Comparative Politics

Lawyers, Judges, and the Obstinate State: The French Case and an Agenda for Comparative Politics

Tommaso Pavone University of Oslo


In the field of comparative politics, France is often taken to exemplify the resilience of the centralized modern state. Stanley Hoffmann popularized this thesis by highlighting the French state's "obstinacy" despite postwar reform efforts. This article revisits Hoffmann's obstinate state thesis by tracing how lawyers and judges shaped French political development. I demonstrate that continuity in French officials' claims to centralized power belie a deeper story of how legal actors catalyze institutional change in unlikely places: In civil law countries without a history of judicial review, in authoritarian regimes without regard for judicial independence, and in seemingly monolithic states without much room for democratic self-governance. These findings compel a comparative research agenda placing lawyers and judges at the center of the study of political development.

Version notes

Previous version was missing numerous references cited in the main manuscript text. These references have been added - no substantive changes were made.


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