126-47.
Y. Barthe, Le pouvoir d’indécision….
Coordination meeting for regional information technology groups, 21 January 1969 ([CAC] – 930178/art. 5/chemise 221).
Cited in P. Lascoumes, P. Le Galès, “L’action publique…”, 27.
Emmanuel Didier, “Quelles cartes pour le New Deal? De la différence entre gouverner et discipliner”, Genèses, 68, 2007, 48-74. Online
This article presents the results of a research project begun as part of post-doctorate work financed by the CNRS at the Triangle laboratory (UMR 5206 – Université de Lyon/CNRS). The project was also financed by a post-doctoral grant from the Île-de-France region, Institut des sciences sociales du politique (UMR 7220 – ENS Cachan/CNRS). I would like to thank these two teams for their warm welcome and for the work it was possible to accomplish with their help. Thanks also to Cécile Crespy, Morgan Jouvenet, Pierre Lascoumes, Renaud Payre and Louis Simard, as well as to the anonymous readers of the Revue française de science politique, and for their comments on the first version of this text.