The law-technology cycle in the French legal and industrial relations system. From government to governance and return

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Paolo Tomassetti

Summary: 1. Introduction. 2. Technological change and trajectories of change in the French legal and industrial relations system. 2.1. The French way to responsive regulation. 2.2. Stateled decentralisation of collective bargaining as a channel for responsive regulation. 3. State and trade union responses to the uberization of labour relations. 3.1. Responsive regulation within and beyond the “great dichotomy”. 4. Invisibility of new-generation technologies and their externalities. 4.1. The social utility and the social function of the corporation reconsidered. 5. Discussion and conclusions.


Drawing on responsive regulation theory, this article analyses the trajectories of change in the French legal and industrial relations system over time. Empowered by information and communication technologies, governance has championed a new normative ideal of attaining public policy objectives, in which social actors are given primacy in the regulation of the labour market. Although the rationale of the French reform process was mainly to make legal and industrial relations institutions more responsive to competitive pressures and technological innovation, the State upheld its regulatory prerogatives, despite now being exercised in a less centralistic manner. However, in spite of the seeming solidity and internal consistency of the French legal and industrial relations system, social cohesion shows signs of erosion, questioning the ability of the regulatory shift from government to governance to succeed in bringing justice in a post-industrial era.


France, responsive regulation, technological change, labour market, industrial relations.